I warmly welcome you all to Sapru House for today’s discussion on “Pakistan’s Continuing Political and Economic Crisis”.
I thank Amb. Vivek Katju for agreeing to Chair this Panel Discussion. Amb. Katju headed the Pakistan Afghan and Iran Division as JS in the Ministry of External Affairs in the 1990s and was Ambassador of India in Kabul in the early 2000s. I worked with him in both these assignments, which was a privilege and great learning. He is a keen observer of developments in the region and we look forward to his remarks and analysis.
I also welcome Prof. Ajay Darshan Behera, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and Dr. Ashok K. Behuria, Senior Fellow, MP IDSA, both well-known experts, for being a part of the panel discussion.
Pakistan is currently faced with several complex and inter-linked challenges. The unprecedented floods in Pakistan affecting as per reports 33 million people, are taking place at a time of political churn and economic crises in the country.
On the political side, after PM Imran Khan lost the Vote of Confidence in earlier April this year, he has been holding public rallies and protests calling for early fresh national elections. The rallies have been large and well attended. His party, has won by-elections both in Punjab and Sindh held in July and August 2022 respectively, indicating his popularity. He has been booked for terrorism charges for his comments against senior police officers and a female judge, and is currently on anticipatory bail. What will be the impact of the “Imran factor” in the political landscape of Pakistan?
The multi-party coalition government of the Pakistan Democratic Movement at the federal level led by PM Shehbaz Sharif is required to deal with the severe economic challenges and now the humanitarian crisis caused by the floods. The coalition has traditionally opposed Parties as partners. The question is the durability of this coalition and their electoral strategy for elections which are to be held in August 2023?
As the Army in Pakistan plays a critical role in the nation’s polity, and hence who is the COAS or ISI Chief, has always been a subject of discussion in Pakistan. The key question is whether General Bajwa will get further extension, if not, who are the possible successors?
On the economic side, Pakistan had approached the IMF for a bail-out package, which yesterday approved a pay-out of USD 1.1 billion to the country. In the past weeks, Pakistan has approached Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE for loans and investments. Will the support of IMF and other countries, though critical, help Pakistan reach a level of economic stability?
Lastly, the role of Pakistan in supporting terrorism is of concern and an aspect that needs constant watch by the international community especially countries in the region. In the midst of economic and political situation in Pakistan, will forces of terrorism get further space to operate?
We look forward to discussions on some of these issues by our distinguished panelists.