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Daily Times Editorial 23 July 2020

Opposition gathers again


Once again opposition parties are setting up a post-Eid agitation campaign to call the government out for all its failures and misdeeds and, for all intents and purposes, send it packing. But haven’t we all seen all this many times before? So often they have tried to put up a united show yet each time everything just fell through the floor. The main reason is the distrust and animosity built within the two main opposition parties because of everything they did to each other over the decades. It was precisely this thing that led PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) to refuse to vote for Shahbaz Sharif as a joint candidate for PM in 2018, their failed attempt to breathe some life back into the Charter of Democracy in early 2019, and everybody pretty much dumping Maulana Fazlur Rahman later that year as the cleric brought his own tsunami to Islamabad. Now, try as they might, they can get the press coverage they like in the build-up to the alliance but if they fall short of announcing a concrete program based on clear issues they are hardly going to achieve anything different this time.
The tricky thing is that while the opposition feels it has a solid enough case against the government and its performance, there’s not really much it can do about the general lack of proper governance, the economic collapse, or even accusations of political victimisation other than shout about it. For if governments really fell because of such things our political history would have been even more chequered. And the last thing that is really in the combined opposition’s larger interest is lining up to run head first into the wall without having the momentum to bring it down.
That said, it is not as if all this should not worry PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) at all, even if it comes out of it without too many scratches once again. There are far too many breakdowns in its governance and people are suffering even if the opposition is unable to take much advantage of it at the moment. And sooner or later this is going to become a worry, especially if things are not put in their proper places well ahead of the next general election. The ruling party should, therefore, use this time to pull its socks up and make sure its policies start affecting people the right way. *


The way ahead


The way EU (European Union) delegates agreed to their latest $860 billion stimulus plan the other day to help member states mitigate the downturn, after four days and nights of haggling, is just how all parts of the world will have to behave till there is an end to the pandemic. Now, after the announcement, markets that were beginning to sag are suddenly optimistic again and investors are lining up for another likely bull run even though all fundamentals point sharply towards the south. Such is the power of the stimulus in times when the whole world is just waiting for some country to be the first in coming up with a vaccine for the coronavirus because till then the only way to keep things running would be just such injections.
Yet, once again, there’s only so long this upturn will last since soon enough all sorts of businesses would need the same sort of help all over again; and so the cycle will go on till the virus is killed. But at least some jobs will remain protected, incomes will continue to flow and the circle will keep turning no matter how slowly. Yet while the EUs of this world have the financial depth to come up with such packages every now and then the poorer countries are put in a particularly tricky spot. They did what they could at the time of the lockdown, hoping that this sort of thing would not be needed again of course, but now they desperately need their economies to run because there really is no Plan B. And since poor countries also tend to be over populated, some of them are already grappling with the prospect of deaths from starvation in the lowest income groups.
Still, for lack of choice perhaps more than anything else, there is little the weaker countries can do except open up smartly and hope for the best. Pakistan’s approach seems to be working very nicely. First the government and the state bank stood ready with stimulus packages when they were needed. Then the government insisted on smart instead of complete lockdown to get things rolling again. All that needs to be done now is to make sure that social safety SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are closely followed everywhere. *
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