Pakistan is facing its worst set of challenges in its modern history. Riven with political incompetence, an economy that is on the brink and devastation wrought by climate change, the country last week suffered a terrorist attack that left 100 dead. A stark set of choices faces Pakistan, and its creditors in the west and in China, none of whom are served by further instability in a nuclear-armed power on a geopolitical faultline.
The country’s political and military elites have presided over decades of dysfunction, corruption and woeful governance. While the main political parties interminably slug it out there is little to differentiate them on policy. Elections this year will probably be exploited as an opportunity for a fresh round of toxic squabbling, rather than substantive efforts to improve Pakistan’s fate. If they travelled outside the bubble of Islamabad they would find people with little faith that the ruling class will do anything effective to alleviate their misery. Politicians need to start putting the people, not their parties, first.
As it is, Pakistan risks following Sri Lanka into default, where food and medicine have been in short supply. But with a population ten times that of Sri Lanka, a nuclear arsenal, a military with a history of meddling, and extremist Islamists who are displaying their bloodthirsty fanaticism once more, default is a situation international creditors and multilateral institutions must help Pakistan avoid.