Politics of inflation

Editorial Board
Monday, Jun 20, 2022

As small civil rights groups and student collectives take to the streets in small numbers but with legitimate slogans on inflation and price hikes, the PTI too has taken out countrywide protests against the rising inflation. These protests are the democratic right of all political parties and human rights movements. During the PTI government’s tenure, the then opposition parties had also taken out protest rallies against inflation. That was then and this is now: with Pakistan going through one of its worst economic phases in history. Petroleum prices have been increased three times in less than a month; the dollar is touching the sky; the IMF is continuing to build even more pressure – and the government looks completely helpless.

All of this is leading to perfectly rational questions over why exactly the coalition government opted to go for a vote of no-confidence when they were well aware of the ‘economic landmines’ waiting to explode. So much so that even Imran Khan has asked what was the reason to oust him when he would have been blamed for the economic crisis had he remained in power. It seems the answer to this may be the fear of mass-scale disqualifications had the PTI remained in power. Unfortunately, this says more about the current government’s will and intention than it does about the PTI and its leaders, whose proclivity for witch-hunts against opposition members is hardly a secret. Even if this misguided step did concern high-ranking appointments and the fear that Imran would be vindictive and powerful, given the economic crisis that was lurking around the corner, did the PDM-PPP combine genuinely think they could manage the economy once in power? Now that the coalition government is in power, it is on unsure footing – not knowing whether it can complete its tenure or not, not sure of the status of the Punjab government, and seemingly shouldering the blame for the economic crisis. In this too, the PML-N is sure to come out as the major loser: it has become the face of the coalition government and while other parties such as the PPP may be able to feign ignorance later, the PML-N will not be able to do that.

PPP Co-chair Asif Ali Zardari’s interview on Saturday may be an indication of what could come next. Zardari has said that the PPP will form the next government and will take the entire share. While the PPP knows it cannot pull this off if it doesn’t win in Punjab, where the real battle is between the PML-N and PTI, such statements will do little to encourage coalition cohesion. The PML-N is in for a turbulent few months and the next elections, whenever they may take place, will not be as easy for the party. It had to take difficult decisions so that Pakistan would not default like Sri Lanka, where day-to-day living has become hell for the regular citizen, but the issue is that such econometrics does not make much sense to a public that is screaming under the pain of rising living costs.