Asad Umar, expected to be Pakistan’s next finance minister, is a tall but reticent man. Known for his sardonic tweets, the bespectacled former chief executive of Pakistan’s largest corporation and the chief economic advisor in Khan’s inner circle, came up with a widely shared one-liner on Election Day last week, hours before polls had even closed.
“Pakistanis have won the toss and elected to bat”
Umar’s confident cricket reference, which went viral, was clearly to his own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s election symbol, the ubiquitous balla [cricket bat], and its most famous bearer in the history of the country.
But while prime minister-in-waiting Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi had taken the same decision-to go to bat, and very successfully-exactly 26 years and four months ago at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the 1992 World Cup final against England, his historic win in Pakistan’s 10th general election last week-clearly up there as one of the more exciting instances in the charged history of this raucous republic- is also a moment of reckoning.
Simply put, Pakistan is not doing too well, and Khan’s got his tasks cut out for him.
According to Bloomberg, its tanking economy, slowing to 5.2 per cent growth-with surging imports and debt, a balance of payments crisis thanks to a current account deficit of almost 50 per cent, the worst performing stock market globally last year, the fastest dropping reserves in Asia (which have hit a three-and-a-half year low) consistent devaluations (four since December), foreign direct investment barely moving (0.8% to $2.77 billion for FY18, hardly an increase), a water and power crisis that cannot be solved by less than an infrastructural miracle, and rampant unemployment in an increasingly young and uneducated country.