Dawn Editorial 13th February 2024

Last bastion

OBLIVIOUS to all censure, the murderous Israeli regime presses on in Gaza, its lust for Arab blood still not satiated, despite the fact that over 28,000 Palestinians have been butchered since Oct 7. Now Rafah — the last bastion for Gaza’s people — is in the sights of the Israelis, after the northern and central parts of the forsaken Strip have been pummelled by Tel Aviv. Rafah is supposed to be a ‘safe’ zone, but as the Israelis have proved over the past four months, there is no safe space at all for Palestinian civilians. Israeli forces are readying for a ground assault in Rafah, despite international calls to cease and desist. Even some of Tel Aviv’s staunchest backers in the West are asking it, albeit tamely, not to go ahead with the ground invasion. But Israel is unlikely to listen. Since the Oct 7 operations, Israel has failed in its stated goal of eliminating Hamas and recovering the Israeli hostages. Perhaps Tel Aviv wishes to ‘make up’ for these embarrassments by drawing as much Palestinian blood as possible.

Over a million people are trapped in Rafah, with nowhere to go, living in subhuman conditions. Apparently, the Israeli aim is to cleanse Gaza of all Palestinians, either by murdering them, or making them flee their land. Egypt, which lies on the other side of Rafah, has firmly stated it will not accept Palestinians fleeing the Gazan hellscape. So what are the options for Gaza’s people, other than to wait for their death? Instead of mildly rebuking Israel, the West, particularly the US, needs to end its shameful support that is allowing Israel to carry out this genocidal operation. Most Muslim states have similarly left the Palestinians to Tel Aviv’s criminals, with some regional states reportedly aiding Israel through clandestine trade corridors. Knowing that the West and the Muslim world will do nothing, can Israel be expected to stop its slaughter?

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2024

Rigging allegations

THE integrity of the results tabulation exercise is under question, with dozens of candidates — mostly belonging to the PTI, but also other parties and independents — challenging in various forums the ECP’s results on the basis of serious irregularities. In most cases, the claims seem to be centred on Form 45 — the polling station-level count of votes handed to contesting candidates — which either wasn’t issued in each case, thus preventing a proper check and balance on the tabulation exercise, or which do not tally with the final results announced. Due to the discrepancies, the petitioners have alleged that rigging took place during the tallying of results. The JI’s Hafiz Naeemur Rahman on Monday said he would not accept a ‘stolen mandate’ for the seat he was declared to have won, because the Form 45s available with the contesting candidates showed that it was his PTI rival who was victorious. The courts, too, are taking notice on the basis of various appeals filed before them and have stayed the issuance of results in some constituencies till further notice.

If the cases stand up under scrutiny and there is enough evidence to back the petitioners’ claims, some results could be changed, which will alter the final tally for each party. The ECP should, in the interim, not worsen the controversies surrounding its results by notifying any victory in haste, especially not where the losing candidates seem to have a strong case. Its terrible mismanagement of the result compilation process caused these problems, and the commission must now ensure that there was no tampering with the public’s mandate before it starts issuing notifications. Lastly, the PTI and its supporters must temper their expectations regarding the recovery of their allegedly ‘stolen’ mandate. Considering what is at stake and the potential consequences for those allegedly involved, it will not be easy to have the ROs’ decisions reversed. They should also remember that, in the past, such disputes have sometimes taken years to resolve or been left unaddressed. One fitting example was the PTI’s own deputy speaker in the last National Assembly, Qasim Suri, whose victory was challenged successfully by Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani. The decision of the election tribunal was, however, stayed by the Supreme Court and never taken up again. Contestants should not let frustration get the better of them in such a scenario.

Published in Dawn, February 13th,2024

Economic uncertainty

PAKISTAN is facing enormous macroeconomic challenges, as evident in its fragile balance-of-payments, weakening growth, and soaring prices. The new government is expected to quickly set about dealing with these issues.

Its most pressing challenge is to formulate a longer-term financing plan to meet Pakistan’s growing external debt obligations, beginning with negotiations for a longer and larger IMF bailout as the present $3bn package ends in April.

Islamabad’s ability to secure loans and investments from other commercial, bilateral and multilateral lenders will be constrained without an IMF package. The Fund’s support is also required to avoid the prospect of default. Even with such support, the government’s willingness and ability to implement politically unpopular reforms will be tested.

Thursday’s elections should have reduced the instability in the country. However, the unanticipated results, with no party securing a clear majority in parliament due to the surprise win of a very large number of individuals associated with the PTI, has intensified the uncertainty, which could impact economic stability and efforts to execute structural reforms.

Allegations of rigging have also cast a shadow on the incoming set-up’s credibility. Many suspect that the political insecurity might last through the next election cycle, as the split mandate is pointing to the formation of a coalition — most likely between the PML-N and PPP, with smaller parties demanding a share — on the lines of the erstwhile PDM that ruled the country for 16 months after ousting Imran Khan in 2022.

The question is that, given the divergent political interests of its component parties, will the coalition be in a position to deal with the formidable economic challenges the country faces?

The last ruling coalition did not have an enviable track record when it came to taking difficult decisions. The way the PDM coalition government mismanaged the economy is known to all. The price for the mismanagement is now being paid by the people and has cost the PML-N heavily in Punjab in the polls. It is no wonder that many believe a ‘weak’ coalition government will dampen the prospects of the economic reforms Pakistan so desperately needs to be able to attain sustainable growth.

The presence of a strong and noisy opposition in parliament might also impede required legislation, as the PTI is unlikely to accept the legitimacy of a government by its rivals. Some are of the view that the military-backed SIFC will act as the main economic policymaking forum, reducing policy uncertainty despite potential political chaos, and providing some comfort to investors.

Yet, that may also lead to an uneven field for investors and frictions between the political and military leadership. So far, the future of the economy appears quite uncertain because of the split mandate following tainted elections.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2024


February 20, 2024

About The CSS Point

The CSS Point is the Pakistan 1st Free Online platform for all CSS aspirants. We provide FREE Books, Notes and Current Affairs Magazines for all CSS Aspirants.

The CSS Point - The Best Place for All CSS Aspirants

April 2024
Template Design © The CSS Point. All rights reserved.