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Same Old

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It was truly a difficult challenge but the Pakistan Army has finally managed to achieve it – keep the popular Imran Khan out of power! With a little accompanying nudge from China, those more compliant with Pakistan’s political culture have been persuaded to form the new government following the unashamedly sabotaged general elections. PML-N’s Shahbaz Sharif will be the Prime Minister again, while PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari will be the nation’s President. It’s déjà vu, nothing has changed! Including the fact that an ‘inconvenient’ leader languishes in jail.

There is no doubt that the people’s verdict, which was evident even after all the skullduggery, has been stolen. This was done in the past through military coups, but the deed is now done through a façade of democracy. Pakistan needs to present itself as a ‘functioning state’ to the outside world so that it can stay connected with nations that decide on IMF loans and provide a ‘home away from home’ for generals and top politicians along with their ill-gotten gains. Without inconvenient sanctions, their children can continue to study in foreign universities and lead the good life.

What next, then? The economy remains a sink-hole that no amount of loans and aid can fix. The IMF, historically, does not have a good record of enforcing reforms on such economies, indeed its ‘Harvard’ educated experts often make things worse. Consider how difficult a time PM Modi is having introducing reforms in India despite the fact that ‘liberalisation’ has been in vogue for over three decades. In comparison, Pakistan is basically on ventilator support, except there is no ventilator. All this while they watch their much- coveted J&K booming in India!

So, what is the prognosis? Is it possible to continue the same way into a challenging and increasingly unpredictable future? How will the bill be paid for the military’s extravagant ambition to match India? There is China’s backing but have no lessons been learned from the incidents of the past few years indicating the general populace is not happy with the arrangement? ‘Fellow’ Islamic countries are presently taken up with other more immediate concerns and, anyway, do not see a post-petroleum future there. Not to speak of the unabated insurgencies, and differences with Afghanistan and Iran. How different things would have been if it had been linked to the Indian economy, benefiting the way Bangladesh, in particular, has. Sadly, there seems no way out in the present circumstances. Survival will have to be a day-to-day process.