Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Pakistani Pessimism

Three cheers for democracy.

At least this has been the general reaction from the international community. It is appropriate, as the election in Pakistan marks the first time that a successful transition between civilian governments has taken place without military intervention.

India, long wary of the Pakistani military, has expressed excitement over the elections. The excitement may be misplaced, as newly elected Nawaz Sharif was the leader of Pakistan during the Kargil War which saw 700 Indians killed, while 1600 Pakistanis perished. However, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looks to the future after extending his “congratulations to Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his party for their emphatic victory in Pakistan’s elections,” and invited Sharif to visit India. 

Mr. Sharif has far more urgent problems than dealing with the Kashmir region and Indian politics. As this blog has stated before, Pakistan has urgent education, infrastructure needs while also dealing with corruptions and religious zealots. Historically, Mr. Sharif was a conservative when it came to religious issues as he established Shariat Ordinance and asked the Ministry of Religion to recommend the steps needed to be taken for the Islamization of Pakistan.
Can religious conservatism and economic freedom mix?
This man attempts to find out.

In terms of the economy, Mr. Sharif is a staunch believer in the private sector, reflected in the large increase the Karachi stock market after his election. During his previous terms, Sharif created the privatization program which allowed a nuclear policy, as well as privatizing several industries while taking credit for building the largest superhighway in Pakistan. Large projects such as the Ghazie-Barotah Hydropower plant were meant to stimulate the economy. However, at the end of Sharif’s second term foreign debt and inflation were at an all time high while the IMF (International Monetary Fund) suspended aid as they demanded that Pakistani finances be sorted out.

Mr. Sharif stated to international media that he would be inviting Mr. Singh to Pakistan, while also stating that his opponent Mr. Imran Khan had little to complain about. Of course, Imran Khan is a former famous cricketer captaining the international team from 1971 till 1992. Promising to crack down on corruption, end following the United State’s war on terror and hanging the killers of Benazir Bhutto,  he urged change even while lying in a hospital in Lahore. He wished “to transfer power to the common people” and asked for support.

It is not without warrant to state that Mr. Sharif is more of the same in Pakistan, as Mr. Sharif is not new to power or new to allegations of corruption himself. The actions Mr. Sharif takes will be more important to watch rather than how he attained his power, and will be not only closely watched by the international community, but also by his own military and opposition.

Pakistan has had internal problems for decades now. It is up to Mr. Sharif to provide solutions. 


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