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Pakistan not a normal country, it’s unpredictable, says its former ambassador Husain Haqqani

In an 'Off The Cuff' conversation with ThePrint's Shekhar Gupta, Haqqani talks about Pakistan’s constitutional chaos amid the no-trust vote and control of its army over politics.

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New Delhi: A dictatorial regime is “normal” in the sense some of its patterns can be predicted, but Pakistan is “not normal” because it’s unpredictable, said the country’s former ambassador Husain Haqqani, now director of South and Central Asia at Washington DC-based think tank Hudson Institute.

Pakistan is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy, but we already saw that parliamentary norms and procedures are not always followed, he said, referring to the constitutional crisis the country has been witnessing since last week.

In conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, during a virtual session of ‘Off The Cuff’, Haqqani spoke about the constitutional crisis in Pakistan following dismissal of the no-trust vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan, the army’s control over political discourse and the country’s economy, among other topics.

Constitutional chaos

Commenting on the drama surrounding the no-trust vote in Pakistan’s National Assembly, Haqqani said the prime minister’s solution to the problem was to claim that there was a foreign conspiracy against him. “The moment your coalition partners leave you, you lose a majority — you resign. Imran Khan refused to resign,” he said.

Talking about the Pakistan Supreme Court’s approach to the petition against the dismissal of the no-confidence motion, Haqqani criticised the court. Instead of ruling via a short order that the prime minister cannot dissolve parliament whilst having a no-confidence vote against him, the Supreme Court went into debating the powers of the Speaker, noted Haqqani.

Sharing his thoughts on how the case will unfold, the former bureaucrat said the “Supreme Court’s only consideration should be the law and constitution, not political factors” but underlined that Pakistan’s apex court gives “expedient decisions and not constitutionally rooted legal decisions”.

Pakistan’s fumbling economy

Speaking about the state of Pakistan’s economy, Haqqani pointed out that “inflation is in double digits; it’s the highest in a long time”, and that the Pakistani stock market “has not gone back to the 2017 level”.

Further explaining the problems plaguing the economy, Haqqani elaborated that the nation has not been able to increase its exports as it does not produce anything that is exported, apart from garments. Foreign remittances have a negative effect as the country’s best talent goes abroad, he said.

He blamed Pakistan’s investment climate, calling it the “biggest deterrent” to foreign investment. Businesses want predictability, courts that do not interfere with industry, and they want legal safeguards, Haqqani said, as he explained the problems in Pakistan’s regulatory frameworks.

No split in the army

“When the military says it is neutral, even then, various political actors say that the army should play a role. Because they can’t seem to work out things on their own,” said Haqqani while talking about the army’s centrality in Pakistan’s politics.

Answering a question on factionalism in the army due to diverging allegiances towards different political groups, Haqqani assessed that “the Pakistan army is too disciplined to have a split”.

However, the army reflects society, and it is a very polarised society, he said, adding that this polarisation will inhibit Pakistan for a long time.

There is a need to marginalise the extremist discourse for Pakistan to progress. For this, understanding the Pakistan army’s perspective is essential. “Pakistan needs to be reimagined,” noted Haqqani, somberly. 

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