December blues

Each year December brings its blues. The nights are lengthening to accentuate the gloom. The day rises late, lying in wait for those who desperately need the hope that each rising sun brings. But then it quickly fades away like the fleeting love of the desperate lover. For those in their golden years, the wait is too long and time is precious – what may be left is neither enough nor of much use. The blues pulls hard to the heart. To a whitened if not shriveled head there appears the sorrow of time poorly spent, of what could have been and what is. We in the realm of analysis delve into the here and now, seldom introspecting the journey that brought us to our difficulties. One segment blames the other without even thinking that only the cumulative failures of society and the state on this journey have brought us our present. For some, life’s journey will end too soon; for others, it will simply be a matter of passing the baton. Generation after generation will leave its mark in time and be counted for its contributions with vision and wisdom or failure, despondency and sadness.

This December was bluer. Pakistan appeared to have reached a stalemate of multiple protests. Our economic slump seems intractable – we are already in economic and financial bankruptcy. The economy is defined by innovations of borrowing more. Debt accumulates as we assure the world that we can be loaned more. Most of our national facilities are already promised. We are now pledging our sovereignty to stay afloat. It is easy to lay the blame on the incumbent government and it has its share of incompetence to bear, but the ruin has been brewing for some time. Government after government has perpetuated a pipe dream of progress and development over borrowed money without actually producing more and adding to growth. We have failed to understand the intensity and complexity that such a sale will bring. An economic order is a false dawn because survival in a difficult environment is only possible through subsistence.

The PTI ended up paying a heavy political price for the consequences of successive governments’ failures to resolve the distortions in a poorly structured economy losing their base of support for the KP. It will mean handing over the reins to the same lot that had previously brought us to the brink. Not that they have solutions to our dilemma – the nature of our situation is such – but they will, willy-nilly, end up taking care of the fund once again. Any promise that the nation had a third option has failed as we return to yet more blunders and shakes under those with only semblance of leadership. It remains a sick and obnoxious system that with each reset attempt only regurgitates the same batch with exactly similar results. A people desperate to have emerged from the quagmire only sinks deeper into it. This is the most telling failure of anything this December has highlighted. Our most urgent reform has to be in the political system to dramatically improve the product.

Just as December brings a brief cheer of Quaid-e-Azam’s historic struggle to carve out a Muslim state, it also brings to mind the fact that an ignominious military and political debacle caused us to lose half of it twenty-four years later. . The state of what remains is not exactly something to be proud of as we struggle to survive in every aspect of our nationality. We failed to emulate Quaid’s leadership. First, we couldn’t keep what he gave us and second, we devastated and demolished every facet of our governmental and societal existence. The gaping gap betrays the mediocrity of what this nation throws into its politics. State and society have been left to fend for themselves. Piles of debt are conveniently looted and siphoned off to foreign destinations by the ruling elites while the poor get poorer. Currently, about fifty percent, if not more, live below the poverty line. A few years ago, they were around thirty percent.

In December, yet another failure made its appearance: the reign of terror whose back we had seen return with its deadly ugliness. Extremism and activism both found their place in the way society expressed itself in Sialkot and in the state’s dealings with terrorist groups. Underlying these events was religion or its gross manipulations. The state retreated and therefore appeared weaker in the face of a resurgent challenge of groups using one or both avenues to force people to succumb to their agenda. We are once again at a crossroads as we question the way forward as a society. If we choose wrongly, we will defeat the purpose for which the country was founded. The APS tragedy rekindles our pain each December and haunts our conscience as we are seen soothing those who have caused the devastation. The failure to enforce order by law and bring to justice those who challenge state and society calls into question our credibility as a responsible nation. We are looking at one of these specters.

Seventy-four years later, this government finally gave shape to a national security policy. For a state known to be a “safe state” this could not be more ironic. However, this will only remain an academic exercise. No leader has ever felt the need for an integrated approach to secure both state and society. We have independently conducted economic, foreign and defense policies in each government, but have never paid due attention to the facets of traditional and non-traditional security. Each policy should detail the objectives that require corresponding resources. When needs are in competition, the resource will either be created or prioritized. It remains to be seen whether the recently articulated policy will lead to such a re-prioritization of resource allocation, but a policy without its implementation or a monitoring strategy remains essentially a document that is not worth its cost. This certainly does not have to be the fate of what is truly an inclusive and integrated development approach.

To borrow more, not only are we raising taxes and increasing the cost of basic necessities exorbitantly, but we are now buying the rest of our sovereignty from foreign masters for more loans. Irony kills whatever remains of self-respect called sovereignty. This government will do well not to give up its right to retain control of its fiscal and monetary policies. Without coordinated and sovereign control of the money supply and fiscal control, we will never be able to recover a struggling economy. In the meantime, the poor will only be crushed by adding to our difficulties. It could then become an economy of grants, subsistence and social safety nets, wasting another tranche of loans.

The start of 2022 seems worrying in more ways than one. May 2022 give us all wrong!

Posted in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2021.

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