‘Polarised politics are tearing Pakistan apart’

The stakes have never been higher in Pakistan. Its economy is on the brink, society is politically polarised, millions are still recovering from last year’s devastating floods, terror attacks are increasing and, as inflation soars ever higher, many are struggling to feed themselves and their children.

While the country suffers, politicians and institutions have been pulled into a power struggle over who should run Pakistan.

Despite the hours of air time, ferociously delivered ultimatums and street stand-offs, Pakistan seems no closer to answering that question than it was a year ago.

“What makes this current situation unprecedented is the backdrop of other serious crisis,” says Michael Kugelman, Director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Centre.

“Pakistan doesn’t have the luxury of saying this political crisis is a distraction, eventually we’ll get back to where things need to be.”

Pakistan’s economy is struggling. Its foreign reserves, which pay for imports, including fuel, have plummeted to one of the lowest levels in decades. Meetings with the International Monetary Fund earlier this year are yet to result in a deal to unlock $1.1bn in crucial funds.

Meanwhile, militants continue to launch attacks, often targeting security forces.

Pakistan’s armed forces recently said there had been 436 terror attacks so far in 2023. And militant groups regularly release infographics showing the number they claim to have killed or injured, and the arms they’ve seized around the country.

Add to this, the ever-climbing food inflation, plus the fact that Pakistan is still recovering from the damage done by last year’s floods before this year’s rains begin again – and there is no shortage of big questions politicians need to answer.

“Political uncertainty is making things even more difficult for the entire system,” says Mehmal Sarfraz, a political analyst. “The system is collapsing in Pakistan. If that happens, it won’t benefit anyone – neither the political parties nor the people of Pakistan.”

Analysts say the current situation was sparked when Imran Khan was ousted from his position as prime minister in April 2022 in a vote of no confidence. -BBC

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