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Deliverance of Pakistan: Is Azadi March a Solution?

 

Need for an Azadi March

What happens to a nation that is disintegrating? When the state and the society are coming apart under the impact of successive political disasters? The country swirls with the possibility of the fall of its civilian government or even a military coup. Such is the situation today in Pakistan. What does a nation facing such a disastrous future do? Inevitably, certain sections of the society take matters into own hands and decide to pull back the curtain on the mounting frustration and failure of the government that the citizens experience daily.

Terming the Imran Khan government as incompetent, a major right-wing religious party in Pakistan, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), announced that it will begin its ‘Azadi March’ on October 27 to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The call for Iman Khan to resign has been gaining momentum since firebrand religious leader Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Chief Jamiat Ulema Islam (Fazal) — JUI-F — has given the call for Azadi March to lock down Islamabad on October 27 with an aim to dethrone Imran Khan, blaming him for the economic woes of the cash-strapped country.

Economic Downfall of Pakistan

Despite the aura of omnipotence that Pakistan tries to project, a look at their history should remind us that they are very fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, it doesn’t take too long for the entire nation to crumble.

The economic situation in Pakistan today is indeed worrying. Almost all financial indicators have seen a downward trend. The growth rate fell by almost 50 percent from 6.2 percent to 3.3 percent. It is expected to go down even further to 2.4 percent next year, which will be the country’s lowest in the past 10 years. The Pakistani rupee has lost a fifth of its value against the dollar since the beginning of this fiscal year. Inflation is expected to hover around 13 percent over the next 12 months, reaching a 10-year-high as well.

Then there is the issue of the ever-increasing debt, which eats up some 30 percent of the budget every year. Pakistan continues to take out loans to be able to cover repayments of past borrowing. It recently signed yet another deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package worth $6bn.

The tax burden in Pakistan falls overwhelmingly on the poor who pay in various indirect ways and who already struggle to make ends meet. Currently, a third of the nation is living below the poverty line. Khan promised to crack down on tax evasion and corruption before coming to power but little has been done so far. He has not introduced any measures to address corruption in the ranks of his own party, for example, recently it emerged that a minister in Khan’s cabinet had evaded paying taxes for years by transferring his luxury properties to one of his employees, but no action has been taken against him so far. 

 

Overly Dear Pakistan Army

While Khan’s government is failing to raise revenue flows it is also failing to cut non-developmental expenditures.

The biggest source of such spending after debt-servicing is the military which officially receives around 18 and 23 percent of the budget every year. So despite being rich itself, the army continues to be a burden on the Pakistani economy and to get preferential treatment. At this point, there are no signs that this would change under the current government. The country is under economic crisis due to the government’s incompetency. Thus Pakistan appears to be stuck in a vicious cycle of accommodating the interests of the army and the powerful economic elites which cripple its economy and force it to continue borrowing from international creditors, sinking further into debt and inching closer to full economic collapse.

Challenges for Pakistan

Pakistan’s challenge in the 21st century is not so much building out a new extensively equipped Army, but taking better care of what they already have. Recently, The FATF announced its decision of keeping Pakistan in the “grey-list” again giving it a stern warning to show improvements. But with such state of affairs the day doesn’t seem far when Pakistan would be placed in the Black list.

As if the tag of supporting state-sponsored terrorism wasn’t enough, Pakistan also has come into global media glare for its poor handling of issues with the Balochs and the Sindhs. Internal issues like forced conversion of minorities should be a matter of national concern but sadly, it is not important enough for them. And whenever anyone has tried to speak about relevant issues like these, the Pak Army has very conveniently gagged their mouths.

These appalling statistics, coupled with the government’s failure to act, led to the JUI-F announcing an Azadi March. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing immense pressure from opposition parties to step down or face agitation as the opposition is of the opinion that the government is the result of a fake election.

The government acted to be very magnanimous in deciding to let the opposition’s Azadi March protest in Islamabad proceed as long as parameters laid out by courts for lawful protest are not breached. But what law and order are they talking about when they have never had any parameters for stopping their own Army from breaking the law.

Viewpoint

Today the Imran Khan Government says that it would “allow” the proposed Azadi March because it firmly believes in upholding democratic ideals, but where are those ideals when the Pakistan Army is torturing hundreds of innocent people in the regions of Balochistan? Where are those ideals when poor Hindu girls are forcefully abducted from their homes and converted into a religion they don’t believe? Where does the democracy go when the freedom of speech of journalists is curbed?

What’s clear is that this failure is by design. The state would collapse because it is ruled by selected puppets managed by the Pakistan Army, who destroy incentives, discourage innovation, and kill the talent of their citizens by robbing them of opportunities. These people are not in place by mistake but on purpose. They’re there for the benefit of elites who gain much from the extraction at the expense of the society. The fall of Pakistan will not be in an explosion of war and violence but by purposeful mismanagement of its people, condemning their citizens to a lifetime of poverty. And NO Azadi March can save the nation from the clutches of this mismanagement.

24 Oct 2019/Thursday                       Written by: Saima Ebrahim

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