Pakistan In 2021: Journey Into The Unknown Continues
It was a journey into the unknown all through the year that has gone by and the signs on the skyline indicate that the new year would not be any different. Perhaps we are in for even more testing times.
Many around the world have eagerly awaited the conclusion of the pandemic badgered 2020. But its long shadow on global peace and security is likely to endure worldwide for some more years to come.
Covid-19 has turned the world upside down rendering it almost non-recognizable. The pandemic driven disruption of life and livelihood the world over continues with no end in sight despite the development of seemingly effective vaccines.
Meanwhile, the US-China trade war is taking a turn for the worse. Unless the United States adopts a more sophisticated approach to coalition building in its rivalry with China, a new bipolar world will soon emerge along with the associated risks of a new cold war.
The Abraham Accord between Israel and United Arab Emirates has opened the floodgates for a fresh gush of friendship between Israel and Muslim countries. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have followed with Saudi Arabia not far behind. Turkey on the other hand revived and upgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel.
An Indo-Pak war that had seemed inevitable as we entered 2020 continues to hang like a sword of Damocles as there has been no hint that India has given up its intentions to catch us by surprise with a false-flag operation.
The Durand Line on the North-West continues to remain a hot border as the peace negotiations that began early last year between the US and the Afghan Taliban seem to be going nowhere while the bloodshed in Afghanistan continues with mindless savagery.
The militancy within Balochistan province, almost the fifth round since independence, that had reared its head afresh with new ferociousness last year forcing Pakistan to fence off the Gwadar port installations seems all set to continue to challenge the state with renewed vigor in 2021.
The North and South Waziristans even after having been liberated from the cruel clutches of the Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) do not yet seem to be ready to be governed from Peshawar and as such the bloody skirmishes between the Army and the local people have continued with clear signs of spilling over to the new year. For some incomprehensible reasons the state has been refusing dismissively the hand of cooperation extended by Pukhtoon Tahafuz Movement (PTM), especially after two of its members were elected to the National Assembly.
The 43-year long urban-rural confrontation in Sindh province has broken out with renewed force as the ruling PTI has replaced the narrow ethnic-based MQM representing the provincial cities in the elected houses. The rural-urban conflict seems now to have turned into political confrontation between the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the opposition PPP led by Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto.
In fact, a new and a more divisive dimension was added to the government-opposition confrontation during 2020 as the two seriously differed on how best to tackle the menace of Covid-19. Khan wanted to give primacy to saving the poor from hunger followed by life-saving efforts while Bilawal wanted to give primacy to life saving efforts followed by saving livelihoods.
Even if Pakistan escapes the new strain and the second wave, the country’s future will continue to be at a very serious risk. And no matter how the world negotiates with the pandemic in the new year, Pakistan’s economy is likely to remain in the woods for a long time to come, if at all.
The running feud between the government and the 10-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has polarized the nation as never before. The severely adverse impact of this polarization on the country’s socio-economic well –being which has already had highly disruptive ramifications onthe society at large is seemingly all set to further damage the national fabric if the government continues to pursue its anti-corruption campaign with the single minded focus to the total neglect of governance and economic management.
Indeed, Imran Khan appears rather out of his depth in his role as the prime minister of a country facing so many diverse challenges all at the same time. Politics is too acrimonious, the economy is too fragile and the pandemic seems too big for his boots.
In the meantime, National Accountability Bureau’s work has already harmed Pakistan’s investment climate at a time when the country is bogged by a variety of economic weaknesses. And the government’s performance on the corruption front, when tested against the PTI’s own yardsticks, seems to have remained wanting. And as the time passed nothing positive that could be held as a grand success of government’s anti-corruption campaign has emerged from the NAB’s court rooms.
The author is a senior journalist and editor.