Pakistan’s Economic Meltdown – A Threat to It’s Nuclear Safeguard?

Severe Stress

The latest figures by Pakistan’s Central bank on 27 Jan has foreign reserves falling to psychological mark of 3 billion USD. It has put Pakistan all at sea, looking to survive with a straw in the ocean. The panic stricken central bank of Pakistan remained a mute spectator towards it’s inability to let the economy run, with forced clamp downs on routine imports. The attempt to ward off further flight of forex by declining payments in foreign currency for import has had a severe stress on domestic industries. Local manufacturers are now gasping for basic supplies to let the factories run. End result, inventory shortage across the sectors, import ban even on essential purchases of food products, closure of manufacturing plants, cash strapped population losing their jobs to economic slowdown. Images of container ships parked at Karachi port, is reminiscent of empty hands extended towards a ripe fruit. Entire business community pleading for liquidity and that’s the only thing Pakistan doesn’t have at the moment. A clear sign of bankruptcy when a country run out of resources to finance most basic provisions while fully realising non availability will only escalate the decline.

Pakistan has an easy and a difficult job to do. Easy as it can simply blame itself for the dirty mess it has created for it’s people. It never has depth on it’s fundamentals to indulge in the luxurious splurge it’s elite, both political and military, practices as their birth right. These elite, as it seems has really put a favour on the state of Pakistan by virtue of them adopting it’s citizenship. It’s a fact with very few parallels around the world where the legislatures, ministers holding critical responsibilities even some bureaucrats hold dual citizenship. While the military generals do so post convenience of retirement. This reflects their questionable commitment towards their own country wherein at the first instance of trouble these people catch a flight to their new adopted home and rest of the time is spent on preparing themselves for such an inevitable. It’s barely surprising that Pakistan has reached this state of civil anarchy where people are struggling to survive and make their ends meet for the day. The entire class of Pakistani leadership now stands begging to international credit institutions, friendly governments and IMF. However, the mayhem which Pakistan’s economy is going through has completely blown out the investors confidence. Government bonds have nosedived, Pakistani rupee has crashed, barely few weeks of import can be financed and whosoever can give money has refused Pakistan until it can strike a deal with IMF. Problem is, an IMF deal comes with lots of strings attached and evidently none are popular option with governments or local population. But for now it’s a battle of survival; choices are limited and options are hard.

Domestic Slugfest

Since the ouster of Imran Khan from the premiership in Apr 22 and his ‘surviving’ an assassination bid. He has been running on twin agenda of blaming country’s military leadership and return to premiership. The politics in Pakistan has far trivialised it’s attempt towards democracy. Pakistan probably holds a unique distinction in that while it has a vibrant polity same can’t be said for it’s democracy. A very awkward reality and that’s because No matter who governs Pakistan, they all carry dictatorial ambitions. Take the case of erstwhile PM Imran Khan, he appears quite prepared to hold the country; struggling with catastrophic challenges to ransom for political gains and unfortunately, he is not the only one. Entire political spectrum of Pakistan from Maryam Nawaz, Maulana Fazlur Rehman to Zardaris are filled with shady ambitions. Historically Pakistan has only remained steadfast at continued decline and credit can be equally shared among it’s Politicians, Military and bureaucrats. No matter whom you are talking to you can never be sure of intention and this has distinctively characterised the Pakistani state. A country is known by it’s leaders and for Pakistan they have been a real embarrassment! Even ignoring that half of it’s existence has been under military boots, remaining period under civilian government have been even more disappointing. Out of 23 PMs in Pakistan 21 have been dismissed or removed before they could complete their term. Three PMs of Pakistan have been killed including it’s first PM Liaqat Ali Khan. Many have opted for self-exile and almost everyone have been investigated for corruption. Even their Presidents, provincial CMs and luminaries of Supreme Court haven’t fared better either. Asif Ali Zardari was infamously known as Mr 10 % and he was the President! Musharraf in his civilian avatar as President of Pakistan was slapped with treason charges and has to remain in exile till he breathed his last. A country blessed with such self-serving leadership and directionless polity only needs one thing for survival – a miracle!

What the world is witnessing for Pakistan, is a country in self-denial. Pakistan feels it’s the adopted child for the world and all it’s problems should be addressed on high priority. If their leaders have habitually siphoned off their national treasure to bring economic chaos, world must step in and give them billions of dollars. If Pakistan has practiced terrorism as a state policy and now facing the backlash, world must recognise it as front runner in global fight against terrorism. If Pakistan has embraced Islam as a state religion for gaining domestic dividends which has now taken shape of violent radicalisation, world must sympathise with it. Simply put; world must do something for everything which concerns Pakistan while at the same time expect Pakistan to do nothing for anything!

Nuclear Disintegration?

It’s this state of Pakistan that has generated a critical concern across the major capitals. Pakistan has shown clear signs of decline and has been breaching one safeguard after another with an alarming regularity. It’s the repeated practice which becomes nature and the nature is what becomes identity over a period. For Pakistan as a state they have displayed massive immaturity in conduct of national affairs and have come to be identified as a Short-sighted Opportunistic Nation! They chose to go to war within months of independence. They chose dictatorship over nurturing national institutions and harbouring democracy against the wishes of their own founding father. They chose division of their nation in half over maturely handling wishes and aspirations of their then brethren Muslims in East Pakistan. They chose to sell nuclear secrets to North Korea against a laid down international norm for transfer of such sensitive technology for want of money. They chose to adopt radical Islam and terrorism as a state policy against the need for peaceful existence. It’s the shocking national choices that has been made by Pakistan till date which reflects an unbelievable trajectory of failure.  

The path here onwards is as concerning as the disturbing backdrop. Pakistan as a declared nuclear power is believed to have a line of nuclear missiles mostly adopted from Chinese and North Korean missiles and subsequently renamed from short range Nasr or Hatf-9 with range of 70 Km to long range Ababeel with range of 2,200 Km capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It has naval assets in Babur-3 with a likely range of 450 Km and air assets in F-16A/B and Mirage III/V for delivery platform of the nuclear warheads reaching a range of 2,100 Km. But the critical assets of all these are the nuclear warheads. Pakistan is believed to have 160 nuclear warheads likely to be between 5 – 12 Kilo Ton capacity and some may have a higher yield of 40 Kilo Ton. It has two major enrichment facilities at Kahuta near Rawalpindi and Khushab in Punjab for Uranium and weapons grade Plutonium. Pakistan also has four civilian purpose nuclear reactors at Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, Chasma Nuclear Power Plant two US gifted reactors in Islamabad manged as Pakistan Atomic Research Reactors all under IAEA safeguard including a nuclear fuel storage facility at Hawks Bay in Karachi. Major concern though remains the finished products stored at locations believed to be highly secured and out of reach. The reality is these secured locations are only as much secured as the custodian desires. Besides the so-called secured sites are most likely within the knowledge ambit of countries who are interested in such information. Such countries have adequate resources to work their way through for complex scenarios like these. World has already seen Israel’s successful penetration of Iranian nuclear programme with modification of centrifuges that had put back Iranian nuclear ambitions by several years. Even more kinetic options were executed by elimination of top Iranian scientists with a threat of employing more such audacious options! Closer home the famous leak of info from Pakistan’s Kahuta Uranium enrichment facility in 70s has forced Pakistan into a tizzy. Or the intel flagged by formidable agencies about transfer of nuclear blueprint by Pakistan to North Korea and the arrival of knocked down missile consignments benefitting then Generals and one Mr AQ Khan millions of dollars! It’s a gone conclusion that in Pakistan it’s just a matter of offer the positions, information and assets are all negotiable!

The Fallout

Problems in the priority are Pakistan’s wilful transfer of tactical nuclear warheads to countries which are willing to Pay upfront and are running behind the schedule of their stated ambitions or handing over a dirty bomb to highest bidder among wealthy terrorist organisations and there are plenty of them. The psyche of Pakistan is reflective of a recent statement by Saad Rizvi on 2nd Feb a radical who said – ‘Pakistan should now negotiate with nuclear bomb in it’s one hand’. Such curated statements not only receive hurray from the audience but are exactly the type of views which runs counter to sanity and are being sold publicly in Pakistan.

As the Pakistan’s crisis deepens and it looks for any and every alternative available World needs to work a step ahead of their complete unreliability. Some of the golden problems international community always faces for Pakistan is whom to talk & how to trust. Answers to these lies in their Generals & the Money; who are sophisticated enough to understand the exact wavelength of conversation, have No fear of public backlash and if the history is to go by, they really get excited at the prospect of unaccounted wealth. As the Plan B for a worthy endeavour is must, it should be kept ready with all kinetic options laid bare on the negotiating table to leave No confusion among Pakistani decision makers! As for India, it may not have the vehement objection to such an approach as long as the backhand supply of dollars are restricted to personal accounts and handles the global concern!

Meanwhile, it’s really hard to forget the prophetic words of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who said – ‘we will eat grass but will have the nuclear Bomb!’ All of Pakistan must be feeling proud today, as that journey has got their country to the destiny they chose. Pakistan today can find itself in perfect position to proudly offer grass or the cattle food to it’s countrymen for sometime atleast, hoping even that doesn’t go beyond their reach!

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(This article has featured in a National Magazine!)

 

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Very rightly said, Pak is on the verge of offering grass and cattle food to its citizens but still it does not shy away from procuring military equipment for its army

    Reply
  • Anna Salome Dunna
    06/04/2023 13:53

    Truly Pakistan is on it’s way to total collapse

    Reply
  • dhirenyadav8736
    07/04/2023 09:42

    The article depicts absolute real crisis of Pak….

    Reply

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