Predicting the future is never easy. Major corporations and nations devote substantial efforts towards devising processes and technologies that assist in managing information and knowledge, and to help understand the future. The more accurately one can grasp the emerging world; the better one can plan and choose the course.
A related debate has to with if deductive or inductive reasoning better for this task. Furthermore, whether the right or left-brain people more suited at seeing patterns and trends and provide the clues about what is coming. One of the key shortcoming in this regard is that humanly operates from what is known. While new discoveries give further credence to the fact that there is a lot we do not know. Even the best-developed models can be thrown off by a single anomaly, as the proponents of chaos theory would claim.
A lot also depends on the assumptions and frame of reference being used to grasp a given reality. Now a day’s, media plays an important role in framing peoples’ perceptions about what that may be. Despite the limitations, the worse mistake is not to have predicted wrongly, but to have not even made indigenous attempts to understand the future. In the absence of this effort, one is prone in believing what others may conceive.
With this in mind, what would be the best way to predict the results of Pakistan’s elections, especially in a region marred by years of conflict and economic uncertainty?
Pakistan And War And Terror
For more than a decade now, the politics of Pakistan has been disproportionately impacted by the war on terror. In addition, widespread corruption and poor governance has resulted in economic stagnation and the energy crisis. In other words, the internal and external problems of the country have become linked. The nation cannot walk away from the war on terror, and the more it stays involved; its economic and security situation worsens.
For example, two prominent thoughts have emerged about where Pakistan is heading in the US. One of them presents a pessimistic and damning view that the nation is gradually spinning out of control, extremism is spreading, and the point of no return is approaching quickly. The scholars with this view are often older and have been dealing with affairs of Pakistan for an extended period of time. One senses exasperation in their demeanor. It appears to be an after effect of having dealt with the complex Afghanistan situation and the difficult Pakistan-India relations and to make sense of it in the context of the war on terror.
A little bit optimistic version usually comes from the relatively younger intellectual community of the think tanks. The hopefulness is premised on the economic prospects the region, manifesting in the form regional trade and energy dealings. Generally, there is an emphasis on promoting the civilian government as oppose to depending a whole lot on its military.
On the other hand, it is equally critical to understand the trends impacting the surrounding region where nationalism, conservatism and security concerns are resurgent. The developing global competition between China and the US, the impact of BRICS, and the traditional tussles between the Arabs, Persian, and the Turks, are all equally important considerations.
The consequences of climatic changes, especially the frequent flooding and predicted an acute shortage of water will have no less impact on the region as the population continues to explode.
Pakistan’s Future And Elections
The political dynamics of Pakistan, and many other places for that matter are stuck in a vicious cycle. The past and present political mistakes result in a reactionary cycle. And, the reactionary politics may not be what is required to deal with the emerging world. For example, nationalistic, conservative and religious forces are on the rise in Pakistan as well as in the Middle East. This may have to do with the war on terror, change in the global balance of power and associated economic influence. Although it is important to understand the deeper reasons producing this change, more critical is to understand where this dynamics may lead to if left unchecked.
Consider the example of Egypt. After years of Mubarak rule, Muslim Brotherhood-led government came into power. While the uprising there was spearheaded by younger liberal elements, they were not organized enough to benefit from what transpired as a result of their efforts. Now, faced with economic constraints, Mursi government is being forced to take some of the same steps Mubarak was blamed for, and in the end may also cause its decay. American economic assistance to Egypt is linked with continuing the peace treaty with Israel. The big question in these circumstances is what will follow if Mursi fails, and will the pendulum shift to liberal forces or even more radical elements.
The Demise Of Liberals
The disconnect between what the people want and the external expectations of it, if not properly managed, could prove to be devastating in the long run. And, this holds true for not only Egypt and Pakistan but for any other nation of the world. In this regard, PoliTact has noted in early analyses that the liberal space is continuously shrinking in Pakistan.
As is happening in the region, the conservative, nationalist and moderate religious elements are likely to win in Pakistan’s elections. However, they may require the help of liberals to form the government. Such a divisive polity is unlikely to be highly decisive and the governance will obviously suffer once more. In the long run, continued failure to deliver will result in more support for hard-line elements and against dealing with the west. This is not very difficult to forecast.
Predicting the results of Pakistan’s elections is thus not that hard. How to avert the expected paralysis is where most of the focus is needed. After having identified a pattern, the job of whoever is in charge is to make changes to the present course, so as to mitigate a potential risk.
The key question is how much of Pakistan’s leadership, of all shapes and forms, preparing the nation for these trends and challenges. Within this inquiry, lies another major dilemma that the leaders of both developed and developing the world are facing. Is the job of a leader to educate their voters about the most serious issues and provide them with a new vision, direction, and solution to what is not working? Or, do they just simply represent popular voices in the short term to win votes, while leading the citizens towards oblivion in the long run.
While it is important to make changes within the country, equally critical will be the transformation of Pakistan’s external environment. Other than the immediate neighborhood, the nation has little influence to change international politics. A strong ship can survive a brewing storm, but a whole lot also depends on its intensity and scale. The key is to be preparing for a storm while knowing that there always will be unknowns.