2023: The World This Year

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2023: The World This Year
Pakistan in 2023: Between elections, economic turmoil and climate crisis

  Abigail Miriam Fernandez

TWTW#200, 29 January 2023, Vol. 5, No. 4

Pakistan in 2023: Between elections, economic turmoil and climate crisis
With elections scheduled this year, politics will take the forefront coupled with the deteriorating economic situation and critical climate crisis
In 2022, Pakistan was turbulent with a severe political crisis, an economic slump, resurgence of violence and extremism and floods. 

Five Forecasts for 2023
1. The continuation of confrontational politics
The power struggle will continue in 2023 with the upcoming general elections. Imran Khan has called for early elections, however, the ruling coalition government has not yet ceded to this demand, expressing confidence in completing their term until August. At the federal level, Imran Khan boycotted the parliamentary sessions to push for early elections, threatened mass resignations and staged multiple rallies across the country in 2022. Conversely, the federal government has decided to put their heads together to tackle the PTI’s confrontational behaviour. In 2023, politics in Pakistan will likely remain on the streets, with the politicians deliberating and refraining from the parliament. Additionally, with Imran Khan taking on the institutions such as the election commission and the military establishment, it is unlikely that the fight will be easy. Institutions such as the judiciary, and election commission will shape the politics that will unfold in the upcoming year. 
On the provincial level, the fight to secure power will continue. Imran Khan successfully dissolved the provincial assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, where they had a majority. The PTI also dominated the October 2022 by-elections, proving their popularity. However, the ruling coalition also put up a fight with the PPP securing the majority of the seat in the Karachi and Hyderabad by-polls. These battles will likely continue as the ruling coalition, and the PTI try to secure their power.
Both at the federal and provincial levels, the numbers are key. Both sides will not be able to survive without their respective allies. Thus, it all depends on whether the allies/ ‘lautas’ cooperate with the larger goal of the respective alliances.

2. The economic slump
With politics taking the forefront in 2023, the economic slump will likely worsen. Any measure taken to stabilize the economy would only be cosmetic attempts made by the political parties to secure their power. In 2023, Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves would remain at a critical level, the rupee, exports and remittances would remain stagnant, and higher debt payments would become difficult to sustain. Thus, it is unclear how Pakistan would navigate the economic slump, especially given the delay in releasing an IMF tranche in the bailout programme and being in an almost default situation. However, a positive sign has been Pakistan moving out of the Financial Action Task Force’s ‘grey list.’ This is likely to enable the opening up of Pakistan to a wider range of international investments. As of now, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US have shown positive signs of investing and negotiating with Pakistan. This would help Pakistan’s desperation to boost its forex reserves. However, the international community is likely to tread with caution when it comes to investing in Pakistan.

3. The remerging threat of extremism
Pakistan’s internal security has worsened with the resurgence of the TTP, particularly after the group called off the ceasefire with the government in November. Internal security is also threatened by groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which frequently carries out attacks in Balochistan and other areas. Additionally, attacks by cross-border militants have also increased, posing a challenge for the state. The threats posed by such groups that operate inside Pakistan and outside are likely to increase in 2023 with a focus on politics, giving the militants more space to operate. Meanwhile, the military establishment is likely to spearhead the fight against extremism in the country on different fronts. However, the military’s approach and strategy for tackling the problem are yet to be made clear.

4. The clash in civil-military relations
The military leadership has promised not to get involved in politics. However, it is established that is only on paper and not in reality because the military establishment continues to dominate the political sphere. The establishment is only likely to get involved with the upcoming general election. However, with the appointment of a new army chief, General Asim Munir, civil-military relations are expected to change. General Munir is yet to show if he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor General Qamar Javed Bajwa or whether he would pave the functioning of civil-military relations in Pakistan. General Munir would likely want to keep the military’s profile in politics low but this does not mean that the military establishment would stay away from politics. On the civilian side of this equation, the attacks hurled at the establishment’s involvement in politics have intensified both from the opposition and a few members of the federal government. Thus, it is unclear on whose side the establishment will finally stand.

5. The worsening climate crisis
In 2022, Pakistan witnessed one of the worst monsoon-induced floods since the super flood of 2010. Despite Pakistan not being a significant contributor to global warming, it is heavily impacted by the effects of climate change. The country witnesses extreme weather anomalies throughout the year with heatwaves, floods, glacier bursts, snowfall and cold spells. In 2023, scientists have predicted that El Nino would return in the later part of the year, leading to extreme temperatures. In Pakistan’s case, El Nino plays a significant part in influencing the climate variability in the country, causing anomalies in both temperature and monsoon frequency. This, coupled with the anthropogenic causes of climate change, impacts Pakistan gravely. Pakistan would have to brace itself for another year filled with weather anomalies. However, Pakistan has managed to draw the international community's attention for assistance in tackling the impact of climate change. Thus, it is to be seen how this assistance in terms of finance and assistance to build a climate-resilient Pakistan pans out.

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