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OpinionsCoalition Govt of Pakistan will have testing time over tackling economy

Coalition Govt of Pakistan will have testing time over tackling economy


Any harsh measures affecting the people will go against prime minister

By Tirthankar Mitra

More things change, the more they remain the same. Not much surprise surfaced when this old adage came true once more after the announcement of February 8 election results in Pakistan and formation of its government even as the political outfit which emerged victorious in maximum constituencies readies itself to sit in the Opposition benches.

In so many words, it is a chronicle of a coalition foretold when Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz closed ranks to reach the magic figure of 134 seats in the Assembly. One wonders if one would tread the path to prolixity to add that such a coalition has the blessings of the Establishment read the army headed by General Asim Munir.

It boils down to the fact that Army had put its best foot forward to “manage” the elections. The new government was formed by the identical players who made up the Pakistan Democratic Alliance government post ouster of Imran Khan.

Incidentally, candidates of Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf contesting as independents won 93 seats. The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP trailed behind it with 54 constituencies in its kitty; coming far behind Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan secured 17 seats.

Khan being in the prison cannot be the leader of the Opposition, it would be Shehbaz Sharif of PML-N the prime minister of the PDA government who would be sworn in the oaths of office the second time.

There is a clear division of the spoils of a rigged poll victory. Asif Zardari, the PPP chief will be the President while the Senate chairmanship will also go to PPP together with the governorships of and Khyber Paktunkhwa.

The post of Speaker of the National Assembly will be part of PML-N's spoils. Not joining the government, the PPP will be voting on the no-confidence motions with the ruling party and the spending Bills as well.

The “coveted role” of the elder statesman to the alliance will be played by former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. One wonders, whether Shehbaz Sharif will be comfortable in his crown of thorns given the fragile nature of the alliance and the fallout of the unpopular and harsh decisions he will have to take once he assumes office.

On becoming the Prime Minister, Sharif cannot shirk from unpopular economic decisions as growth has slowed down in Pakistan. Since 2011, external debt has almost doubled and there has been a six-fold increase in its domestic debts.

Pakistan is en route to default in payments thereby taking it into deeper economic crisis. Hard choices, serious reforms and another IMF bailout are some of the beacons at the end of the tunnel

The PPP already against pro -market reforms will side step sans much deftness as it is not part of the coalition government. Small wonder, it is Shehbaz Sharif and his Cabinet colleagues who will be the targets of the ire of the populace post the economic belt-tightening.

Insurgency in Balochistan and its western border of Afghanistan pose serious security challenges to Pakistan. What about whose powers often find it convenient to dub the sources of its woes?

Before reading the thoughts of the new dispensation across the border and the power behind the throne, the army, India can view the new government with cautious optimism. Nawaz Sharif has always displayed a willingness to engage with India.

There was considerable personal warmth between Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter's swearing in 2014. It was cemented by PM Modi's surprise visit to Lahore next year. Barring a few incidents, the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control in dating to 2021 holds. It is possible to open channels on some issues though Pakistan took a view it could have dispensed with in the wake of abrogation of Article 370.

One does not expect an overnight dropping of guard. But security gains of the past can be strengthened through limited bilateral engagements. Of course, a spanner in the works can be thrown in by the army and Imran Khan-led PTI. The latter entity remains an elephant in the room for the coalition government.

They have already raised the issue of a “stolen mandate”. As soon as the NA convenes, the PTI Opposition will train its guns and fire broadsides at the alliance keeping alive the new government's crisis of legitimacy.  (IPA Service)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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