NEW DELHI: The current crisis in Pakistan will only benefit the hardline Islamic parties in Pakistan, says Mohammad Shehzad. The Islamabad-based journalist, who’s been writing for various Pakistani and foreign publications since 1992 is also the author of The State of Islamic Radicalism in Pakistan, and Love and Fear: Poems Beyond Time. When he’s not busy writing or asking provocative questions on his video channel, he learns the tabla and classical vocal music.
In a wide ranging interview with Ramananda Sengupta, Shehzad said none of the political parties, including Imran Khan’s PTI, would gain from the current financial crisis, which was only strengthening the hands of the Jihadis. And that it was a dangerous thing not just for Pakistan but the entire world. Excerpts:
Q: How bad is the current economic crisis in Pakistan and how can it be resolved?
A: The current crisis is so serious that the other day the Governor of our State Bank was invited by the business community of Karachi. And they created a lot of suspense around a beautiful wooden box, which they presented to him, saying, “Sir, we have a gift for you, ” as if they were gifting him a souvenir. But in that box were the keys of their factories, of their industries. And they said, “Sir, we are in this business for decades, but now we cannot run it. You are the policymaker, now you run it and you prove to us how they can be run”. And trust me, the Governor was very embarrassed, he had no answer.
And then the other day I was listening to a special assistant of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who publicly admitted that Ishaq Dar, our finance minister, does not meet the business community, and takes directions directly from London, meaning former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. So how can we put things back to order?
(Two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified from holding public office by the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison by an accountability court, went to London on bail for medical treatment and never returned. He is the brother of Shehbaz Sharif)
Q: Will the current financial crisis benefit former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has been accusing the government of selling out to the West by going to the IMF?
A: I’m not an economist but I can tell you it seems that the Tehreek-e-Taliban or TTP (the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan, an umbrella organization of various Islamist militant groups operating along the Afghan–Pakistani border) is benefiting from the crisis. It’s not going to benefit Imran Khan or his party at all. The reason is simple. The Taliban have taken over Kabul. The TTP is back. We don’t have money to fight the terrorists. Uncle Sam has abandoned us. Uncle Sam created an enemy (The Afghan Taliban), fought with it for 20 years and surrendered before the same enemy. So how can we fight them if Uncle Sam could not defeat them?
The jihadis are benefiting from the current crisis because they are into charity. Many jihadi outfits or religious outfits have set up free langars, where people who are suffering from this crisis can get free food. The state has failed to provide roti, kapda aur makaan (food, clothing and shelter), which was the slogan of the Pakistan People’s Party. These jihadis are providing free food, and during the recent floods, they did wonderful relief work. You would recall that in 2005, even the enemies of these jihadis appreciated their relief work. So the only people this current crisis will benefit are the jihadis. It’s not going to benefit Imran Khan, because Imran Khan was in power for almost four years and the poor became poorer. And it certainly won’t benefit the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), now in power.
It is a dangerous situation not just for Pakistan but for our neighbours as well. If the TTP took over Pakistan, their next target will be India and then rest of the world. So right now, I believe that the international community should help Pakistan generously, otherwise this scourge will spread to every corner of the world. If we became bankrupt, if we became a lawless state, if there is a civil war here, it will certainly affect the rest of the world very badly too.
Q: So what does one do now?
A: I was reading a column by my favourite columnist, Ayaz Amir, where he quoted Chairman Mao of China as saying that when a crisis touches its peak, and it cannot get any worse, that is the time when you will find a solution.
But he was Chairman Mao and they were Chinese, we are not. Imran Khan is not Chairman Mao. Nawaz Sharif is not Chairman Mao, we are not Chinese people. Now the question is that, can we Pakistanis find a solution when our situation has become the worst? No, I don’t think so. I think more than us the international community is more worried about our situation, as it fears that a bankrupt Pakistan, a lawless Pakistan marked by civil war is not good for their interests. So they should help Pakistan, and I think they are helping.