Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah on September 19, 2018. Photo: AFP via Anadolu Agency
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah on September 19, 2018. Photo: AFP via Anadolu Agency

Finally, the House of Saud has come to the rescue of Pakistan by agreeing to give it US$3 billion for one year to cover its current-account deficit. Saudi Arabia also agreed to supply $3 billion worth of oil to Pakistan on deferred payments.

At a time when Saudi royals are facing pressure from around the globe over the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government chose to remain silent on this issue. In fact before his departure to Saudi Arabia, Khan in an interview given to foreign journalists said that since Pakistan needs money from the Saudis, it cannot afford to snub them on this issue.

This showed the world that Pakistan’s prime minister is interested only in getting loans at the moment and does not care about human rights. Though Pakistan continually raises concerns over human-rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir and in Palestine, it has never raised its voice over the human-rights violations in Yemen or even in its own territory, where Ahmadis and other minorities are marginalized and even denied of the right to practice their faith freely.

Khan’s speech at the Future Investment Initiative summit was also unimpressive and brought embarrassment to the country. While addressing the summit participants, he said Pakistan was looking for loans and aid from friendly countries. One wonder why his advisers did not tell him that addressing an investor conference is entirely different from addressing his party supporters, and that when you speak to them you always try to win their confidence for future investment by not mentioning the country’s flaws.

Likewise, Khan told them that the country’s system is corrupt and institutions are very weak because the previous governments appointed cronies to helm the affairs of these institutions. Perhaps Khan forgets that he too has only appointed his cronies and people who sing his praises to the key slots in the public institutions and in the government.

In any case, this is another U-turn from Khan, as during his election campaign he said he would never beg for loans.

The Saudis after providing this bailout will definitely ask for favors in return from Pakistan, such as unofficial military support in the Yemen war, and a share in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

It is the same old short-term solution of begging from friendly countries in order to thwart political and public pressure. But borrowing from friendly countries or from the International Monetary Fund is not a permanent solution, nor can it solve Pakistan’s economic woes.

Even a student of economics can tell that as long as economic activities are not generated inside the country and a large chunk of the population is not brought into the mainstream and given opportunities for employment or business, the country will continue to travel in the vicious circle of debts and poverty.

Since Khan neither has any future vision nor knows much about economics, he is hoping against hope that he will be able to steer the ship through the aid provided by friendly countries and the donations and loans from expatriate Pakistanis. There is nothing wrong in asking for temporary relief or going for short-term solutions; the problem is the absence of a long-term plan and strategy on the part of Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government.

Instead of developing a realistic long-term economic program, all the energies of Khan and his cabinet are being expended on gimmicks and witch-hunts.

At the moment Pakistan is striving to get loans from friendly countries and the IMF, while on the other hand, Khan has announced the construction of 5 million houses for poor people, which actually is nothing more than a political gimmick. Neither can the poor afford to purchase houses at high bank interest rates nor does the government have sufficient money to invest in this project.

Likewise, Khan’s witch-hunt against his opponents is another gimmick to divert attention from his inability to handle the crises the country is facing.

Even after returning from Saudi Arabia, in his address to the nation, Khan after disclosing that he had received the aid from the Saudis started targeting his political opponents, and he sounded like an opposition leader who was threatening his political opponents of dire consequences if he comes to power.

Perhaps someone needs to tell Mr Khan that he is in charge now and if he still cannot recover the imaginary looted $200 billion from his political opponents then he should at least stop acting like an opposition leader. Khan has the anti-graft body and investigative agencies under his control and no one is stopping him from arresting his opponents on charges of corruption. If he still cannot prove his allegations in a court of law, he needs to realize that it is the time to move on.

The witch-hunts, the blatant lies about his opponents, the complaints against the system and dependence on foreign aid and loans will not help in running the state affairs, nor will they solve any economic or political crisis.

Khan enjoys a cult following and maybe his cult will believe him, but the masses who are already suffering from the surge of price increases, inflation, and the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee will not be satisfied by mere sloganeering.

He also needs to remember that his strongest political opponent, Nawaz Sharif, also enjoys a similar cult in the province of Punjab, and the witch-hunts and allegations will not damage Sharif’s following.

To firm his grip on the power, Khan needs to get rid of the obsession for victimizing his opponents and needs to stop wasting time and resources on witch-hunts. Probably he also needs to realize that aid, loans, charity, and his lofty claims will not help him avert the political and economic crisis.

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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