Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India

Pakistan is currently in the grip of massive economic crisis. The wheat flour is Rs 150 per kg (Pakistan Rupee PKR). The staple diet Roti (type of bread) is Rs 30 in a country where average daily earning is Rs 500, with an average household needing close to 10 Rotis a day. The US dollar is close to PKR 230. Summing up the economic plight of Pakistan, John Ciorciari, professor at Michigan’s School of Public Policy says. “Pakistan faces a severe economic crisis and clearly requires external support. Foreign exchange reserves are at dangerously low levels—enough to pay for only a few weeks’ worth of imports. Inflation is at its highest levels in decades, growth is sagging and the central bank has raised interest rates sharply to address a weak currency.” No doubt this worsening is partly precipitated by the massive floods in Pakistan. And the unprecedented floods are the direct outcome of climate change. As such also the basic structure of the economy of Pakistan has been on weaker wicket, with military dominance, ‘Islam in Politics’ and US dictates influencing its total scenario. And it spends massively on defence as it is a nuclear power. The main beneficiary is the military which is the last word in Pakistani politics.

Persecution of Hindus, Christians, Shias and Kadianis (these two are sects of Islam) began over a period of time. The ‘religion in politics’ dominated the scene, the basic infrastructure of agriculture, industry remained on the margins, health and education were having low priority.

No two cases are exactly similar; still some generalisations can be drawn. In case of Sri Lanka, the ethnic politics, the Sinhala Buddhist politics was in the driving seat. The HinduTamils were the first target, followed by the persecution of Muslims and Christians. The food crisis, the rising prices led to the uprising of people. Sri Lanka did begin as a democracy but the pressure of ethnic (also overlapping religious) issues dominated the political space to disenfranchise the Hindus (Tamils), and others in due course. Then Sri Lanka is in a debt trap engineered by China. And in Pakistan too China’s overwhelming economic presence is creating more problems instead of solving them. The rulers in Pakistan are lucky in the sense that people, unlike in Sri Lanka, are not revolting despite hardships. They can always divert public attention by continually exaggerating the danger from their traditional enemy–India.

In India currently the communal elements are boasting that it is due to Modi that India is not having such a crisis. Surely the crisis in India is not of the proportion of what Pakistan is currently facing or what Sri Lanka witnessed and is still in troubled waters. Still the rising prices of commodities are breaking the back of the poor and even the middle class to which India’s Finance minister also claims to belong. Indian rupee has seen a free fall against the US dollar and now it stands at Rs 83 against the dollar. The unemployment is all time high, the GDP on the lower side. The Oxfam report shows the widening gulf between the rich and poor. That the Muslim and Christian minorities are under constant intimidation and marginalisation is best reflected in what India’s ex-police officer Julio Rebiero said, “Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend have now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practising a religion that is different from theirs. I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.”

British who ruled and plundered the region also sowed the seeds of ‘divide and rule’, dividing the people along Hindu-Muslim line or Sinhala-Tamil line. Partition of the country was also a result of the same. Secularism is now a dirty word in all these three countries! Without a powerful mass movement against the ruling dispensations in South Asia people will continue to suffer. The tragedy is that amidst the agonising economic and political instability in the region Right Wing forces of all hues are gaining legitimacy in all these countries and capturing power through ballots.


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Vol 55, No. 33, Feb 12 - 18, 2023