Unrest next door, what next?

by Bashir Assad 

As Pakistan witnesses one of its worst economic and political crisis in 75 years of being, it gets even more crucial to keep a sharp eye on the extent it could go to in
order to divert the attention away from the crisis.

THERE is much unrest and turmoil going on in our neighbourhood. Pakistan, probably the first time in its 75 years of being, is witnessing a testing period of such intensity that it is
sending its people and government reeling. Caught in the vicious circle of economic crisis and political instability, Pakistan is recording a crime rate that has gone so phenomenally high that people are resorting to gun-point robberies at an alarming scale. And since the poor and the marginalised cannot seem to afford even basic meals for themselves, the only option they see for themselves is to snatch valuables from others and feed their hunger.

 Gun culture touches a disturbing peak
Though the culture of guns is not new to the Pakistani
society as jihad has been the only flourishing business

there, the deepening economic crisis is only worseningthe scenario. It now seems that the country is hurtling towards a culture of street crimes and is fast on its way to becoming the un-safest country for its own citizens. Street crimes, gun-point robberies, dacoities, snatching, stealing and thefts are the only weapons available with hungry abdomens. And the disturbing trend is that the rural and tribal areas apart – where blood-letting is normal – the main cities are facing situations where law and order is threatened each passing day. According to Pakistani newspaper reports, the crime rate in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad is on the rise as more and more hungry people are resorting to violence and robbery.

The economic crisis is loud, shrill & violent The crisis is unimaginable since almost the entire population of that country is struggling for survival. According to many Pakistan observers, the country is on the verge of extinction, owing to the severest economic dip. Inflation is skyrocketing. Pakistan’s debt jumped by 4 trillion or around 7.7% in January 2023 to reach close to 55 trillion, as reported by Dawn, citing the State Bank of Pakistan data. It says the country’s external debt stands at 20.69 trillion, witnessing a hike of 38% in a year. Needless to say that the crisis has affected the poor and the middle class the most and they are resorting to armed robberies. More than 7000 incidents were
reported in the month of January this year in the city of Karachi alone. According to a news report, 13 vehicles were snatched and 214 were stolen in that city during the month of January. Also, some 420 motor cycles and 2379 mobile phones were snatched at gun-point.

Politics of aggression
Pakistan observers argue that flawed and politically motivated initiatives have been the main cause behind such dense economic instability. They feel that most decisions were taken with political interests in mind in place of economic viability, which finally led to the
unprecedented crisis in that country. There is this realisation that the military in Pakistan has been draining the resources since a lion’s share goes to the Pakistani army. It may not be out of context to mention the case of the recently retired Pakistani army chief – General Qamar Javed Bajwa. It was recently reported that Bajwa became the richest army general in the world in just six years! It’s known that Pakistan’s reserves, resources and its
assets are all under the control of the army and hence the crisis.

  The mullahs & the military nexus
The one aspect – probably the most crucial and which hardly anyone is talking about – is that the country was deliberately and intentionally left to the radical decisions and will of its religious fanatics and mullahs. The mullah, mosque and military nexus has actually caused the biggest damage to that country. The manufacturing unit that flourished right under the nose of the Pakistani regimes was that of jihadis. The mullahs in that country have been given a free hand; rather, they have been involved in crucial decision-making. Religious fanaticis has eaten up the vitals of the Pakistani society. The jihadi ideology has drained the intellectual property. The mullahs and religious fanatics, in connivance with the Pakistani army, are controlling the levers of power at the cost of rule of the law. The religion-ised discourse there has eaten into the country’s very roots. The mullahs have been driving the dangerous jihadi narrative in Pakistan which has gone on to achieve dimensions of state policy. And because of this, the country has failed to build its human resource base properly, address the issues of poverty and alienation, has lost its industrial base and
support of the international community and institutions and has finally got caught in its own web. It’s for the 27 th time in the last few decades that Pakistan is seeking a bailout package from the IMF.

Democracy that never was
Pakistan’s political system too has remained fragile because the powerful nexus between mullahs and military failed to strengthen the democratic institutions. This went on to block accountability and transparency in its governing systems and institutions. And today,
corruption rules the roost and people are disenchanted with the political class.
Well, this crisis in Pakistan is the net result of its failure to emerge as a state guided and governed by a system which people could repose faith in. This crisis is not
sudden. It was anticipated because there was no direction and unanimity in thought processes. The country’s institutions were working at cross purposes and Pakistan’s political class never exhibited that strong will to steer through.


Effect on the neighbours
What remains to be seen now is the impact of Pakistan’s failures upon its neighbours. The statesmen of Indiawould always remark that a stable Pakistan was in it  interest and an unstable Pakistan could have cascading effects on its immediate neighbours. There are
apprehensions that a population caught in the web of such crisis and a political class guided by its compulsions, could create problems for its neighbours. After all, sub- continental politics is somehow prone to diversions. Thus, it remains to be calculated and thought upon as to what extent Pakistan can go to in order to divert attention from its internal crisis.
Caution and observation are a must here.


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