NationalVolume 12 Issue # 10

Democracy’s bitter revenge

ormer President Asif Zaradri’s return to Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s welcoming statements indicate they strictly believe in a two-party system in Pakistan and would collude to defeat the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the next election. There are already rumours in journalist circles that the former president will enjoy the complete backing of the ruling party to highjack an anti-government campaign, launched by Imran Khan of the PTI. Asif Zardari will contact all political parties, including the PTI, to lead the opposition. He will also contact defectors who have mostly joined the PTI. Some claim the PPP will woo back almost all its “electables,” who have joined other parties and it may form governments in the Centre and Sindh. It will again raise the issue of the Seraiki province to bag seats in South Punjab. At the moment, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to have overridden almost all his troubles and is the favourite to form the next government at the Centre and the Punjab. He has appointed a new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) director-general (DG). The Panama case will be heard by a new Chief Justice of Pakistan. He has taken in hand almost all state institutions and the national media. Except for one or two, all media house owners toe his line. His government has released a whooping Rs8b advertisement to media houses in three years to obtain their acquiesence. The last PPP government failed largely in the last election because it could not please big media houses. The PML-N will support it secretly, if its chances of forming the next government at the Centre become bleak in the aftermath of the Panama case. In the situation, it will be content with its government in the Punjab. In this way, Pakistan will revert to a 2008-like situation.

It appears Pakistan’s system or the establishment does not allow a third party to share power with the two mainstream parties at the Centre. The PTI has failed to break the status quo because of stiff resistance from the system and internal weaknesses. It can boost its chances by raising the slogan of the south Punjab province in the Punjab, as the PPP had raised the issue before the last general election, but compromised with the PML-N in the end. The Punjab has over 60 percent National Assembly seats and the PML-N has dominated it for decades now. The PPP and the PTI cannot come to power at the Centre even if they sweep elections in their home provinces. They need at least 30 seats in the Punjab for some chances to form the government at the Centre. As it appears to be all well for the prime minister for the next year, there are no bright prospects for the people of Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised to improve the economy, but ground realities are entirely different today. Pakistan’s debt burden has increased dangerously since 2008. The State Bank of Pakistan’s statistics show a phenomenal rise in the country’s debt and liabilities during the last 10 years. Internal and external debt and liabilities during the last three years are almost equal to what the country had borrowed in almost 60 years of its independence. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, total public debts and liabilities were Rs 16,228 billion by end June 2013, which have increased to Rs 22,461 billion by November 2016. Each Pakistani had debt and liabilities of Rs 96,422 each by September 2013, but now the burden on each Pakistani has increased to almost Rs 124,000.

In early 2008 each Pakistani owed Rs37,172. It increased to Rs 80,000 in 2012. Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities were Rs 6,691 billion in 2007. In five years from 2008 to 2013, debt and liabilities were more than double the total liabilities accumulated during 60 years of Pakistan’s independence. The debt liabilities added during the PPP’s five years tenure were almost Rs 9,000 billion. According to another report, Pakistan’s exports have continuously declined in the present government’s tenure, which considers itself an expert on the economy. The declining trend in exports continued in July-November 2016-17, and total exports of the country stood at $8.189 billion, down by 3.94 percent compared to $8.542 billion in the same period last year. The goods import in July-November 2016-17 was further enhanced by 8.83 per cent to $19.964 billion compared to $18.345 billion in the same period last year. The five months import of the country is almost 59 percent higher than the total exports in the period, says the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). The trade deficit of the country has increased to $11.775 billion in July-November 2016-17, up by 19.9 percent compared to $9.821 billion in the same period last year.

In another alarming development, Pakistan’s net revenue receipts failed to meet the requirements of even debt servicing during the first quarter of the current financial year 2016-17, indicating that the country is plunging towards a debt trap. It has not happened in the country’s history. According to statistics, released by the National Bank of Pakistan, net revenue receipts of the federal government stood at Rs369.4b, but servicing on domestic and foreign debt needed Rs 413 billion during the first quarter (July-September) period of the current financial year, so it remained negative at Rs 44 billion. The servicing of domestic debt consumed Rs 392 billion and foreign debt Rs 21 billion in the first quarter of the fiscal year. The gross revenue receipts fetched Rs785.962 billion during the July-Sept period of fiscal year 2016-17, out of which the federal government transferred Rs416.472 billion to the provinces, so the net revenue receipts stood at Rs369.4 billion. The statistics prove the people of the country will continue to languish in poverty and remain deprived of basic needs in years and decades to come. Politically, the country has come to a point where it was in 2008. Economically, it is much worse. Democracy has taken its bitter revenge on Pakistan. Nobody knows who will save the people from the stranglehold of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.