The Road Ahead

Spearhead Analysis-08.11.2019

The Azaadi March that culminated in the Dharna has now fizzled into a negotiated face saving exit phase.  Most people expect the situation to be resolved barring a catastrophic misstep. It was never clear from whom the march wanted freedom (Azaadi)– and the demand for the elected Prime Ministers’ resignation was a no brainer with few takers outside the Dharna enclosure. The two former major political parties remained confused and the other religious political party stayed away. If the PTI Dharna created a much needed potent third political force, then this march cum dharna has not created a fourth force and in fact has diminished the potential for any such development in the future. Admittedly the Maulana has had his day in the sun and the afterglow may linger. The media including the social media and the governments various stratagems acted as a pressure valve by keeping the pot simmering without boiling over—in fact this is how the many protests and strikes taking place as well as the socio-economic grievances that remain below the street riot level, are being managed.

The speculations about tailwinds driving the protest have died down but the availability of massive funding remains as a question mark. An oft repeated idea that resurfaced from some quarters was about a National Government to run the country. It did not find any support. The reason is that we are as close to a National Government as you can get without doing away with democracy. It is a fact that that after a tumultuous relationship the government and the military are as is said- ‘on the same page’ The importance of economic security for national security has been fully understood and the Army Chief is now a member of the National Development Council. Human security figures prominently in overall security considerations and the military after having sidelined terrorism and broken the political-criminal nexus continues to ensure internal security without let up and gets good support from the CTD and other agencies. Internationally recognized expertise has been inducted to manage economic, financial and revenue generating institutions. The World Bank and the IMF are interacting positively and the FATF matter is being taken very seriously indeed. Pakistan has made clear its stance on good bilateral relations with all neighbors as well as its support for peace and stability in Afghanistan. India’s hostility and the Kashmir situation are being managed– and without entering into an arms race the military is ramping up capacity to face and defeat any conflict that India may trigger to flex its superior conventional capacity. After all a reverse or even a stalemate of aggression by India will be a defeat for India given its size and ambitions. The Prime Minister has already made the world aware of the lurking nuclear danger and the consequences of an uprising in Kashmir as a result of Indian oppression and suppression. The Ayodhya verdict on November 17 may bring another twist in the ongoing situation.

As it moves ahead, beyond the current transitory bumps the sense is that the leadership of the two major parties is looking at exile abroad and their inexperience and untested heirs will need to do a lot of party building work before they can credibly participate in the next election. The current government is therefore likely to complete its tenure and if it gains full credibility and delivers then it should be there for another term. As predicted by the Economists Intelligence Unit Pakistan will have slow growth and face socio-economic pressures. The government seems to be aware of this and is moving strongly to help the needy and support health and education initiatives. The focus on corruption especially past corruption, needs to shift to fostering business and trade activity to push wealth creation that will lead to job opportunities and serve as a magnet for investment. The FBR and NAB will have a role to play in creating the right environment. It seems the FBR is already looking at reform and has worked with confidentiality and without fanfare to recover taxes. The Prime Minister has already made clear that he favors wealth creation in the country. Pakistan does not need to market itself as a corrupt country where massive money laundering takes place—it should market itself on what is happening now and not on what happened in the past. The past is another country—the future is a new Pakistan.

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