Interference in political process

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  • And challenges for the next government

The way political process is being driven to a particular direction might please some but it carries hazards for the country. Among other things it is leading to a situation where no party is likely to emerge with a significant majority. The PTI which has been helped to recruit a large contingent of electables still remains uncertain and edgy. The PPP is confined to Sindh and is waiting for a hung parliament to hitch its sidecar with. The arrest of PML-N candidate from NA-59 Rawalpindi Qamar-ul-Islam who is yet to be sentenced by any court has caused concern, raising questions about the future of other candidates from various parties being questioned by NAB. PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif has said he personally favours a “national unity government” on account of the grave situation that lies ahead. Pakistan, he said, is faced with myriad challenges and it’s not possible for one party to surmount these alone. Keeping in view the sharp rivalries and mutual intolerance among the three largest parties the idea of a national unity government however seems to be altogether unrealistic.

Letting aside the regional issues, the uneasy relations with the US and the post-election challenges emerging from the rivalries among the parties, what will really test the mettle of the new government is dealing with challenges posed by the economy. Foreign exchange reserves have fallen from the peak they hit in October 2016 and the downward slide continues unabated. There is a likelihood of the government knocking once again at the IMF’s door. With relations with the US having deteriorated, the Fund may once again impose preconditions. The IMF is unhappy with the NFC Award but can a week government alter it in the face of resistance from the provinces? The Fund might demand rolling back some of the tax breaks provided in the last budget requiring the presentation of a mini- budget. Hardest to sell would be the policy of austerity for a number of years. External interference in the electoral process is likely to lead to the formation of a weak government either by a single party or by a combination of parties, both unable to deliver.