Pakistan suicide bombs (La Presse)

Pakistan Bleeds with Bomb Blasts and Inflation

While Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is jealously pursuing his foreign jaunts to seek support from the Muslim nations against India’s accession of Kashmir and to prevent Pakistan from being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) over inadequate measures to rein in terror, Pakistan is bleeding on account of serial bomb blasts and rising inflation. A deadly bomb blast near a religious rally in Pakistan’s city of Quetta on February 17 created mass havoc, claiming seven dead and injuring over 25 people. The explosion took place just three days ahead of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) start of the new season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). PCB has decided to host the entire season of PSL in Pakistan and promised to provide the best security to players across the country.

Earlier in January, a bomb blast triggered by ISIS during evening prayers in Quetta—inside a mosque used by the Taliban—killed at least 15 people. The Taliban and the Islamic State are engaged in a battle for control of territory along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region including cities like Quetta.

Spiraling inflation Adds to Pakistan’s Woes

Terrorism is not the only problem in Pakistan, spiraling inflation is also adding to the woes of Pakistanis. Inflation is at an all-time high, causing dissension among the masses. In January 2020, Pakistan’s inflation rate touched 14.56 percent– the highest in the last ten years. The government’s measures, such as depreciating the currency, imposing duties on imported commodities, increas­ing electricity and gas prices, and enhancing oil prices have pushed inflation to an all-time high. Government measures have increased prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages by 23.65 percent, health and education charges went up by 11.79 percent and 7.31 percent respectively, and furnishing and household equipment maintenance charges by 10.11 percent.

While Imran Khan seems unfazed by the blasts and high inflation by banking on the support of the army against any threat to his rule, analysts are of the view that the country is heading towards social unrest.

Why is Imran Khan Unfazed?

A large number of Pakistanis believe that Khan became Prime Minister because the army selected him for this job. It is an open secret that in Pakistan the army rules the nation through a façade of civilian government and remote controls the power. In the past, army chiefs got their term extended through civilian governments without any objection.

Following the footprints of his predecessors to remain in power, the Khan government issued a notification extending the term of General Bajwa’s term by three years in effect from November 28, 2019 before the expiry of his term. The government cited the tense “regional security situation” because of the revocation of autonomy of Kashmir and the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan as the reasons for the extension. However, proposition leaders and critics of Khan are of the view that Khan extended General Bajwa’s tenure so that he could complete his term smoothly as he is a protegee of General Bajwa.

The leaders of opposition parties headed by Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman took to the streets with thousands of his supporters on Azadi March (Liberation March) in Islamabad demanding the resignation of Khan. The opposition leaders claimed that Khan won July 2018 parliamentary elections as the authorities and army rigged the elections.

Pakistan Headed for Major Social Unrest

Reportedly the Opposition leader Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman’s Azadi March had the backing of the top seven generals of the Pakistani Army, whose promotions were scuttled due to three-year extension to Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. The generals refrained from preventive action and allowed the March to progress towards Islamabad and South Punjab. Though Imran khan survived the 2019 Azadi March, the series of bomb blasts and spiraling inflation have worsened the situation for Khan. According to political observers, the country is heading for major social unrest. The joint opposition is expected to intensify the momentum of their protests against the Khan government with a joint resignation by all political parties and forcing the parliament to be dissolved. As declared by Fazal-ur-Rehman, “we also have a Plan B and Plan C” to unseat Khan.