For a new Pakistan

As we get closer to acquiring our thirteenth IMF bailout package, we need to examine why Pakistan is back in trouble with balance of payment

It is a good sign for Pakistan that the democratic process has moved on to bring in a third consecutive elected-government, despite the many handicaps this system suffers. Allegations of pre-poll rigging have been overshadowed by what transpired after the polling was done. The failure of the election ‘Results Transmission System’ (RTS) — intentional or unintentional — was quite unfortunate. It had to be operational the day it was needed the most.

The RTS was operational and perfectly functional when it was tested a day before, reported a newspaper, quoting the the Nation Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) authorities. Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has formed a committee to probe the matter. Senator Mian Raza Rabbani has asked the upper house of the parliament to constitute a committee for an impartial investigation into why this equipment — which cost Rs 250 million — failed.

Recounting of the votes in most of the constituencies has gone in favour of the lucky petitioners. Some petitions have not been entertained while recounting was adjourned in some cases. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Saad Rafique’s recount petition has been challenged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. All of this has raised many questions about these elections’ credibility. Some are considering all that has happened a historic dent on the electoral process.

The aggrieved political opposition has wisely taken a unanimous decision to confront the leading PTI and their allies in Parliament. The opposition may have many surprises for the new government that may not be new to them. The opposition’s role has always been very critical and negative.

Quite a challenging scenario is waiting for incoming Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan. He has already been summoned by the National Accountability Court (NAB) on Tuesday August 7in a case related to the misuse of a government helicopter. Previously, the NAB court had let him of the hook temporarily due to his engagement in the election campaign. Of course, the courts can wait for the establishment’s blue eyed influential.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that Washington will be watching closely as the new government approaches the IMF for a fresh bailout, saying American money should not be used to service debt incurred from China

Taking the small winners to his folds, the PTI Chief is unwillingly completing the numbers he needed to form a coalition government. He was more anxious about having a clear majority. Perhaps, it was essential to keep him dependent on his political allies so that his arrogance could be curbed. Apparently,this has worked out well. His behaviour certainly seems more mature, and this is evident from his more suitable political statements.

His ATM — Jahangir Tareen has also done well in managing the numbers game. The court has disqualified Tareen from having any political engagements. But who cares? Even the court has been unable to take notice of the violations of its decision.

PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry claims to have completed the numbers for the lower house. Just in a week, they have to prove their majority. Hopefully they will do it. Forming a government with the support of political engineers and ATMs is not actual success, and neither is getting the label of Prime Minister.

The actual challenges start after winning in the lower house. The most important is to manage the opposition within the house. It is a good sign that Imran Khan has already declared that there will be no revenge against PTI’s political opponents. It would be better for the country if political opponents are taken on board for the creation of a new Pakistan instead of cast out and persecuted.

The foremost may be the gradual cut in US security aid, which would be reduced to $150 million after the recently approved bill in the US congress. Once President Donald Trump signs the bill, known as United States National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2019, future security-related aid provided to Pakistan will not be linked to the country’s counter-terrorism efforts.

United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that the US will also be watching closely as the new government approaches the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a fresh bailout, saying American money should not be used to service debt incurred from China. However, he also hinted that the Trump regime would welcome a mutually beneficial engagement between the US and Pakistan.

The confusing state of US-Pakistan relations has getting more intense after the vigorous and brisk development of Pakistan’s CPEC projects. The new government has to see the possibilities of balancing the diplomatic relations between the strategic and development partners. Perhaps, taking up some unconventional and unwanted decisions would help in curbing the hegemonic supremacy of the US in the region. Meanwhile, we also need to see diplomatic relations in the historic context of beneficial engagement in the time of need.

As we get closer to acquiring our 13th IMF bailout package, we need to examine why Pakistan is back in trouble with balance of payment. All indicators suggest that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government will immediately have to approach the IMF, which the veteran PTI leader Asad Omar had initially discarded.

The other option may be further borrowing from China if the IMF bailout does not mature. Through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has taken numerous loans from its trading partner China, which economists have warned the country will face difficulty in paying back.

China has agreed to pour in some extra foreign exchange on top of the CPEC funding, this is what caused the rupee to rise after the July 25 polls. It is really worrisome that unwise investment decisions and consistently declining exports have increased the challenge of the balance of payment — another huge challenge for the new Pakistan.

The writer is an Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. He can be reached atdevcom.pakistan@gmail.com. He tweets @EmmayeSyed

Published in Daily Times, August 7th 2018.