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Pakistan Today Editorials – 4th July 2015

The Judiciary’s Course

Past and present

The matter of military courts has once again brought the Supreme Court’s footprint into the realm of mainstream policymaking. One of the reasons the 21st amendment generated such unprecedented unanimity in parliament was the collective belief in the inability of the judiciary to meet the challenge. Yet the Court seems to think otherwise, even though there is ample proof of courts letting terrorists walk for a host of reasons. And it’s not as if the judiciary has remained outside the news for too long since the lawyers’ movement.

However, it lost following as time went by. When then CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry’s fate hung in the balance in ’07, the movement was supported by a wide range of social society organisations. There was also considerable political support, of course. But the more the Chaudhry court’s attention turned to Islamabad’s power politics, the more its supporters’ rank and file thinned. Now, only some within the community still believe in the movement. Most are disillusioned. Primarily, when the judiciary’s struggle came to prominence, most common Pakistanis felt that finally some attention would be paid to the broken down judicial system. Cases would no longer take decades to decide. Quality and quickness of justice delivery would improve.

That, unfortunately, did not happen. The judiciary says that the government never provided them with the necessary framework to make necessary arrangements to speed up the backlog. Critics, on the other hand, maintain that the institution took its eye off the ball, and became increasingly politicised. It also became a lot more belligerent. Lawyers thrashing police officers, staging unruly protests and roughing up people has become more common. That, of course, is not to imply that the judiciary has not done more than most institutions to hold up the state. But the main reason for its existence remains compromised. As an institution, it must cater to these problems urgently.

PTI’s Year of Vicissitudes


Internal disputes

During the first half of the present year, the PTI suffered several electoral setbacks. It contested and lost three bye-polls in Punjab and Sindh. Its performance in the countrywide Cantonment Board polls was dismal, particularly in Punjab. In Gilgit-Baltistan elections the party managed to win only a single seat. The two PPP leaders who joined the PTI last week might have caused demoralisation among their original party but it remains it be seen if their entry in the PTI will in any significant way alter its electoral fortunes.

The PTI is riven with factionalism both at the centre and the provinces. Many thought Khan deliberately promoted the tendency to keep the party’s squabbling big wigs in line till he himself publicly confessed that the party is ‘imploding with differences at all levels’ which warrant serious corrective measures from top to bottom. The factionalism rampant in the parry led to complaints in KP of an ‘unfair distribution’ oftickets for the local government elections. Tensions came to a head when the general secretary of the party’s provincial chapter announced his resignation. With nominated party leaders deciding the affairs at all levels a bigger explosion could take place when tickets are distributed for Punjab and Sindh local government polls due in September.

Internal divisions have stood in the way of holding intraparty polls. Imran Khan used to claim that the elections in PTI, held in 2012, were unprecedented and historic. Soon after, the polls had to be cancelled by the party’s election tribunal, which declared them to be fraudulent. An exact date is yet to be fixed for the polls which may be held after the forthcoming local government elections.

Imran Khan keeps the hopes of fresh elections alive in the party rank and file. What has kept the party together while attracting more fortune hunters was the expectation of entering the corridors of power in 2015. With the hope gone, will Khan be able to keep the party in one piece?

Economic Brownie Points

Sudden appreciation

It is strange that the IMF suddenly believes that Pakistan is within reach of ‘significant further economic progress’, but also warns of onepitfall too many that might quickly derail such ambitions. And since these warnings are about high public debt, low tax collection, chronic energy shortage, problems with business climate indicators, etc, it doesn’t seem that better times might be around the corner just yet. True, inflation is lower, the deficit is better, and growth might well exceed four percent this fiscal. But to expect these headwinds to dissipate suddenly, especially within the outgoing fiscal, might be banking too much on the country’s ‘ability to grow’.

The Fund’s take on the monetary policy is no less interesting. Advising prudence going forward, it appreciates decreased government borrowing. But since the ‘decrease’ is only a marginal step back from complete domination of the money market, does it really ensure that the private sector will no longer be crowded out like before? Considering some of the headlines of the past few weeks, which indicate that the government intends to roll over trillions in domestic debt, while contracting fresh loans, such assumptions become questionable. And since investment will directly impact investment, a lot remains to be seen.

Cheap oil no doubt provided an appreciated bid to the economy, yet the requisite 5-7 percent growth band will remain elusive for some time to come. Also, oil might even turn as suddenly as it dropped. Should Greece ditch the euro, the dollar will appreciate, as will dollar-denominated commodities. In the worst case scenario, gross importers like Pakistan will have little to show at the end of the ride. The overall economic outlook, therefore, remains fragile. Granted, growth is up a notch and the deficit a little less discomforting, but the present position is not sustainable for long. There are too many ifs and buts in the IMF’s calculations. It would be best to address the weakness first.

Pakistan Today Editorials – 4 July 2015

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