The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research analysis division of The Economist Group, has made several predictions about the political atmosphere of Pakistan following the general elections. The main prediction perhaps won’t sit well with opposition parties, as the EIU predicts that PML-N will reign supreme this time around as well. Several other predictions were made as well, which more or less hint to a tumultuous few years for the country. Here are 3 predictions and our two cents on them:
1) PML-N will win the upcoming general elections
The Economist predicts that despite several setbacks politically, the current ruling party will emerge victorious again. The host of different challenges include several unfavorable court proceedings against the PML-N leadership. And, the biggest setback is undoubtedly the disqualification of party leader and ex-Prime Minister from politics for life.
The prediction might still be true owing to the nature of political support in Pakistan. Whether it is PML-N or PTI supporters, there is some element of blind support. While some may be making informed decisions, the fact of the matter remains that the majority of a particular party’s enthusiasts will not question their leader’s policies and speeches. We somehow always find a way to reprimand the opposition and still vote for who we have supported all along. So, the populous Punjab province might still majorly vote for PML-N, despite the fact that Shehbaz Sharif will likely become Prime Minister in place of his brother.
2) Economic instability will persist during the term 2018-22
The report does predict some positive developments in the economy such as greater export profits in lieu of imports. However, the report predicts that budget problems will continue to create trouble for the country. The “widening current account deficit and persistent budget shortfalls pose the biggest risks to macroeconomic stability” during the next government’s term. This is more of a fact at this point than a prediction. The budget fiasco when PML-N introduced their sixth budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 in April will have long-lasting effects on the economy, irrespective of who comes to power.
Experts predicted back then that the budget is likely to create a burden on the upcoming government to work on the target reduction in the budget deficit from 6.5% to 4.1% of GDP. Unpopular taxation policies would have to be enforced for the new government to abide by the budget introduced. The Awami budget will gain PML-N the people’s favor insofar as votes are concerned. But the practical application of the budget resulting in economic turmoil is very much expected following the government’s transition. Irrespective of who comes to power that is. This will most likely translate into political instability as well, as attacks by the opposition are almost always unforgiving and wreak havoc on any party in power.
3) The Military will continue to call the shots in civilian politics
This prediction is as obvious as observations get. The military has somewhat had a stronghold on the country’s political and security situation for a while now. And, this is an undeniable assertion when put in perspective with several examples. The military has directly ruled over the country for 31 of the 61 years before the restoration of democracy in 2008. Censorship of any criticism against the military has achieved greater heights in recent years. Even Nawaz Sharif, a political giant despite his disqualification, faced a lot of backlash for his anti-military remarks recently. The controversial Dawn Leaks incident demonstrated an alleged rift between the civilian government’s handling of terrorism and the military’s attempts to curb it. It was reported that the civilian government had somewhat audaciously told the army to let them handle terrorism their way strictly so as to curb any further attacks on Pakistan’s image internationally. This led to some rise of anti-army sentiments on social media. But several arrests later, the anti-army sentiment in the air was effectively put to rest. This shows the relative power of the army over democratic operations in Pakistan.
Generally, as well, Pakistan is a nation (as any another to be honest), which supports the army above all. Any speculation about the military institutions’ operations is shunned down by the public at large and the person making the observations faces heavy ostracization by the majority of the population. So even though political parties might have the nation divided, the army is a sensitive point of cohesion. This, in turn, renders the army pretty much infallible in the political scene of Pakistan in the coming years as well.
The Economist’s three predictions aren’t exactly something out of the blue. They are very concrete as they take into account previous trends. But they also hold true because the nature of the political landscape and support for it is such that we never really learn from our mistakes. If the first prediction holds true, the other two will logically follow. Which means that Pakistan isn’t exactly looking at a smooth sailing democratic reign any time soon.
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