What do you want to be when you grow up? The magical question that would spark fireworks in neurotransmitters of every child’s mind with a glow of possibilities.
An expansive canvas blank to paint with any stroke, color, style or form. An exploratory learning curve of self-discovery, evolving over the course of time until the bells of life come around calling to settle, stabilize, and land.
Neither of the three are prevalent here.
Pakistan has been in sandbox mode since inception, still on the path of self-discovery, and perhaps unable to acknowledge that the time to settle, stabilize, and land is upon us.
We have nationalized and privatized, won and lost on diplomatic and other fronts, run and ruined democracy, run and ruined dictatorships, credited and discredited corruption, and yet with this rich canvas of costly experience we still insist on the exploratory learning curve of self-discovery with no end in sight.
Waning bells of life ringing, asking whether we want to be conservative or liberal, capitalist or communist, democracy or dictatorship, east or west, or just hang in a state of limbo directionless?
Yes, experiencing life is essential for the deciding one’s direction, though several costs are attached to such experiences.
Lack of political stability costs the economy at large, lack of smooth transitions amplifies that further with civil/political unrest, lack of civil-military relations exasperates global positioning, and lack of plain and simple growth sends capable human resources looking abroad.
When do we begin correlating the impact of political entropy with economic degradation?
On the exit of PML-N in Panamagate, an artificially inflated PKR came crashing on our heads.
Following suit, came a man who refused to deal with the IMF for a year foreshadowing further uncertainty with the rupee amplifying its decline. Sure, he was able to bring revival post-IMF deal but as soon as we got back on track, our economy was faced with yet another political anomaly with an even larger, more divergent, political lobby being the PDM.
In just the last five years, three governments have been changed in the term of one government and we have reached a point where our defense budget is now feeling the IMF pinch. The currency is out of control, banks are blocking LC’s, GDP in decline, companies are shutting down leaving unemployment, crime, frustration, suicides, and negative spillovers to rise within the larger company called Pakistan.
Vengeful politics are a direct cause of these economic impacts which affects the country at large and everyone living in it. The days of physical warfare are over, economic warfare needs to become the core basis of national security threats towards which there is no focus because that requires peaceful political environment with consistent policy. Confucius says ‘’before you embark on a journey of revenge, remember to dig two graves.’’
To make matters worse, the “reason” for getting rid of the previous government is the same thing the new government has engaged itself in continuing. Except the only difference is economic degradation in the transition period, rollback of existing policy, and formulation of new policies. Not to forget teetering on the brink of default. One questions, why? Wasn’t the last government was allegedly ‘’selected’’? And if the previous government’s rigid policies were actually turning into a major national security issue then why bring back the perpetrators of memo gate and dawn leaks in unison?
The top brass, civil and military, need to align themselves and understand they all belong to the same company. The powers that be need to understand that there can be no “ideal-mode” in civil-military relations. We must accept that the ‘perfect’ partner doesn’t exist and ‘getting along’ is part and parcel of every marriage.
India next door is a perfect example, building its domestic economy to self-sustenance and then making political decisions based on further growth of the same. They are allies with America in QUAD and simultaneously associated with BRICS even after border disputes with China. Case in point of economic warfare trumping physical warfare.
China is an even better example where political stability within the top brass has reaped profits of epic proportions, lifting a country of 1 billion plus people to the status of a global power.
Exploring further in the region to countries of similar size and demographic, Bangladesh has touched $50 billion in exports. The formula of political stability translating to economic sustenance is visible there as well.
This perpetual breakdown of civil-military relations reduces our weightage on the world stage if we remain consistent in offering political/economic uncertainty. Relationship management, stability, direction, and alignment of interest for the whole country (not just top management) are what is required as the core of national security.
On the contrary, the only policy we have consistently implemented is developing every other country except our own.
We have been taking loans from abroad, siphoning off loans via corruption, and laundering loans back abroad as personal wealth. The inflow of loans and outflow of laundered dollars leaves Pakistan to take more loans to manage expenses on the Profit and Loss account. Loans are taken to raise assets on a balance sheet that generate return to pay back the lender, keeping some margin for the borrower. They are not taken to maintain lifestyles and expenses on P&L.
Subsequent effect of swindling money from abroad back to the origin is a devalued PKR which leads to inflationary pressures, high interest rates, and economic degradation. Napoleon says ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’
Pakistan is politics first, economy later. And where does that lead you?
To an ultimate brain drain where the wrong kind of human resource is brought to the top and the right kind of human resource leaves the country to find the top elsewhere. Ironically, the local human resource is swindling and sending public funds to the same destinations. This, in turn, leaves more people in the country who again do ‘politics first’ because the brain drain has kept the ‘economy later’.
We must realize that instead of pointing fingers collectively inward, we must push collectively outward. 1947 was some time ago and we have grown up to 220 million people.
The canvas is full, we are not petulant children anymore, life is upon us, and the decision to land must be taken as the fuel is running out.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of ARYNews or its management.