At The Crossing
- Nawaz Sharif wins near majority, set to form a ‘strong government’
- Pakistan economy in deep trouble, inflation in double digits, major power shortages, a looming balance of payments crisis
- Sharif to broach an agriculture tax, but will a landed political lobby agree to it?
- PML(N) has been soft on jehadis in Punjab, can it rein them in now?
- Sharif finally a busineessman, wants better ties with India
It was a scene that caught everyone in Pakistan by surprise. Prime minister-elect Mian Nawaz Sharif walking into Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital with a bouquet of roses for the ailing Imran Khan, now formally leader of the Opposition. “We don’t have any personal rivalry. Pakistan is in trouble and we should work together to give a better Pakistan to the next generations. I have told him that we will play a friendly match once he recovers,” Sharif told the waiting media on his overture. Ties between the two leaders have been quite amenable—days before the polls, Sharif had cancelled canvassing for a day as a seriously injured Imran was rushed to hospital.
As Sharif himself admitted, Pakistan is indeed in deep trouble. Growth had stunted at a modest four per cent during the PPP government, with runaway inflation flailing in double figures. Electricity and gas shortages have closed down dozens of industrial units and Pakistan’s export figures (not counting trade with India) appear dismal. Indeed, US senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, has already warned Nawaz Sharif that “Pakistan may face a balance of payments crisis unless its new leaders take decisive action”.