Is there any hope at the end of the tunnel?

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When contemplating the future of Chinese and other countries’ investments and involvement in Pakistan, a shift in strategy is advised. Rather than solely backing specific individuals, it’s imperative to support the establishment of free and fair elections. Historically, these nations have often thrown their weight behind individuals rather than the broader political system, leading to repercussions

Comment
Ansar M Bhatti

Amidst the monotony of each passing day, the grim tally of killings and the rampant chaos of lawlessness and poor governance appear to have surged exponentially. During Eid, the unsettling clash between police and military personnel in Bahawalnagar left the populace bewildered. This collision of state institutions compelled individuals to reluctantly draw the conclusion that the fabric of rule of law had frayed beyond recognition in our nation. The age-old adage “might is right” now seems to be the most fitting description of the prevailing state of affairs.

On April 10, 2024, a regrettable incident unfolded when police officers, in a sadly familiar scenario, intruded into the home of an army personnel. Promptly reported, the transgression led to a formal case against the offending officers. The aggrieved army personnel stormed the police station, administering a severe beating to the officers in custody. Shockingly, reports indicate that the injured officers faced further thrashing during their hospitalization. Eventually, officials from both services purportedly reached an ‘amicable’ resolution to the matter, though the scars of this altercation undoubtedly run deep.

Certainly, instances of lawlessness prevail in areas where governance is weak. Powerful individuals often arrogate unto themselves the role of law enforcers, exacerbating the situation. Regrettably, this phenomenon isn’t limited to specific entities but has entrenched itself as a pervasive norm within Pakistani society. The lack of adherence to the rule of law is a primary deterrent to foreign investment in Pakistan.

Pakistan undeniably presents promising business prospects, attracting foreign investors keen to tap into its vast potential. However, their enthusiasm wanes when confronted with daunting law and order challenges and bureaucratic hurdles. The prospect of navigating through a landscape marred by both security concerns and bureaucratic red tape dissuades potential investors, hampering the country’s economic growth.

The stability of Pakistan’s key alliances, such as those with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and China, seems to be in a precarious state, given the escalating law and order challenges. China, in particular, is facing a significant dilemma due to its substantial investments in Pakistan, which are now under threat. The recent tragic incident involving the loss of Chinese engineers has compelled China to halt work on several projects, including those under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has already been experiencing delays. If Pakistan wishes to retain these crucial partnerships, it must urgently address the security concerns of foreign investors.

Effectively tackling security issues necessitates a unified national effort, with all stakeholders aligning their interests. However, Pakistan currently lacks the necessary national cohesion, with state institutions, politicians, and the general public seemingly pursuing divergent agendas. This fragmentation is exacting a heavy toll on the country, particularly affecting the marginalized segments of society. To remedy this situation, Pakistan must foster greater unity and collaboration among its various stakeholders to address security challenges and safeguard the interests of both domestic and foreign investors.

This task can only be effectively achieved by entrusting genuine public representatives with control. However, this does not imply the complete elimination of the Establishment’s role. It’s an undeniable reality that entrusting all responsibilities solely to politicians may lead to chaos. History has shown that unchecked power often results in mismanagement, paving the way for interventions by the military.

The Establishment, possessing both power and expertise, can serve as a vital check on politicians. It can act as a watchdog, intervening when necessary to steer politicians back on course if they veer off track. This balanced approach ensures that public mandates are respected while also maintaining a safeguard against potential deviations from the public interest.

When contemplating the future of Chinese and other countries’ investments and involvement in Pakistan, a shift in strategy is advised. Rather than solely backing specific individuals, it’s imperative for these countries to support the establishment of free and fair elections. Historically, these nations have often thrown their weight behind individuals rather than the broader political system, leading to pitfalls. It’s time for a change in approach. Without a transparent system and authentic public representatives, their investments will invariably remain vulnerable.

A transformative shift in Pakistan’s system can only materialize when its leaders adopt a new mindset. Despite being a nation with limited resources, Pakistan finds itself governed by the affluent, who often cling to power to further enrich themselves. The stark dichotomy between the everyday lives of ordinary Pakistanis and the privileged ruling class is undeniable. It’s imperative to narrow this gap for the betterment of the entire nation.