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Pakistan Needs Structural Decisions: A Case of AJK

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Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s recent allocation of an “urgent” Rs23 billion grant may have temporarily quelled unrest in AJK. Still, it would be imprudent to assume that more than this financial injection alone is required to address the underlying discontent in the region.

This situation highlights the government’s failure to proactively manage and avert avoidable crises before they escalate into public demonstrations. The authorities only respond with monetary relief when the situation spirals out of control rather than implementing preventive measures.

Acknowledging the prolonged issues faced by AJK, senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah conceded that challenges such as soaring inflation, unjust taxation, and an entrenched, privileged elite have been festering for an extended period without adequate intervention.

Furthermore, the government’s neglect of soaring inflation, rising unemployment, and a widening wealth gap exacerbate the populace’s suffering. Its policies seem tailored to benefit the elite, perpetuating a system in which the majority bear the brunt of the burden to sustain the privileged few.

There is a growing apprehension that future challenges may surpass those of the past. The populace has discerned that sustaining Pakistan’s financial stability hinges on an active IMF program, which historically introduces stringent tax and subsidy reforms that disproportionately impact middle- and lower-income groups—the government’s reluctance to levy adequate taxes on affluent sectors further limits fiscal flexibility.

Looking ahead, the potential repercussions of entering another IMF program loom large. The associated conditions could balloon utility expenses, exacerbate cost-push inflation, and render life unaffordable for millions nationwide. Moreover, the likelihood of reduced government discretion to allocate funds to manage civil unrest under an IMF program raises concerns about potential nationwide upheaval.

The recent events in AJK serve as a stark warning of the turmoil that may ensue if the government fails to implement essential reforms swiftly. The belated response to the AJK crisis, marked by casualties and injuries, underscores the government’s failure to address long-standing issues promptly. The authorities appear oblivious to the gathering storm that threatens to engulf the nation, inadvertently propelling the country into a nightmarish scenario.

The government’s apparent disregard for the root causes of social unrest and economic hardship suggests that the recent protests in AJK could be a prelude to widespread suffering if meaningful reforms are not promptly enacted.

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