The Looming Crisis

Spearhead Analysis – 24.10.2016

imran-khan-islamabad-rallyAs November 2 gets nearer and the rhetoric from both sides gets more and more strident the inevitability of some kind of political showdown in Islamabad gains inevitability. The fact that Imran Khan has demonstrated his ability to draw crowds leads to the conclusion that with the massive effort put in by him and his party the gathering in Islamabad is likely to be huge. The media is gearing up to comprehensively cover the show and is already creating hype about the preparations that both sides are making. No one — neither the challenger nor the challenged — and certainly not the inhabitants of Islamabad, would want a Gunfight at the OK Corral type of confrontation but given the charged atmosphere anything could happen. And if matters do get out of hand then who is going to control the situation and how are they going to do it — not like the Model Town tragedy that is for sure. If not that, then the other option is for the political institution to resolve the crisis in its own and the country’s interest. Unfortunately the deepening divides within the political institution and their diverging interests may make this a difficult undertaking — but this remains the only option if a dangerous deadlock develops in Islamabad.

A country with nuclear weapons cannot afford to be in economic decline, political difficulty and internally insecure. The military has acted and sacrificed to fight the war for peace as aptly stated by the Chief of Army Staff — this has led to the sidelining of the terrorist threat. This has also given space to the government to bring about a modicum of macroeconomic stability and given the country economic resilience even though sustainable structural reforms are still awaited. The government has promised an end to the power crisis and in fact there is marginal improvement already. It is the political environment that is raising concerns because political instability if prolonged can lead to a reversal of gains and the creation of an exploitable vulnerability that will be exploited — as the recent sponsored leak of confidential discussions has clearly demonstrated. The economic environment for growth, internal security and effective governance — all depend on political stability and leadership. It is in this context that the Islamabad event should be viewed and not allowed to get out of control — not with the game changing potential of the CPEC now clearly discernible. Pakistan will continue to be in the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons if it continues to gloss over the factors that raise concerns and fears.

Unfortunately the reality is that no amount of manipulation and foot dragging can make the issues on the table disappear. There is the May12 Karachi massacre, there is the Baldia Town holocaust, there are the Model Town murders, the DAWN leaks and now we have the questions that Imran Khan has raised and wants answered. So whether PTI fails or succeeds in Islamabad the questions will not go away nor will the dust on the leaked DAWN story settle till those responsible for leaking it disappear. The political party that dominated Karachi is in disarray with daily revelations of past atrocities and cached weapons but the Rangers presence there ensures a sense of security and hope that matters will be resolved and the past will not re-emerge. At the national level the military as an institution has committed to supporting democracy and has demonstrated its resolve to do so. The expectation is that the military will ensure a resolution of the crisis should there actually be one in Islamabad and not allow the country’s interests to be jeopardized. After all the military continues to handle the situation with India professionally and coolly. The military has also staged as well as participated in international events to negate the so called isolation strategy. The military has undertaken to secure the CPEC and is in full support of the National Action Plan and it understands how the external threat to the CPEC has to be countered. So neither ‘ political pre-emptive strikes’ nor ‘individuals oriented likely and obvious solutions’ matter when the country’s interest and the institutions’ interests converge — individuals then rise above ambitions especially when the learning curve has been long and hard. Finally it should not be forgotten that the Judiciary is moving at its own pace but with a total awareness of the trends shaping the environment.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)