EDITORIAL: Imran Khan’s December 23 deadline, a widening cleavage between PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid) in the runup to it, and the late night no-confidence motion against Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhary Pervez Elahi are responsible for raising political uncertainty to the point that the market tanked two days in a row and investors are making yet another run for the exit lounge.

That the political elite is busy with this circus in the most important province of the federation at such a sensitive time shows, once again, that all of them are consumed with the fight for power and privilege even when the country’s very survival is put at risk because of it.

Imran Khan has thrown the gauntlet because he’s run out of all other options, from the long march to hope of “neutrals” turning in his favour, and now axing the assemblies seems as good a bet as any of forcing an early election.

Pervez Elahi is playing along, of course, but there’s enough to suggest that the same page is more optics than reality. Everybody knows that this might well be Elahi’s last time as chief minister since there’s very little chance of PTI leaning towards him if it wins, which most polls suggest that it will, which is why he’s been trying to squeeze more and more time from Imran.

And the latest fallout over the PTI chief’s narrative about General Bajwa (retd) has clearly spoiled the political romance that has stood Punjab’s traditional politics on its head since early summer.

This was a volatile enough mix to rattle the markets, but then the Punjab opposition also chipped in by filing a surprise no-confidence motion against Elahi, to stop the sword from falling on the Punjab government; and now nobody knows what’s going to happen.

This is headline news just when the economy is collapsing and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) programme is in doubt once again, without which it would be impossible to rollover loans and/or beef up reserves and default on debt will be all but assured, no matter which party is able to grab power after this ugly slugfest. That alone is enough to show how divorced mainstream politics has become from on ground reality.

Things are so bad that whichever party is in power will have to implement the same unforgiving structural reforms that will fetch IMF money, and temporary relief from pressing payments. Yet time is of the essence, and it is already too late to get the ball rolling by imposing an emergency and getting to work on the economy. That’s why it is very unfortunate that top politicians, who are supposed to do all this because they fight tooth and nail to run the country, cannot be diverted from hatching plots within plots at the moment.

The need for ending the uncertainty stemming from the fate of Punjab and KP assemblies quickly cannot be stressed enough. Prudence demands urgent measures to stabilise markets, arrest the slide of rupee, and restore investor confidence.

The longer PTI and PML-Q haggle over splitting tickets and seats in the next election, and PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) and PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) plan contingencies, the longer they delay giving everybody, especially markets, a sense of direction, which ought to count as criminal neglect right now.

One can only hope, for the sake of the people and the economy, that this confusion will not be followed by another round of controversies, as has been the case since April. Because even if the politicians are too busy, you can be sure that the long chain from local industry to financial markets to foreign investors will be looking and noting how deeply this fire burns Pakistan’s credit rating.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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Sleepless Dec 22, 2022 09:17am
Its a battle of the elephants and the ants (common folk) are getting realized. When will this familiar political dynasties realize that you can't rule over the dead or the bankrupt. People first policies should be adopted.
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beggarkhan Dec 22, 2022 11:42am
imran khan is a beggar and he wants to run country on charity just like he is running his trust hospital on non renewable energy.
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Mushtaque Ahmed Dec 23, 2022 12:10am
The economy is nose-diving and getting crippled with every passing day. The challenge will become more severe to tackle for any government that comes into power. All stakeholders need to take a serious view of the worsening situation and act sooner than later as it is already too late.
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