Dharna is an anti government protest sit-in (non violent process). The PTI Dharna politics aims to reach the masses by highlighting the present government’s corruption sc andals, lack of justice and economic policies. It is fair to say that the sit-in culture has existed in Pakistan since Ayub Khan’s time. In 2014 PTI managed the Dharna factor for a few months and the government reported heavy losses because of it.
According to PM’s adviser, in the last PTI dharna that lasted for several months the “loss” ran up to $6billion dollars. However, the interesting thing to notice here is that the PTI claims that it wants peaceful sit-ins where it feels the government does not need to go out of its way to stop them from protesting. It beleives that the right to protest or a sit-in does not lead to the economic losses and that it may not be a fair projection by PML-N. Part of the society also beleives that the economic loss is a result of many factors coming into play. Here one cant ignore the life of the common man and how his daily life and work slows down because of such activities. Fractions of society also blame the government because of its ’emotional reaction’ and ‘road block strategy’.
The newyorktimes reported on the recent Dharna scenario on Friday 27th october 2016 :
“Sharif, who is serving his third term as prime minister, faces mounting public criticism after his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.”
“Khan’s party is one of the five petitioners who have approached the top court requesting an investigation into the sc andal. The court has asked the prime minister to issue a response to the allegations made in the petitions.”
“One of Sharif’s allies, parliamentarian Talal Chaudhry, said that Khan’s recent statements suggested his party had plans to paralyze the capital. “We wouldn’t allow that,” Chaudhry said.”
“No power can stop our rally,” Khan told reporters Thursday. “It is our legal, democratic, constitutional right.”
For further reading :
The bloomberg also reported on the Dharna triggers.
What Now ?
The government has its own way of dealing with the situation and its restricting movement for PTI supporters. This means closing entry and exit points for Islamabad, Peshawar and areas in KPK. In a situation like this societal confusion increases because of the following:
1) The common man is confused about whom to blame for the slow down- the societal divide exp ands.
2) The government maybe spending alot on security arrangements and roadblocks.
3) The security situation before the dharna restricts economic and business activity.
4) The entrepreneurs and professionals from diverse background have different opinions about the slowdown- adds to the societal divide.
5) A set of people believe that this causes “Investor scare” while the other segment states that the sit-in is essential to get rid of corrupt politicians. This segment believes that the opportunities remain to the few wealthy and connected ones and the rest of the society has no access to resources and investments and or funds.
6) The media enjoys the perks. The government increases expenditure to reach out to masses about its deliverables. The opposition and the government spend on public awareness campaigns.
7) According to PTI supporters the 2014 dharna actually was an economy in itself. Lots of small businesses were established.
Impact of Dharna on economy
From the government’s report on PTI’s Dharna (2014), submitted to the Dawn News:
“The political uncertainty has negatively impacted the country’s financial markets, foreign exchange reserves have declined to $13.521bn from $13.926bn and stock markets nosedived.”
“The report said that only 40 to 45pc employees of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) could attend office because of the blockade of the Constitution Avenue since Aug 16. An extra amount of Rs357.6 million has been set aside from regular budget for law-enforcement agencies to maintain law and order in the capital. Of the total amount, Rs226.772m has already been disbursed and a request for the remaining Rs130.6m was received on Aug 29.”
“The Trader Association Islamabad estimated a loss of Rs10bn to traders and businessmen and the federal secretariat, which runs the machinery of the federal government, virtually remained closed. The Federal Directorate of Education had to put off the scheduled opening of 422 educational institutions to Sept 2 from Aug 11. As a result 200,000 students could not start their academic session on time.”
Dr Ishfaque H khan Principal & Dean at NUST, wrote a detailed article explaining the sit-in economy and how the government was providing with misleading figures.
“The bottom line is that Pakistan’s economy lost its momentum as we entered the second half of the last fiscal year – much before the launch of sit-ins in Islamabad. There are several factors that contributed to the slowdown of Pakistan’s economy. These include poor governance, weak economic team, continued mismanagement of energy sector, lack of communication with private sector, little or no focus on economy and a leadership detached from the ground reality. Most importantly, the massacre of Model Town, Lahore in June totally unnerved the investors, both domestic and foreign, as they watched the unfortunate event live on TV screens. Furthermore, the way the government h andled the protest and dharna through the unprecedented use of containers, disrupting the flow of goods and trade as well as the firing and shelling of tear gas in front of the seat of the government in Islamabad, again live on TV screens, totally devastated the investment climate in the country. The continued political stalemate in the country is adding fuel to the fire.”
Dharna & AAM ADMI
Given these excerpts the common Pakistani (aam admi) remains confused about the future political scenario and the socio-political divide grows as PTI marches for Dharna. The public indulges in drawing room conversations, fiery social media dialogues and this ‘extreme shifting of focus’ may not lead to productive outcomes. This is where the entrepreneur may revist his strategy – proactive or reactive ?
The public also needs more awareness about the Dharna economy and in light of the above mentioned information it may only be fair to say that political unrest is never a good sign for a nascent entrepreneurial structure. A healthy debate is a political right and a healthy discussion helps develop a structured thought. In times like these the public needs to be less opinionated. The role of public figures increases so it could influence the reactive strategy (develop a strcutured thought and critical analysis).
The proactive entrepreneur must always be prepared for such situations. Fractions of society take hate speech seriously and that may actually be the reason they get exploited by incomplete media reports. The business health of the economy gets most affected by the reaction of the common man which can not be ignored in any form! However, one cannot also ignore the role of democracy and that the opposition reserves the right to interact with masses in a peaceful way. The economic slow down in this case maybe temporary and short-lived. The bigger test is of the entrepreneur; after all it’s all about the alternative strategies he adopts in times like these. In a country that has witnessed Sit-ins for decades it maybe the right time to review the “economic loss” they generated.