The writer is an
analyst and the
President of All
In Pakistan, the public is facing the problems of poverty, increasing risk of default, unemployment, social discrimination, inflation, load shedding, power issues, and other hardships like developing countries of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot in the leg by an unknown assailant as he attended a protest march. The attack, which Khan’s supporters are calling an attempted assassination, represents yet another dark and dangerous for Pakistani politics. Khan was ejected from office in April through democratic proceedings he and his supporters argued were illegitimate. Former PM Imran Khan’s agitation is pushing Pakistan to the brink of destruction and history will tell us that Imran Khan was Pakistan’s savior or its destroyer. Pakistan has traditional links with the MENA region, therefore, the Arab Spring has had considerable influence on Pakistan. However, there are some other factors also which are making Pakistan’s case different from MENA such as Pakistan having a democracy in the country. Democracy in its form is not ideal but the system is in place. Although, Pakistan has also witnessed movements on a large scale, such as the lawyer’s movement and now PTI’s movement, frequent strikes against electricity and gas shortage including other issues are entirely incomparable with MENA Arab Spring, but the nature and intensity are growing like the MENA Arab Spring. Sri Lanka’s crisis followed a similar pattern to Arab Spring. It’s a perfect match with the pattern of an Arab Spring: a people’s uprising to end authoritarian rule, economic mismanagement, and family rule, and-install democracy, like the crisis in Sri Lanka, the Arab Spring was also triggered by economic stagnation and corruption in MENA Arab. Now Pakistan, like Sri Lanka, is also witnessing anti-government protests in response to an economic downturn, rising inflation, and shortage of essential goods. Similar slogans as during the Arab Spring are also being used. The events happening right now show the public’s lack of trust in the political leadership and the establishment, and their impatience, frustration, and disappointment.
The ‘Arab Spring’ led to the rapid downfall of the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and intensified mass opposition to the regimes in Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It also exposed the baseless social support behind longstanding authoritarian rulers and their trust in the use of force and the culture of threat. The socio-political changes in MENA were not long-lasting; the socio-political developments brought about by social media, termed by mass media especially western TV channels as the ‘Arab Spring, are otherwise. But that cooperation and help of TV channels were only up to revolution but when the Muslim Brotherhood came into power and in government then the media and especially electronic media or TV channels supported the pro-American agenda and still now they do not show neutrality of electronic media or TV channels. As people of the majority of Middle Eastern states were being ruled by long-term authoritarian rulers under the banner of public representatives. The citizens of these states raised their voices against their autocratic rules through widespread public protests which led to the removal of their rulers. But, after the removal, the victim states of Arab Uprisings could not achieve their desired goals yet. The economic condition of the victims in Middle Eastern and North African countries is heterogeneous. The GDP level of oil-exporting states is far high than the other countries of the region. The successes of the Arab Spring are still to be awaited. Thus to conclude, it can be said that Arab Spring is unsuccessful. The Arab Spring was assumed to reform the prevailing regime pattern and bring socio-economic reforms. However, it failed to get its intended outcomes at large. The objectives of the revolution which are to bring a positive transformation in the social, economic, and political domains were not attained and were considered a failed revolution. The economic hardships that drove the uprising remain. The civil wars indirectly led to many nonviolent deaths that could have been prevented in times of peace. If the opportunity costs of these foregone deep trade integration reforms are included, then the total costs of war in terms of economic output nearly double for the region. The direct war-related death toll in the victims MENA countries have been staggering, reaching nearly a million deaths. Close to 20 million people were displaced by the post-Arab-Spring civil wars in the region. The majority of people became internally displaced and moved to safer parts of their countries. The civil wars in MENA have reversed years of development progress in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Libya, undermining the health and skills of the Arab population and workforce. Millions of people are in need of humanitarian assistance in these four countries and the costs associated with meeting these needs have grown considerably as the wars have intensified during the past couple of years. Estimates suggest that the poverty rates in Syria and Yemen surpassed 80% in 2020, but refugees, nearly half of them children, have also had to live in dire conditions. The declines in average annual per capita incomes in the victims’ MENA countries have been about 4 percentage points larger than those for a sample of more than a dozen fragile countries. Foregone Investments in Human Capital
Pakistanis want someone to get them off their sinking ship, the army has earned a reputation as the most functional institution. If the army collapses, Pakistan might collapse along with it. An Arab Spring must not be the fate that we have so deftly avoided.
The wars forced millions of children out of school as many schools were destroyed, closed their doors, or were turned into shelters for the internally displaced. Starvation, disease, and war-related disability have also affected the well-being of children and their potential to contribute to economic activity in the future. Infrastructure destruction has been widespread and severe in war-torn countries, but the associated costs have been difficult to assess due to limited data, restricted and difficult access to damaged sites, the fluid situation, and the deliberate actions of ISIS to destroy priceless archeological monuments. The post-Arab-Spring civil wars have already inflicted immense pain and destruction on the majority of people in war-torn nations. The civil wars in MENA have reversed years of development progress in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Libya, undermining the health and skills of the Arab population and workforce. War-related disability has also affected the well-being of children and their potential to contribute to economic activity in the future. The economic damage associated with these unfortunate developments will be fully evident in the long term.
Now in the case of Pakistan the important question is, Is Imran Khan Pakistan’s savior or its destroyer? Imran Khan may be right in how he feels but it enthuses his supporters and followers with the same sentiment of hate. His opposition, traditional politicians, may still be patently opportunistic in pursuit of their respective pound of flesh but he has given his opposition currency and relevance in this confrontational pitch-up. Imran Khan entered politics as a reformer, but he was compromised by his contact with the system. All political leaders since the Partition of India 75 years ago have needed tactical support from the establishment, without which they weren’t able to rise and often fell, but this is now changing. Khan was once seen as having the backing of the country’s all-powerful military. Khan rose to power himself playing the same game, but now out of office, he has emerged in recent months as a leading critic of the army, which has often ruled the country directly and exerts a powerful grip even in times of nominal civilian control. His latest turn has made him something different—and more unpredictable. Khan has been holding mass rallies and demonstrations against military rule. Khan’s party is national, and popular—if the attendance of his rallies and the numbers and diversity he attracts on social media and live streams can count for anything—then the establishment and governing coalition. Khan’s popularity is great enough to threaten the establishment even if it has its man in power. In a series of barnstorming speeches across the country, Khan called for new elections. These speeches clearly worried some, and Khan has scared the establishment by the way he has campaigned using social media and live streams—something the establishment cannot control as easily as television and radio. On the other hand, Pakistan Army has earned a reputation as the most functional institution, Its officer corps has largely resisted factionalism and remains bound to its chain of command by intense unity and discipline. The status quo, with Khan free to campaign, is too dangerous and destabilizing for the country. Did we just show it the spark needed to consume us down? When Arshad Sharif, the journalist, was tragically murdered near Nairobi, Kenya, it seemed ominous enough. Not at this time; not now. We could have done without it. The self-immolating Tunisian fruit-vendor Mohamad Bouazizi lit the fire that brought down most nations down but Pakistan survived. In a redux, Pakistan stands badly exposed, weakened, and vulnerable. Unfortunately, we had got ourselves to that position of vulnerability where each such frame and hypothesis can fix. As we move on, especially under the watchful eye of many Pakistan watchers abroad, the truth will soon be out and what we may hear or learn may not be pretty. But till then, and even then, there will be a civilized legal resort that can guide us through our most heinous times. Jumping to conclusions has never helped. Reinforcing stereotypes too is fallacious, misplaced, and misdirected even if historical evidence informs otherwise. Especially when the future of a nation, its people, and its institutions is at stake. Burning something down to rebuild is a route for the vicious. To remedy and build on what already exists is a virtue. Imran Khan may be pondering his next step as this piece appears. Before him is his anger, frustration, and dismay — accentuated. Ordinary Pakistanis—already reeling this year from floods and a tanking economy—likely face even more instability. Pakistan’s economy is dying, someone to come into power and give the country support and do something for Pakistan. Pakistanis want someone to get them off their sinking ship, the army has also earned a reputation as the most functional institution in the country, and is the glue that holds the country together. If the army collapses, Pakistan might collapse along with it. An Arab Spring must not be the fate that we have so deftly avoided.