Pakistan faces headwinds in its path to recovery: Report


ISLAMABAD, Jan 25 (DNA): Pakistan may have weathered the worst of
storms, but would have to battle against brisk headwinds of political
instability, policy inconsistency, challenging external environment,
slow economy and rising inflation among other distractions in its path
to recovery in 2020.

This was the conclusion of a report ‘Pakistan Outlook 2020: Politics,
Economy & Security’ published by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI). The
report assessed Pakistan’s performance in various areas in 2019 and
projected the likely future direction of events in 2020, besides looking
at the potential challenges that could be encountered by the country. It
brought together essays written by experts and former policy-makers on
diverse subjects such as strategic environment, foreign policy, internal
security, economy, and cyber security.

“The foremost challenge for the government in 2020 would be to bring
stability to the political system. Uncertainty on the political
landscape could impede governance and economic reforms,” the report
said. It further noted that despite the government and the military
appearing on the same page, managing civil-military relations would
remain a major challenge this year.

Political Analyst Mr Farhan Bokhari believes that as long as party
structures remain weak and led by families where the highest offices
have passed on in a hereditary manner, political parties will remain
inherently weak and unable to mature democratically. A key implication
of this situation has been the failure to build sustainable internal
structures within political parties for discussions on key policy

The report forecasts that external environment would remain challenging
this year with chances of limited conflict being imposed by India. It
called on the government to pursue a regional approach to safeguard the
nascent Afghan peace process from disruptions. It, moreover, observed
that the defining foreign policy challenge will come from Middle East.

The report said that Pakistan would have to cautiously navigate the
growing strategic competition between Beijing and Washington for
safeguarding and advancing China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Former Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir’s assessment is that “Instability
and uncertainties at the local, regional and global level would continue
to pose challenges to Pakistan’s diplomacy in the times ahead”. He
called for a closer attention to “pervasive sense of paralysis and loss
of direction compounded by fragmentation in thought and actions and a
visible deterioration in established societal values”.

Former Defense Secretary Lt Gen (R) Asif Yasin Malik pointed out that
Pakistan faces multidimensional threats ranging from conventional
military to nuclear to proxies to Fifth Generation, which are both
internal and external and also have complex interlinkages.

The report said that the implementation of reforms agenda agreed with
International Monetary Fund will this year test decisiveness of PTI
government and PM Khan on the economic front unlike anything in 2019.

It is projected that Pakistan’s GDP growth would remain close to 2.5%
because of slowdown specifically in large scale manufacturing and
agriculture sectors. Meanwhile, inflation would remain high hovering
around 13%. Increase in power tariffs and higher oil prices could,
however, cause inflation to shoot beyond these estimates. Furthermore it
is anticipated that policy rates would be cut in 2020, because the
current rates are unsustainable.

Economist Hussain Haider said that having repeatedly returned from the
brink of economic collapse, it is high time Pakistan chooses a more
sustainable model of economic growth as the country faces a ‘now or
never’ situation.

“Needless to say this would require robust policy and implementation
frameworks.  The celebrated economic turnaround has been seen numerous
times before and should ideally not be cause for rejoice. In 2020,
fiscal reforms will determine the country’s fortunes. Pakistan must
ensure that meritocracy, planning and education are given their due
importance if it is to make its place on the world stage,” he

On the security front, the report said that terrorism by religiously
motivated and ethno-nationalist groups would continue to pose a serious
threat to internal security. The other major challenge for the LEAs
would come from the cyberspace. Meanwhile, it cautioned that inimical
forces would continue to exploit external vulnerabilities and internal
discord and weaknesses, what is referred to as fifth generation warfare,
to undermine stability. DNA