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It Takes Billions To Hold General Elections; Is Economically-challenged Pakistan Ready?

In Pakistan, there is a growing demand for general elections, as supporters of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan believe it is the best way to address the country’s severe political and economic crises, reported Deutsch Welles. 

According to Khan’s supporters, a new mandate for a political party or coalition will be beneficial for the country. However, the current Pakistan Democratic Movement government, led by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, is hesitant to accept Khan’s demand, perhaps due to the fear of Khan returning to power.

Khan was removed from office in 2022 through a no-confidence vote in Parliament, and he accused General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the US of orchestrating his ouster. Since then, Khan, who is the leader of the centre-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, has been highly popular in public opinion polls. 

The country is also struggling with a severe economic crisis, with the government unable to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government’s inability to address the economic chaos, soaring inflation, and acute shortage of gas and electricity has made Sharif’s cabinet quite unpopular among the masses.

Pakistan’s economic crisis

Pakistan’s economy has been facing various challenges and crises for many years. The country’s current account deficit has been consistently high in recent years, which means that it is importing more than it is exporting. This puts pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which are used to finance imports.

Inflation has been consistently high in Pakistan, which erodes the purchasing power of the Pakistani rupee and makes it more expensive for people to buy goods and services. Pakistan’s external debt has been steadily increasing, and the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now over 80%. This means that Pakistan is spending a large portion of its revenue on debt servicing, which leaves little room for other expenditures.

Political instability and insecurity in Pakistan have deterred foreign investors, who are essential for creating jobs and boosting economic growth. Corruption and poor governance in Pakistan have undermined the country’s economic development by hindering the creation of a conducive environment for investment and development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Pakistan’s economy, leading to a decline in GDP growth, job losses, and an increase in poverty. To address these challenges, the government of Pakistan has implemented various measures, such as seeking loans from international institutions, devaluing the currency, and implementing austerity measures to reduce expenditure. However, the effectiveness of these measures remains a matter of debate, and Pakistan’s economic challenges persist.

The cost is in billions

The cost of elections in Pakistan can vary depending on the type and scale of the election. General elections, which are held every five years to elect members of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, tend to be the most expensive.

According to a report by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the cost of the 2018 general elections was estimated to be around PKR 21.8 billion (approximately USD 137 million). This included the cost of printing ballot papers, hiring staff, and deploying security personnel to polling stations across the country.

In addition to the direct costs associated with conducting elections, there are also indirect costs such as campaign expenses, which can be significant. Political parties and candidates spend large sums of money on advertising, rallies, and other campaign activities to promote their message and win votes.

Overall, the cost of elections in Pakistan is a significant expense for the government and political parties, and it is important to ensure that these costs are managed efficiently and transparently to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.

Various security issues in Pakistan

Pakistan’s foreign minister said Thursday his country is facing “a perfect storm” of troubles — an economic crisis, the consequences of catastrophic flooding, and terrorism “that is once again rearing its ugly head” as a result of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 34-year-old son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press that Pakistan, like other countries, is also beset by “hyper-partisan and hyper-polarised politics”.

Zardari insisted Pakistan’s “alleged influence over the Taliban has always been exaggerated” — before and after the fall of Kabul. He said Pakistan, however, has always maintained the importance of engagement with the Taliban on terrorism and other issues, especially women’s rights to education and jobs. He was at the UN speaking at several meetings promoting women’s rights.

Zardari said Pakistan would like to see the Taliban take action against all terrorist groups, including those linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic state. But he said there are questions about the Taliban’s capacity to combat these groups because it doesn’t have a standing army, a counter-terrosim force or an effective border management force.

Source : RepublicWorld