Challenges facing the next Pak Government

Harsha Kakkar
Elections in Pak have concluded and Imran Khan, the protégé of the deep state,will take office. He had launched an agitation seeking to pressurize Nawaz in Nov 16, on the orders of the army and hence is their blue- eyed boy. Yet, he would remain in chair only till it suits the army. One move threatening the power and control of the Army chief or attempting to change the status of controlled democracy in Pak and he could suddenly find himself on the other side, as many of his predecessors have seen. The question being asked across the globe is whether he would be the first PM to complete his full tenure or follow the Pak tradition of ousted PMs.
His Government assumes office at a time when Pak is facing multiple issues, internal and external, the resolution of which would be the responsibility of this Government. Whether he would have freedom to conduct some of his own policies or would he be guided by Rawalpindi at every stage is the mute question. There are tough economic decisions which must be taken if Pak is to survive as a nation, some of which may hurt the deep state, would he do so, or remain a mute spectator.
He would be aware that all foreign dignitaries meet the elected government as a formality but conduct main discussions in Rawalpindi. Would he too be running to Rawalpindi for decisions or have the courage to take his own? The answer would be out very shortly.
Financially, the nation is in doldrums. Pak is presently on the brink of a balance of payments crises. Its growth rate is likely to drop to under 4% as compared to 5.8 this year. It would be compelled to seek a bailout once again, solely to survive the current adverse payment crises. Pak industry is facing its own demise with mass imports of cheap Chinese goods. It is moving towards becoming a nation of traders and not manufacturers. Prohibitive cost of cross border trading has led to an economic isolation of Pak.It would need to evaluate options and implement a tough financial policy if it seeks to pull itself out.
He had stated in his election rallies that he may revisit the CPEC, however has now announced he would not. Presently, multiple projects linked to the CPEC are in doldrums. Reports from Pak indicate that many contractors have stopped work as cheques issued to them by the government have bounced. It would also have to commence paying back China for the loans which it had taken, which appears difficult.His words of copying the Chinese model are hollow, as corruption in every sphere, including the army, runs deep.Hence, Pak is close to becoming a Chinese colony.
In the health sphere, Pak is way behind. Polio, which has been eradicated almost across the world continues unabated in Pak. Sharia law prevents the vaccine from being administered. Similar is the case with hepatitis B/C. Child pornography is on the rise, mainly due to implementation of Sharia laws and restrictions imposed by them. Women healthcare standards are on the decline. Arresting this deteriorating situation, before it reaches alarming proportions would remain a priority.
Being a pet of the army, Imran cannot follow any independent policy towards India and Afghanistan. He speech was on similar lines as Nawaz claiming Pak is ready for talks, but India must take the first step. Further, he made no mention of closing Pak based terror factories, the prime demand by India. He cannot close them as they supported him in his campaign and continue to back him.
Hence, India can expect no change in policy or approach towards Kashmir. It can neither contemplate talks nor expect Pak to change colours.Tensions along the LoC would continue unabated. In this atmosphere SAARC is all but dead. India would never accept to attend any meet in Pak, hence making it redundant.
Since Imran would be unable to force any change in policies, international pressure would only increase. He would face the flak while the army moves on its own path, mainly in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Haqqani network would remain protected and Afghanistan is unlikely to witness peace. Pak’s international isolation would only increase, so would the frustration of the US.
Internally, as the period of elections showed, violence and terror strikes would continue. The army would dispel its own form of justice, further alienating the masses. Imran would have no role to play in seeking to reduce the levels of violence unleashed by the army. The curtailment of media would continue. Since Imran has come to power with the backing of the army, he can take no action to curtail its power.
The daily activities of the army are already alienating it from its own populace. In Karachi, the army has broken all rules of humanity when it comes to its own housing colonies. It has forced city authorities to release additional water at the cost of other residents and misused other public amenities.
It has supported SSP Rao Anwar, responsible for the murder of 444 Baluchi’s and the cause for the launch of the PTM movement. Unlike Nawaz who languishes in jail, Anwar, a mass murderer, remains in his house and attends hearings without handcuffs.No action would now be taken against disappearances resorted to by the army, nor would the press ever criticize it. HR violations would continue in Baluchistan, enhancing anger against the army.
With complete control over the Central Government and the judiciary, the Pak army now has a nation, over which it would reign supreme. Democracy would only be in name. Visitors would prefer meetingsin Rawalpindi, rather than Islamabad. The few detractors in Pak would now have no voice. China can now ensure that Pak is its de-facto province.
Indo-Pak relations would only deteriorate, Kashmir would face increased turmoil. International isolation of Pak would continue to increase. In summary, Pak would move downhill under the control of the deep state, with Imran as the puppet. Finally, would Imran have a full term is a multi-million-dollar question.
(The author is a retired Major General of the Indian Army )