Aug 18 - 24, 2008

Today, Pakistan is beset by multi-dimensional challenges. It presents an interesting political scene devoid of acrimony and vitriolic exchanges between the politicians on different sides of the political fence. The PPP and the PML-N, who have been archrival in politics, have formed a ruling coalition following February 18 polls in the country. The ruling coalition has announced to impeach the President Pervez Musharraf. Presently, the preparations are underway by the government to bring an impeachment move against the president in the Parliament. The president and his loyalists have decided to defend and fight back the impeachment move using all constitutional options.

The ruling parties are currently engaged in preparing a charge-sheet against the president for his impeachment. The coalition parties are mounting pressure for seeking a resignation from the president. On the other hand, different options are under consideration of the president Musharraf including dissolution of the elected assemblies using his power under article 58-2B of the constitution.

Since 1947, Pakistan has been experiencing the pangs of political instability. Several administrations were dismissed on the charge of corruption. Political parties are not so groomed and matured to lead the nation. The politics of leg pulling and horse trading have been the salient features of our political system. The military intervention and interference has become the part and parcel of our political system. No assembly completed its tenure until 2002. Political instability leads to a leadership crisis that in turn harms the national cohesion. In the past, the country witnessed executive-judiciary stand off during the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in 1997. There were talks of contempt of court and contempt of parliament, one could hear during course of the standoff. Even Supreme Court building in Islamabad was stormed adding a new but woeful chapter in the political history of Pakistan.

Politics of impeachment will further enhance political instability in the country, which is already reeling from political uncertainty since March 2007 when Chief justice of Supreme Court was suspended by the president. Since then the country's political scene was dominated by the lawyers' agitation and protest supported by civil society and major political parties of the country. Musharraf drew a barrage of criticism from political opponents and media commentators for suspending Pakistan's top judge. In November 2007, President Musharraf imposed emergency rule in the country. He used growing militancy and violence as an excuse for having to take the extraordinary step of declaring emergency rule. He also accused the judiciary of overstepping the limits of judicial authority and working at cross-purposes with the government. He also pointed at the irresponsible way the media, especially the electronic media, was handling and showcasing the crises Pakistan was beset with. Unfortunately, 2007 proved a year of crises and issues. The year witnessed a series of crises including judicial crisis, Lal Masjid issue, suicide attacks on security personnel, and violent acts of terrorism including assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistan has paid higher economic costs for the perpetual political instability. The jitters over judicial crisis, political turmoil incidents of suicide bombings and Bhutto's assassination dragged down the benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE)100- index during the whole year of 2007. The trading activities were massively disrupted during the concluding four days of year 2007 following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27.

Prevailing political turmoil presents a bleak foreign investment scenario in the country, which is currently gripped by fears of capital flight. Today, the political instability continues to dampen investors' sentiments. Last month, Pakistan stock markets witnessed a flight of$150 million portfolio investment showing the lack of confidence of investors in the market. Foreign investors are staying out of the market owing to the political uncertainty. According to the country's central bank, total outflow of foreign portfolio investments was recorded at $221 million as of June 27, 2008, as against net inflows of $978 million the previous year. While the inflow of foreign funds stood at $39.8 million during the first half of FY08. The food inflation is hurting low-income groups, who find it increasingly difficult to make both ends meet with soaring prices of essential commodities including foodstuff.

Political instability and social chaos cause destabilization and subsequently retard the process of economic growth and development in a region. Presently, the same clouds of destabilization are apparent on the firmament of Pakistan where industrial and commercial activities have currently gone into suspension. The politics of confrontation will have adverse impacts on the economy and the people will continue to suffer. The general masses have nothing to do with these tussles or clashes. They only want solution of their problems. Political instability, civil conflicts and law and order are the major factors in reducing the attractiveness of Pakistan as a host for foreign capital. Foreign investors are concerned about political uncertainty, worsening security situation and continuity of economic policies. At this critical juncture, the national integration is direly needed to face the enormous challenges on political, social and economic fronts.

What is direly needed is the promotion of national integration, which is rooted in the ideology of Pakistan. The 'Ideology of Pakistan' is based on the Two-Nation Theory - the proposition put forward in pre-partition India that the Hindus and the Muslims were two separate nations, and so should be able to live in separate homelands. At the time, this united the Muslims into a strong pressure group and forced the hand of the British into partitioning the subcontinent in 1947. By invoking the 'Ideology of Pakistan' to portray Muslims as a monolithic group, the State has ensured that being a Muslim becomes simultaneously an individual and a collective identity, one that transcends all class, race, ethnic and even national boundaries. The ethnic problem is indeed an important issue that poses a serious threat to its solidarity and national integration. The growing ethnic divide in Pakistan is detrimental to its national unity. The nationalism must replace sectarianism and parochialism. Similarly, peace and tolerance should replace terrorism and extremism. These miracles are possible if all segments and institutions of society stand unanimous and united on one national agenda of strengthening Pakistan.