Symptoms of distress

The state is sick and the infection has set in inside its economy. But could we lose everything else in the process too?

Pakistan is sick. And this is no mild ailment or passing cough. Our federation is suffering from a back-breaking, blood-curdling, fever that won’t seem to crack. The infection that has caused this fever has crept its way through the country and nestled deep inside the economy. 

As time has passed the state has ignored this ailment and continued on its path of destructive gluttony. With every day the infection has spread. It has stretched its dark, insidious limbs like an enraged octopus, engulfing and squeezing the life out of everything in its path.

The results have been clear as day. The pain of inflation has swept through the population like an angry wound. The cold sweats caused by unemployment have resulted in the jitters of anxiety. And the overwhelming exhaustion that comes with any fever has run its course through the country leaving its people spent, its businesses weary, and its economy in a state of absolute lethargy.

And now there is a new kind of symptom that has come to the fore — thrashing. After all, this country is a sick creature. It is burning up, it is scared, it is angry, it is confused, it is afraid for its life and now it is lashing out. In the ensuing flailing the state has begun to hurt itself. The recklessness with which helpful members of this country such as Jibran Nasir have been picked up and had their constitutional rights violated is symptomatic of a state that is reacting in anger and frustration. 

This is of course not the first time that the state has lashed out in anger or used its powers unjustly. We have many examples of such behaviour. Some came in other moments of ailments and others came out of hubris and gluttony. What we must remember is that it is the actions of the past that have brought us to this point. This is perhaps an unique moment in Pakistan’s history because we are simultaneously struggling from a trifecta of social, economic, and political crises. 

In many ways the fever is the result of circumstances we could not control. Pakistan did not cause the Covid-19 pandemic which halted the global economy. Pakistan also had nothing to do with the Russia-Ukraine war which disrupted fuel supplies and caused a global recession. 

Yet in so  many more things it is our own folly. There was plenty Pakistan could have done to protect itself from such a situation. For decades we have allowed ourselves bad habits and harmful indulgences. We have made our economy dependent on foreign aid and have consumed more than we have produced. As a result our bureaucracy has become bloated, clogged, and inefficient  Time and again we have chosen to address the symptoms rather than the cause. 

Liquidity injections, foreign aid, and debt restructuring have been used as balms and cold compresses to  cool our heating economy. And even though the fever may go down at times, all the doctors know that by morning it will be raging again. This time it is burning everything, and it will take every ounce of our resources to fight back and survive. 

There are many things wrong with this country. Many things that its founders and its first generations got wrong. We are suffering from those. They picked up bad habits such as military dictators and never picked up on healthy habits like democracy. The result has been a slow, morbid, poisoning that people in the corridors of power have watched with cold apathy. Despite all those flaws that they plagued this country with, they ensured that Pakistan survived. Today, we are standing at a moment where the symptoms of our distress are reaching a breaking point. Pakistan will survive this. The age of 75 is quite young for a nation. Yet as things stand, we will come out of it weakened and perhaps unable to get back up from the next blow. 

If we are to have any hope, there must be less thrashing and more acceptance of the illness. 

Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi is senior editor at Profit. He also covers agriculture and climate change. He can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Writing while depressed is not only bad for one’s own health but for masses in this information age.

    At present we are far better in almost every metric when compared to our last 10 20 years. The liquidity crunch we currently are facing as a Nation will be tackled as we did manage many times before.

    The current depression being displayed across many articles aross Profit appears to be political especially a trademark of being Tigers of a nau sir baaz.

  2. Mr. Sohail Khan seems to be a member of the elite, whose wealth is stashed in dollars or other hard assets, for whom inflation is merely a number. For the rest of us peasants, struggling in this 50 year high record inflation, where all of our life savings have been decimated and barely enough to afford two decent meals a day. We have already forgotten about sending our kids to decent schools/colleges as those are only dreams which civilized nation’s can offer. We are only left praying to the Almighty as we have done for the past 75 years.

  3. Here we see an emphasis on the seriousness of the challenges facing the nation, comparing the situation to a debilitating fever caused by a deep infection that has spread throughout the economy.


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