And a viable balance
Despite a rebuttal by a finance ministry spokesman of the World Bank’s estimate of Pakistan’s financing needs, there should be no doubt that Pakistan’s economy suffers from major vulnerabilities. Some of these have been pointed out by COAS Bajwa. The unprecedented burden of the debt accumulated by PML-N government is one. Political considerations have stood in the way of the government from expanding the tax base, documenting the economy and bringing in financial discipline. These measures require a political consensus that the government never tried to build. It also failed to ensure that the benefits of development reach all parts of Pakistan. To begin with the government needs to replace Ishaq Dar who is busy fighting the reference filed against him by NAB. The country needs a new finance minister who should enter into a dialogue with the opposition to develop consensus on the outlines of an economic policy that can address the vulnerabilities. Parties winning the elections during the next decade at least should implement the agreed policy.
One would also agree with the COAS that there is a need to ensure a viable balance between the economy and security. In case the measures proposed in the NAP are fully implemented, these would contribute to internal stability. Equally important is an understanding with Afghanistan so that there are no terrorist threats from the other side of the Durand Line. With better internal stability some of the military expenses will come down.
The defence of the country from external enemies is closely related to the industrial and social sector development with sufficient allocation for health and education. In the absence of an adequately large reservoir of scientific and technical manpower, it is not possible to build a strong industrial base needed to fight any prolonged war. A greater reliance on diplomacy in managing foreign relations can reduce regional tensions, thus helping the government release the required funds to educate and train manpower. One shares the sentiments of the COAS that the destinies of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are inextricably linked. New Delhi too has to realise the need for reciprocity.