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All stakeholders agree that Pakistan is currently facing the greatest generational crisis in its history. What started as a political crisis has now metastasized into economic default egged on by a constitutional crisis. Meanwhile, most people are struggling to make ends meet.

Actors across the political class, executive branch, judiciary, and the establishment are focused on saving their own skin rather than addressing the country’s problems.

Those who were supposed to be the saviors of last resort are now part of the ugly fight. The situation has become one of hopelessness and despair, and Pakistan is becoming a laughing stock in the international community.

Many have drawn comparisons between the situation in Pakistan and the one in Sri Lanka or Lebanon. Pakistan is a large country that is weaponized to a large extent and cannot afford social unrest.

The madness must stop. Considering that all stakeholders from within the public sector have become politicized and non-neutral, it seems only one stakeholder is left that can help mediate the crisis: private sector business groups.

In a previous column, I had argued that there are two power hubs in Pakistan that historically had significant influence on policy making and shaping the country. One of them is unfortunately part of the ongoing fight, but the other needs to step up now more than ever. In any crisis marked with great uncertainty, the private sector has the most to lose.

Historically, business groups and bodies have focused on micro-level policies and interests that pertain to their respective businesses or industries, irrespective of the party in power. But the Titanic is sinking, and for business groups with financial interests vested in the country, there are no lifeboats other than a one-ticket to Greater Toronto Area.

The business community needs to demonstrate resolve and place pressure on all stakeholders to do what is needed to put an end to the mayhem.

All businesses, regardless of their partisan and ideological affiliations, should convince power players to work on ending the crisis. The only way out is to determine a date for free and fair elections through mutual consensus. Nothing else can save the country.

Historically, the establishment and the businesses have backed same sides during the time of political crisis, as commercial interests are aligned in the same direction.

Today, after the establishment finds itself backed into a corner, the business community must show unity and exhibit strength. Some businessmen may think that they have no influence, and that power hubs perceive them as rent-seekers who cannot have an impact. But together, they can form a formidable force to become mediators and help find a way forward.

The situation on the ground is dire. People are suffering from the worst round of inflation in history even as power players have completely failed to show sympathy for the misery of the public. The most dangerous development is that the judiciary has become controversial.

At their most basic level, business groups are driven by need to protect asset base. The way things are moving, it seems the majority is going to lose a substantial chunk. One by one, businesses are shutting down, and GDP is likely to shrink. It’s better to raise their voice than to keep on losing their business empires.

People are desperate and hungry with a sense of deep despair which is evident from stampedes taking place at distribution points for free or subsidized rations. Unemployment is growing, and resentment against the rich is building up. It’s the responsibility of the business community to look out both for their workforce and consumer base. After all, in today’s world, we need more than just politicians to solve our problems.

The business community should also work with their foreign partners to help instill some sanity. They should focus on collaborating with stakeholders to create a plan that will be mutually acceptable to all power players. Instead of seeking rent and lobbying for their own interests, they should prioritize structural reforms.

This includes paying their fair share of taxes, moving away from subsidies, and focusing on competitiveness. If the country prospers, businesses will grow, but if the country declines, so will the businesses. It has now turned into a matter of survival, even for the richest in the country.

In conclusion, time is running out, and business groups must act fast. The business community has a responsibility to ensure that democracy is upheld in the country. By working together and focusing on reforms that benefit everyone, we can create a better future for ourselves and our children. It’s time to step up and take action.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Ali Khizar

Ali Khizar is the Head of Research at Business Recorder. His Twitter handle is @AliKhizar

Comments

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Mumtaz khan Apr 03, 2023 07:49am
In Pakistan of today … those who can make a change do not want to make a change …and those who want a change cannot make a change …alas ..the status quo will remain For the business community ….capital flight is the default response to the prevailing situation …
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John Apr 03, 2023 09:36am
"In conclusion, time is running out, and business groups must act fast. The business community has a responsibility to ensure that democracy is upheld in the country. By working together and focusing on reforms that benefit everyone, we can create a better future for ourselves and our children. It’s time to step up and take action. Very idealistic perspective! For past seven decades the trinity of corrupt business community, generals and politicians have never acted in the interest of the nation rather their own interests — they never follow rule of law rather bypass laws, create policies which benefit them individually not the nation — hence the outcome of economic meltdown! No one has ever been held accountable for their misdeeds and punished! These people remain clueless about respecting rule of law! Corruption has become the modus operandi of the nation! Unless rule of law is established where no is allowed to toy with rules — Pakistan will not progress rather shrink to a LDC!
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Azaree Apr 03, 2023 12:21pm
@John, What a pity! What the egoistic clueless corrupt leadership has wrought up! A total disaster!
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KU Apr 03, 2023 01:08pm
Industrialists, business groups, or chambers of commerce can join hands and give an economic recovery plan to the government, but the question is will they do it? Everyone is familiar with the character and reputation of ministers and civil raj baboos, and that is probably why they are not initiating any effort. It may be a first in Pakistan, but now is the time to form an interim government comprised of industrialists and economists for at least a year, we have tried our politicians and their brand of democracy, why can't we give them a chance?
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Nathan Apr 03, 2023 02:14pm
@KU, Unfortunately these dudes are part of selfish elite!
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Yousaf Hyat Apr 03, 2023 06:01pm
Why would private sector help Pakistan. Remember a fellow called ZA Bhutto, Nationalization Guru , remember Nawaz Sharif, Dollar accounts Guru ,Remember Imran Khan, Devaluation Guru . All have attacked private sector. Only Pakistan Army can save us no one else.
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KU Apr 03, 2023 07:19pm
@Yousaf Hyat , not this time around, not happening for obvious reasons, the method behind this madness is based on confidence and support, at least that's the perception.
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Arif samana Apr 04, 2023 06:37am
Someone should cry HALT to stop the madness st all levels.
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Adnan Apr 04, 2023 10:39pm
@Yousaf Hyat , We are textile & sports good exporters since 1988, 1992. We remain far from politics, but Khan's era despite Covid 19, was the most export business friendly era I have seen in 28 yrs in business. Exporters were heard, policy delivered & Alhamdullilah massive industry expansion at decent rates. They could have done much more, but finally after 45 years, Pakistan was shifting from a consumer based economy via on imports to an export based economy via industrialisation. The institution you mention are the prime reason for our tragic failure. A return to the barracks is only solution.
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A. Tahir Apr 05, 2023 02:05pm
@John, The economic indicators reveal an LDC! How long 220 million people will survive on just $3 billion dollars? Already people have started to suffer - from Karachi to Peshawar - poor and salaried people are starving; they cannot buy expensive food to keep and break their fasts!
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