FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 45

Need for a grand national dialogue and reconciliation

Pakistan today is in a state of drift. There is an acute sense of uncertainty and foreboding all around. One cannot make sense of where we are going.

The country is caught up in an inexorable process of political and economic meltdown. Unprecedented floods have submerged one-third of the country, rendering millions homeless. Standing crops have been washed away and thousands of miles of roads and hundreds of bridges have disappeared. Communication and transportation infrastructures have collapsed, making rescue and relief work difficult.

Over vast stretches of land, the scene is one of unrelieved doom and gloom. At this moment we need a strong and stable government to steer the country through the flood and the attendant economic crisis. But it is our misfortune that we lack one. Ever since the change of guard in April this year, Pakistan is in the throes of an endless political crisis with no sign of a solution soon.

Since Imran Khan was ousted from power, he has been on a roll, crisscrossing the country to mobilize the masses in favour of his demand for an early general election. He is drawing large crowds and seems determined to carry on with his political battle to bring down the present dispensation.

Imran Khan’s popular appeal is increasing by the day because he is raising issues which are close to the people’s hearts. His task has been made easy by the economic mess which has gripped the country during the last few months and which the PDM government has not been able to solve. Prices of everything have skyrocketed while food inflation has reached 50 percent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is running from pillar to post to mend things but he is not succeeding, given the wide gap between government income and expenditure and lack of funding from international lenders.

At present, the country looks like a house divided. The government and the opposition are poles apart in their thinking and approach which has created an atmosphere of extreme political instability and uncertainty in the country.

Pakistan is dangerously polarized today – the political parties as well as the Centre and the provinces. The judiciary is also generally perceived as divided. The establishment’s role too has become a subject of public debate.

Beyond the political polarization at the national level, within parties themselves, there are divisions. The PDM, a 13-member political combine, is in power but it is the PML-N that is calling the shots, while the PPP, MQM, JUI-F and other parties are not satisfied with their share of crumbs in power.

There is a need to cool down things but everyone seems to be in a frenzied state of mind. Imran Khan is used to employing harsh language to lambast his opponents. But the PML-N too is not doing the needful to bring down the political temperature. In this context, the use of excessive force, filing of cases and arrest of PTI stalwarts have done much to further embitter the political climate in the country.

Needless to say, increasing political instability is aggravating the economic crisis. On the other hand, the government is proving unequal to the task of governing. It’s a double whammy for the nation –political instability and confrontation coupled with increasing economic woes.

The country needs a respite from all this. The situation calls for a bipartisan approach and application of the collective wisdom of the nation to tackle the problems facing Pakistan. The crying need of the hour is to hold a grand national dialogue and promote peace and reconciliation so that all political forces in the country, instead of fighting all the time, cooperate together to face the biggest challenge in the life of this nation.

It is time to close ranks and foster a spirit of peace and harmony in the country. We must not forget that a breakdown of democracy as a result of the present chaos may mark the unravelling of the existing political order, with the crisis of politics turning into a crisis of the State. That will be a tragedy. There is a need for all the stake-holders to realise that in the game of thrones, there is no ultimate winner.

If remedial measures are not taken to bring about political and economic stability, the country may descend into complete anarchy with the erosion of authority of most state institutions. A meaningful dialogue among political forces is the only way out of the situation.

It’s time for restraint and moderation in order to move the country toward stable democracy. Endless political feuds and pursuit of narrow partisan interests may do incalculable harm to Pakistan. National unity, not ceaseless political confrontation, is the need of the hour. All political forces must join hands to forge a unified national front against the internal and external challenges confronting us.