Old beginning: On Pakistan politics

Shehbaz Sharif’s political difficulties are compounded by the economic crisis

In many ways, the new alliance is a replica of the previous coalition government. Mr. Shehbaz was widely unpopular as Prime Minister under whose watch Pakistan’s economic woes have multiplied — inflation stands at a punishing 30%, while the economy is run on a $3 billion lifeline the IMF provided last year. Foreign exchange reserves, despite improving, still stand at a low of $8.2 billion. The new government will have to restart talks with the IMF for a bailout package. Even if a deal is reached quickly, it is not going to be a magic bullet for Pakistan’s debt-laden economy, which is facing repayments worth $70 billion over the next three years. Moreover, the country is also facing growing security challenges in its border region with Afghanistan. That Mr. Shehbaz, instead of Mr. Nawaz who had a history of confrontation with the military, was chosen to lead the coalition suggests that the member parties and the power behind the scene prefer status quo. But the voters did not want the status quo. Also, if the military hoped that Mr. Khan and the PTI would be sidelined after the election, that is not going to happen. Mr. Shehbaz’s challenge is to lead a difficult coalition through choppy political waters while taking tough decisions to pull the economy out of what he calls “the hole it has fallen into”. A tall ask indeed.