Volume 6, No. 2, February 2024
Editor: Rashed Rahman
The shape of things, extant and to come
Seven months into the tenure of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s people have had any and all illusions about what this government would deliver stripped away in brutal fashion. All the tall claims early in its tenure, e.g. building five million affordable homes for the poor and providing 10 million jobs, especially for Pakistan’s youth bulge, remain just that – claims with no sign of commencing any time soon let alone coming to full fruition. The government’s treasury is ‘empty’ if its balance sheet of external and budget deficits, debt burden and other indicators are taken into account. The government hopes to mobilise finance for its housing and employment targets from the private sector at a moment when business confidence is at its lowest, investment, local and foreign (with the exception of China’s CPEC), is conspicuous by its absence, energy availability and cost have caused industry to struggle, inflation has caused the poor and even middle class to cry out, and all the indicators show a contracting economy. While the biggest test for the government remains the struggling economy, its track record so far in all other areas too is far from shining. In some respects the PTI is a prisoner of its own style and content of politics while in opposition. Its constant corruption mantra and unceasing castigation of the opposition, mainly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), both currently in the dock thanks to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), cuts across the arithmetic of parliament. The PTI has a bare majority of five in the National Assembly and lacks a majority in the Senate. To have any hope of getting legislation passed therefore, the PTI government needs the cooperation of the opposition. Perhaps it is this bitter truth that is keeping the government from introducing even a single bill in parliament to date. Parliament therefore, to the extent it goes through the motions of functioning, is in fact dysfunctional. That means the smaller provinces, oppressed classes and communities have no representative political conduit for bringing their grievances to light and hoping for redress.
While the PTI government struggles for credibility and effectiveness, its ‘mentors’ have moved on with their own strategy and priorities. The military establishment has become enamoured of late of the new ‘hybrid’ warfare doctrine. In Pakistan’s context, this doctrine and the strategy that flows from it comprises:
The struggle for bourgeois parliamentary democracy, which has consumed most of our existence since Independence, is now held hostage to this hybrid war plan. The traditional elite political class has proved by now that it is incapable of overcoming its own vested interests to stage a consistent struggle for the principles of democratic representation, freedoms and rights. The new actors required to overcome this impasse have yet to enter onto the stage of history in an organised, effective manner. There are little shoots of resistance everywhere, but far from a movement capable of challenging the iniquitous, exploitative system bequeathed by history and sustained by the establishment, military and civilian.