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Even in 2021, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was accused of winning the elections through the establishment’s manipulation. Prime Minister Imran Khan has admitted multiple times that the government and military establishment were on one page, but that does not suggest that the military establishment had helped him win the elections. The opposition has also blamed the military establishment a number of times for assisting the PTI government beyond constitutional limits.
The year 2021 marked the first time that this relationship became intense and the opposition saw a ray of hope. The reason for the strain in the relationship was the appointment of the Director-General of ISI. The issue was raised on national media when the ISPR announced the appointment of Lt General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as the new chief of the ISI. This announcement was taken as an offence by the Prime Minister.
Initially, the government kept silent on the issue, but Fawad Chaudhry, the Information Minister, stated that the PM held the authority to appoint the ISI chief and the appointment would be made by following the constitutional requirements. The PM office took several days to agree and sign the notification of the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as the new ISI chief.
This strain gave hope to the opposition that the PTI government would become weak after this issue. On the contrary, the issue was amicably resolved between the two and this shed water on the dreams of the opposition parties.
Ups and Downs of the PDM
The Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) was active for more than a year and had staged multiple power shows on a single platform. This alliance was created to oust the PTI government. However, in the first half of 2021, the PDM had a difference of opinion over the election of the opposition leader.
As a result of this, the PDM issued a show-cause notice to the PPP. The latter took it as an insult and decided to resign from the PDM. The Central Executive Committee of the party also sought an apology from the PDM. Resultantly, the PPP and the ANP parted ways from the PDM, enfeebling the opposition alliance. The PDM was further weakened by the internal strife of the two wings in its biggest party, PML-N.
Despite these issues, the PDM is working hard to continue mobilizing its workers and to cash the bad governance of the incumbent government. The opposition alliance got hopeful over the tensions between the government and the military establishment but that did not last long. The PDM parties have won majority seats in the recent by-elections and local government elections, both in the cantonment board areas and in the KPK province.
The TLP Saga
The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is thought to be the most powerful party in the country when it comes to dharna politics due to its street power. The year 2021 saw four major power shows by the TLP. The first power show by the party was when hundreds of thousands of its workers gathered in Lahore to pay respects to their deceased leader Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
The second time the party showed its street power was when its new leader Allama Saad Rizvi was arrested by the government under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO). This arrest sparked country-wide protests and blockage of main roads. These protests continued for some days and ended with an agreement with the government. After this episode, the party was proscribed in the country.
The third time the party took to the streets was in September 2021, demanding the release of their leader and the fulfilment of previous agreements. The government removed the proscription of the TLP as a result of an agreement. This protest ended with the negotiations and release of all the TLP members and leaders including Allama Saad Rizvi.
The party gathered scores of its members again in Lahore on the Urs of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Although the party holds great street power, its electoral power is scattered and it must revisit its policies to win seats in the coming elections.
Economy and Poverty
The country has always suffered from poverty since its inception. In the year 2020, economies all around the world suffer due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. However, as the markets in the whole world started opening, the economy of the country, just like any other country, also recovered. IMF projected a growth rate of 1.5 percent for 2021. However, the State Bank of Pakistan put forth this rate at 3 percent.
The IMF was proven wrong and it revised its projected growth rate for Pakistan at 3.9%. Despite this economic growth, the inflation rate in the country is the fourth highest among the 42 countries in the world as per the report of The Economist. The prices of petrol and other everyday essentials also increased manifolds this year. Thus, in terms of poverty and inflation, Pakistan suffered greatly in 2021.
Pakistan and the FATF Affair
Pakistan has been on the gray list of FATF since the year 2018. The country has made multiple moves to get white-listed but failed. The country was given a 27-point action plan by the watchdog. In 2021, the country was hoping to be white-listed as it largely addressed most of the points of the proposed action plan. Despite addressing 26 out of 27 points as per the statement of the president of the FATF, the country was not whitelisted by the watchdog.
This raised many questions on the credibility of the forum. Many believe that the watchdog is not a technical forum but rather a political one. The gray listing of the country has done irreparable damage and has weakened its already stagnant economy.
A Year of Audio Leaks
Calling 2021 a year of audio and video leaks for Pakistan would not be wrong as multiple videos and audios of the political leaders and government officials leaked this year. These audios and videos were leaked on purpose to gain political leverage. The most famous and recent audiotape among these leaked audios and videos was of the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Saqib Nisar.
In this alleged audio, he can be heard saying that the former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz had to be punished even if they were proved not guilty to provide an open ground to another political leader. This audiotape garnered too much controversy in the politics of the country, but it turned out to be fake and made up of multiple clips.
The two alleged audiotapes of Maryam Nawaz were also among the most famous audio leaks of the year. In one of the clips, she can be heard issuing the instruction to restrict advertisements to certain media channels. In the other audio clip, she can be heard praising her media management as she made Dunya News and Geo News malign the opponents of PML-N. An alleged sex tape of the former governor of Sindh and PML-N leader, Muhammad Zubair, was also leaked this year, but he termed the clip to be doctored which it possibly could be.
Failed Talks with the TTP
The government of Pakistan initiated peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with the facilitation of the Afghan Taliban. The TTP also announced the ceasefire for a month but later announced that the talks had failed and that there was no more ceasefire. The negotiations with the TTP were criticized by many, but the government held that no country could fight an infinite war. The government might be true, but any sort of peace deal with any group must be within the constitutional limits.
The Realm of Sports
In 2021, the South African cricket team visited Pakistan in January after 14 long years. The 21-year-old weightlifter from Pakistan, Talha Talib, made his debut at the Olympics. He took part in the 67kg category but could not get the medal as he failed to lift enough weight. Arshad Nadeem, another participant of the Olympics, also came to the spotlight due to his famous javelin throw. He competed with some of the world’s top throwers.
Haider Ali was also one of those athletes who succeeded at the global theatre. He won a gold medal in the discus throw competition by accomplishing a 55.26-meter throw. On October 24, the Pakistan cricket team, for the first time ever, defeated its rival, India, in a world cup match. Pakistan also defeated New Zealand’s cricket team in the world cup that had previously ditched Pakistan at the eleventh hour by returning to New Zealand on the basis of some fake security threat.
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