Elections Have Only Confused And Divided The Nation Further

The recent decision of the PTI to write a letter to the IMF to thwart the government’s efforts in securing a new program have added fuel to the raging fire of political polarisation

Elections Have Only Confused And Divided The Nation Further

The 12th general elections in the turbulent history of Pakistan took place on the 8th of February 2024. The results of this election have once again left the Pakistani nation in a sad state of division and confusion. It is now clear that the PML-N will hold power at the federal level, with the presidency going to the PPP. And at the provincial level, the PML-N will rule Punjab, the PPP will have Sindh, and the PTI will hold sway in KP, with Balochistan controlled by a coalition. 

There is a definite clash on the horizon between the federal government and the provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and with certainly some noisy scenes in the Punjab Assembly. The only thing definite is that the federal government will not be a stable one, and may not be able to survive for more than a year or two. So, we are looking at another election in the near future. 

The present political scenario is a precarious and dangerous situation because today the country is faced with tremendous economic and political challenges, especially the new IMF program in March this year. The new government taking charge will not be able to end the economic stress or the political turmoil in the country, but it will have a chance to tackle the many challenges faced by the nation. Economic turmoil and political instability aside, Pakistan also faces a deteriorating security situation, with a surge in attacks by outfits such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the so-called Islamic State group, particularly in the provinces of KP and Balochistan.

Until very recently, the country was on the verge of default, that was averted by a 3-billion-dollar bailout package by the IMF. The IMF support will now end by the end of March and a fresh extended program will be needed to prop up the faltering economy. The new government will have to negotiate the new program in the face of slow growth, galloping inflation, rising prices and spiking oil and gas prices. A new program means committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery, but which will limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth. 

Political tensions have reached a boiling point before and after the elections, and the recent decision of the PTI to write a letter to the IMF to thwart the government’s efforts in securing a new program have added fuel to the raging fire of political polarisation. There is no denying the fact that the founder of the PTI Imran Khan has a cult-like following in the country and his continued incarceration would only stoke tensions when stability is the need of the hour to attract foreign investment to shore up the faltering economy. 

The powerful establishment has ruled the roost in this country and it is an open secret that no government can survive without its blessings. During the last four decades, no Prime Minister has completed its term of office because of differences with the establishment. The stronghold of the establishment has become more pronounced with the passage of time, and now the role of the establishment in the economic sphere is more pervasive and important by its representation in the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC). We also have numerous retired and serving members of the establishment as heads of many state institutions. Any future government will be walking a difficult tightrope to keep the establishment on its side while formulating any national policy. During the last 76 years of our national history, many governments have ended up on the dust heap of history, because of the displeasure of the establishment – including four military dictatorships. And we have yet to see an elected Prime Minister completing his term of office.

The unholy curse of religious extremism, obscurantism and militancy hovers over the country once again. It was in the military operations of 2014 that the menace of militancy was finally controlled and contained. Now the TTP and the ISK have resurfaced after the Taliban victory in Afghanistan and they are armed with the deadly and sophisticated weapons left behind by the US forces in Afghanistan. TTP and its affiliates have launched ferocious attacks on Pakistani armed forces and the friction between the TTP and Pakistan is growing with each passing day. The Baloch insurgency has taken a serious turn and the Chinese interests related to CPEC in Balochistan are threatened. China has significant investments in the mineral-rich province of Balochistan, and the strategic sea port of Gwadar. 

Pakistan’s eastern and western borders are both hot, and after the expulsion of Afghan refugees, relations with Afghanistan are strained. For the first time in history, Pakistan and Iran have both launched armed incursions on each other’s territory. Relations with arch-enemy India are abysmally low after Pakistan accused India of managing an assassination campaign inside Pakistan. There is always a fear of hostilities on the line of control in Kashmir. India will elect a new government in May and chances are very bright that the Hindu Nationalist government of Narendra Modi will be elected again for another term, with a heavy mandate. And it is likely that this will create more problems for the new government in Pakistan. It is true that the results of the 8 February elections reflect dissatisfaction with the country’s civil and military establishment. 

But they are also the outcome of years of Pakistan’s political game. Propaganda and personal attacks without serious discussions on the country’s underlying problems have made it difficult to solve these problems. Pakistan needs economic reforms, foreign-policy changes, and action against terrorists. All it keeps getting is breaking news and Whatsapp forwards about the unending game of one-up-man ship involving the country’s politicians or its security establishment.