Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is exactly what Gen. Bajwa is planning to do. A worsening economic crisis coupled with political instability is what led Pakistan to the brink of collapse. Pakistan is currently facing its worst economic crisis, though it has never excelled on the economic front since its inception. What’s different this time is that all the so-called iron brothers of Pakistan backed down to aid Pakistan.
The Arab world that once considered Pakistan’s blank cheque has also closed its doors to Pakistan’s desperate calls for help. Another iron brother, China, too, closed its checkbook for Pakistan. China, with its central banks failing to pay their customers and a collapsed real estate sector, finds it unsustainable to bail out Pakistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not ready to release the tranche for the USD 6 billion bailout package under its extended fund facility. Pakistan’s interior minister gave a statement on how the IMF made them dance to their tune and still didn’t agree to release the tranche. So, the only way Pakistan could overcome this crisis is to mend its ways.
PAKISTAN’S ECONOMIC CRISIS
Recently, Pakistan’s federal minister for planning, Ahsan Iqbal, appealed to the public to drink less tea, as even the tea is imported on loan. This statement by a federal minister is enough to portray the dwindling economic conditions in Pakistan. Not only tea, but other essential items such as paper, wheat, and cotton are in short supply in the country. This is because Pakistan doesn’t have enough foreign reserves to even meet its basic amenities.
According to Pakistan’s central bank, foreign exchange reserves fell by $754 million to $8.57 billion by the end of July. On the other hand, the Pakistani rupee is also facing its worst downfall since 1989. The currency fell more than 14% against the dollar in July and is currently trading at 239 per dollar. Pakistan is also facing massive external debt. According to the UNDP, Pakistan’s external debt has crossed USD 250 billion, coupled with record inflation of 21.32% based on the consumer price index, the highest since 2008.
GENERAL BAJWA TAKING THE CHARGE
Whenever all the puppets in Pakistan’s government fail to deliver, the real puppeteer comes into the picture. In a layman’s term, in Pakistan, whenever there is a crisis beyond the control of the Pakistan government, it’s the PM and cabinet, the real king, who take charge. It’s none other than Pakistan’s army chief. For the world, it’s the prime minister who is in charge of the country. But in reality, all the strings are pulled by the army chief in Pakistan.
No matter who sits in Islamabad, the real decisions are taken from Rawalpindi. The Prime Minister, President, and all other political offices serve only to deceive the world. The only post that holds power is the army chief. Any person sitting on the chair of the army chief is the de facto ruler of Pakistan. General Qamar Javed Bajwa is the current chief of Pakistan’s army and indeed the current ruler of Pakistan.
Shehbaz Sharif’s government failed to deliver after doing everything under the sun (beg, borrow, steal, or even dance). Now, Gen. Bajwa is in charge. As a rational man, the first step he took was to end the political instability in Pakistan. On one hand, when the government in power was struggling to make ends meet, former PM Imran Khan was up in arms to target the government. Imran Khan launched huge rallies, protests, and blocked roads targeting Shehbaz as a US pawn. Due to these blockades and protests, several crucial highways were sealed by the government to prevent protestors from entering Islamabad.
PAKISTAN’S CAPITAL WAS BLOCKED AHEAD OF EX-PM IMRAN KHAN’S RALLY AGAINST SHEHBAZ SHARIF’S GOVERNMENT.
So, to solve this political instability, Gen. Bajwa came up with a plan called the “Charter of Economics.” The draught of the Charter of economics was prepared by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI). The charter is basically a tool to build a political consensus between the government and the opposition to not play politics on economic issues. Through the charter of economics, Gen. Bajwa wanted to prioritize economic growth over petty politics so that Pakistan as a country could see off this crisis.
This charter is also necessary to keep Imran Khan in check to not worsen an already worsening situation by attacking the USA. Imran Khan, after losing power, is continuously attacking Pakistan-US relations by blaming the Biden administration for toppling his government. The USA, being the largest contributor to the IMF and World Bank, has a significant say in its operations. Gen. Bajwa is well aware of the repercussions of strained Pakistan-US relations. The USA can easily strangle Pakistan’s economy through the FATF, IMF, and World Bank. So to keep Imran Khan’s anti-US rhetoric in check, Bajwa came up with this charter. It’s one last effort by Bajwa to mend its ties with the west, predominantly the US. Recently, Gen Bajwa also made an SOS call to US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, requesting her to weigh in on the IMF’s urgent disbursal of $1.2 billion to Pakistan.
IMRAN KHAN’S SUPPORTERS CALLED TO THROW THE U.S. PAWN GOVERNMENT OF SHEHBAZ SHARIF AFTER IMRAN KHAN BLAMED U.S. HAND TO TOPPLE HIS GOVERNMENT.
It’s a no-brainer to say that Imran Khan, willingly or otherwise, will be signing this charter. As in Pakistan, politicians do not have the luxury of defying the army chief or surviving in politics by adopting a policy contrary to that of the army. In a statement, the RCCI said that it had started a campaign to bring all the political parties on the same page to get the country out of the economic crisis.
A senior leader of the RCCI termed the meeting with the PTI chairman beneficial and his agreement to the CoE a “welcome sign” for the business community. But the question is, will it be enough to steer Pakistan out of this crisis? Will Imran Khan abide by this charter and not seek political mileage out of this crisis ? And will this move by Gen. Bajwa mend Pakistan’s ties with the USA? Only time will answer these questions.