Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf became the dominant ruling party as a result of General Elections 2018. Prior to the elections, Imran khan promised a revolutionary approach towards rectifying the governance of Pakistan, which according to him, had been mishandled for decades. The most notable feature of his pre-election campaign was his 100 days agenda. As the hundred days are coming to a pass, there is soul searching with a mix of optimism. Imran khan , his dedication, honesty and loyalty are beaming through his persona and conduct but this is only the start. The intricacies of handling the affairs of the state with a past riddled with corruption, military coups and political instability is no walk in the park. But, it is too early to lose heart.
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First and foremost, the promises made deserve a due notice. The 100 days agenda included the creation of 10 million jobs, building of 5 million houses for the poor, revamping the tourist industry, complete overhaul of the taxation system, revitalizing the manufacturing sector and boosting business friendly infrastructure, fixing the energy challenge, inclusion of overseas Pakistan in the uplift of the economy and last but not the least, reforming State owned institutions. Even the most experienced leaders of PTI confess that it was simply impractical to achieve all these gigantic tasks in 100 days, or even to initiate them successfully, for now, it seems that these promises will have to wait for another year, or perhaps, even more. Many academicians and think-tanks are advocating a “wait and see” approach but it is not too late to begin a well-informed impartial analysis. As the dust of political rhetoric settles and harsh realities of numbers weigh down upon Imran Khan , there is enough to make out a preliminary performance analysis.
From a factual position, the PTI Government found itself in hot waters right from the start. As the new cabinet took oath, the foreign reserves only had enough to pay for two month’s worth of imports. The liquidity position forced Imran khan to halt projects that required an excessive amount of money supply. Further, the previous Government had exhausted all avenues of loans and had spent huge resources on transportation and infrastructure projects, ignoring the prospect of current deficit combined with the negative balance of payments. The Orange Line, Metros, the new airport and extension of Motorway took away billions of Dollars of Government treasury. Also, the income tax benefit granted to salaried persons reduced the collection of income tax, which brought the current deficit to dangerous levels. Imran khan took the bold step of spilling the beans in front of the nation and brought all stakeholders onboard. He declared a state of emergency over Government expenditures and launched austerity measures never seen before. Although, these steps look like gimmicks for starters, but if they are enforced for the whole 5 years of PTI Government, it is bound to save billions of Rupees. It must be appreciated that Imran Khan believes in setting his own house in order before transferring the burden to tax payers.
The PTI Government has been criticised for once again, repeating the same stance and relying on loans. Imran Khan himself went to Saudia Arabia twice and came back with an assistance package in terms of oil payments and a loan to improve liquidity. His diplomatic mission to China was also misconstrued as a plea for loans, but instead, it was a prudent effort to clarify aims and objectives of CPEC and enhancing cooperation on socio-political levels. As a result of Imran khan’s visit, the implementation on BRI and CPEC have been revitalised. For the first time, Pakistan has openly asked for assistance in anti-corruption measures. There are also talks of Chinese model of legislation against corruption in Pakistan, a step that can save the future of the country from this menace. At the same time, countries like Iran, Qatar and Malaysia have also shown a new zest for bi-lateral ties. It seems Pakistan is beginning to take its place among the influential countries of the world.
According to experts of the World Bank, the newly elected Government has slashed expenditures around thirty percent and based on estimates, this cut in expenditures can go up to seventy percent in terms of development projects. The PTI team effectively put an end to Punjab Government Laptop Scheme saving 8 Billion Rupees in a single stroke. Also, discretionary funds of all Federal and Provincial Ministers have been done away with. Another achievement came in the form of minimizing maintenance expenditures of public offices, accommodations and facilities. Billions of Rupees have been spared from the Government Treasury by slashing the funds required to run President, Prime Minister and Governor Houses. Luxury vehicles and foreign travelling expenses have also been halted. These measures do not put a serious dent in the national debt nor do they ameliorate the national budget deficit, but at least they are indicative of the political will and determination of the political leadership.
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A key player in running the affairs of Governance is the bureaucracy. As the PTI team took over, the senior positions in Federal Ministries were occupied by civil servants who had worked with the PML-N government. Keeping in line with Imran Khan’s view of depoliticising bureaucracy, the prospect of abrupt posting/transfers and appointment of handpicked favourites was not practiced. As a result, the PTI government faced a string of typical resistance to change. Imran khan has time and again lashed out at slow progress on initiatives and reform programs. Prudently, there is a lesson to be learned here. Something that the PTI Government can come to terms with, only with the passage of time. It will take effort and well-informed appointments to get the “right man on the right job”. There have been significant changes in the civil servant machinery but much remains to be accomplished. Showing early signs of frustration, Imran khan has made multiple committees and task forces to undertake critical amendments and improvements in the senior and middle civil servant structure. The fruits of these efforts cannot be gauged before a considerable time has passed.
Imran khan and his team are coming to grips with administration of Pakistan. Successes as well as failures are bound to occur side by side. Yes, there is no doubt that the mark has been missed, the 100 days agenda stands unfulfilled. But it is evident that Imran khan is growing in his vision and experience. With a pint of optimism, Imran Khan and his team will learn in time and from each incident. The new government is on the right track and they are looking their part. The country is facing heavy odds and it is only with solid conviction and dedication that these enormous challenges can be met. It is the direction and the mindset that matters. The minor details maybe painting a dismal picture but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The country, at the moment, needs unity as well as faith. If the promises of the one hundred days agenda could not be achieved, the nation should be willing to give an honest leader, another two hundred with magnanimity.
The Writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation.