Hundred Days But One Passion

Pragmatism and commitment being a compulsion…

Good, ethical governance is the key driver of a capable developmental state, and generates sustainable development without compromising the results. Governance is today presented as a new paradigm of social regulation that has come to supplant the previously established paradigm based on social conflict and on the privileged role of the sovereign state to regulate this conflict through the power of control and coercion at its disposal.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s long rise to power in Pakistan has been far from conventional, the winner of 2018 election is a cricket legend who traveled the world and reveled in his celebrity status. With the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerging victorious in the 2018 general elections, people’s expectations from the government are high. Promising to bring   a “Naya Pakistan”, Prime Minister Imran Khan has a formidable task ahead of him. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s joyful face, during the oath taking ceremony, tells the story how happy the captain was on his great political achievement. For Imran Khan once alone member of PTI in National Assembly becoming the prime minister of Pakistan is like a dream comes true after a long and hard fought political battle spanning over twenty two years. Khan has successfully mobilised the youth of the country and inspired them with his political vision of ‘Change’. The people disappointed with the status-quo and traditional politics voted for him hoping for a positive change to country’s dismal economic, political and security situation.

With Imran Khan at the helm, never before, the nation was seen so optimistic and upbeat about the future of country. The PTI supporters, especially the youth, showed their optimism by expressing their views on social media. Pakistan is facing colossal challenges: limited foreign exchange reserves, huge current account deficit, debt servicing, international isolation, ever deteriorating bilateral relations with the US, a hostile neighbor squeezing it from the Eastern and the Western flanks, governance, corruption, terrorism and many other issues. Imran Khan has been one of the greatest advocates of meritocracy in the country. If he ensures merit-based selections in every department of the government, capable people could get opportunity to serve the country and people’s trust in the system could be restored.

The PTI government has inherited monumental challenges. Prime Minister Imran Khan has worn the crown of thrones, especially when he has set high standards. It will be no easy task to manage the high hopes of masses waiting anxiously for the promised change to address their grievances. In May, the PTI presented a post-poll 100-day plan wherein it pledged to transform governance standards, strengthen the federation, revitalise the economy, revolutionise social services, ensure national security and overhaul the agricultural sector among other goals. “These 100 days reflect the path for which the country was made,” PM Imran Khan told a ceremony organized to present the party’s reforms agenda, adding that the first 100 days of the PTI government will be reflective of the party’s ideology and policies.

Transform governance…

PTI has promised to indiscriminately pursue all major corruption scandals besides forming a special task force to launch a drive for recovering the looted national wealth parked in offshore tax havens. It also pledged to bring accountability to the core of government by strengthening accountability institutions, including the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Auditor-General’s office, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and other parliamentary bodies. The manifesto also talks in detail about a plan to review the NAB Ordinance of 1999 for removing lacunae such as the ‘voluntary return’ or ‘plea bargain’. PTI, it stated, would support the chairman NAB to conduct organizational reforms focused on ‘people, processes, and systems’.

According to the 100 days plan the government would replicate the KP’s model of local government and the KP Police Act across the country for empowering people at the grassroots level and depoliticising the police. “Public outreach to police will be made easier through new and enhanced policing apps, SMS systems, online FIRs and call centres,” it stated. Reforms, it stated, would be introduced in civil and criminal justice systems, ensuring quick justice and removing procedural delays. The party stated that it intended to transform the civil service into a merit-based, depoliticised cadre of professionals, institutionalising e-governance practices in public administration. Through effective implementation of Right to Information laws, the culture of secretary will be abolished and access to government actions opened up for public scrutiny.

PTI also promised freedom of the press, stating it would develop state-run media organisations autonomous with their own boards of governors, closely following the BBC model.

Strengthening the federation…

PTI has announced that it would reach out to all Baloch leaders, including dissident groups, and especially the youth, by ensuring them political and economic empowerment and including the local population in CPEC projects and the Gwadar’s development. Special development funds would be allocated for consolidating FATA’s integration into K-P, it stated. Under its ‘Mega Development Plan’, three per cent of the federal divisible pool would be allocated for Fata on annual basis. The party also promised to create a province in the South Punjab region, initiate a poverty alleviation drive in Pakistan’s poorest districts, political and socio-economic empowerment of Gilgit-Baltistan, and transforming Karachi into a vibrant competitive megacity through large-scale reforms in governance and with the provision of public services such as housing, mass transit, water and sanitation and protection to life and property. PTI also promised to ensure the social and religious rights of minorities, their places of worship, property and institutions as laid down in the Constitution besides promoting gender parity. It stated that PTI would ensure voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi revealed that, “Southern Punjab is a province of 40 million people. Today this province stands marginalised … no devolution of power there. Power rests in the hands of a few. It is time to remove this feeling of deprivation in southern Punjab. This area is even bigger than the current province of KP … and we want to empower it with the rights it deserves,” he said.

Qureshi said that FATA’s merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was Imran Khan’s top priority. “FATA reforms are a life-old dream of Imran Khan who has roamed all these areas on foot. PTI wants to bring prosperity to the people of these areas who have been deprived for decades. We will remove and abolish the oppressive system. We will launch a mega development plan with involvement of the federal government,” he said. “Right now, it is only the KP government which thinks about the people of FATA. We will engage all provinces to bring them into the mainstream and repeal the FCR with new laws in place after consultation with the local elders. Through a constitutional route, we want to extend the jurisdiction of our courts. We will create employment opportunities for the people in FATA,” he added.

Revitalise economic growth…

Reforms, the party stated, would be brought about in the FBR to broaden the tax net through a robust tax policy, efficient tax administration structure and effective enforcement mechanism. To ensure this, FBR’s autonomy would be increased by reducing the influence of the ministry of finance. Sustainable initiatives would be initiated to reduce taxes on businesses, simplifying tax assessment rules for corporations and small businesses, improve audits to identify potential taxpayers for audit, publish names of non-compliant debtors and strongly pursue large tax evaders, and crack down on corrupt practices promoting tax evasion. Land records will be digitised and property registration process would be automated. Court orders linked with property cases would also be digitised to reduce fiduciary risk to investors.

PTI has announced that it would turnaround state-owned enterprises (SOEs) by creating a wealth fund, aggressive depoliticisation and through effective performance management of capable and autonomous leadership. To overcome energy challenges, the manifesto maintained that the next PTI government would complete electrification of rural areas; solve the issue of circular debt through reducing transmission and distribution losses. PTI will turnaround the tourism industry by improving Pakistan’s image abroad and increase this sector’s direct contribution to GDP.

Unveiling the economic agenda, Finance minister Asad Umar said that private sector would be encouraged to build five million new homes within the first 100 days of his party’s government under the Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme. “Let me make it clear that this will be done in the first 100 days by Prime Minister Imran Khan.” “A competent FBR chairman will be named after introducing reforms in the organization. We have to end our dependence on thermal power. The biggest problem has been to import coal for power generation,” he said. Umar said that his party’s government would create 10 million new jobs in five years. “We have to reduce the burden of taxes on traders, businessmen and industrialists. Small industries cannot bear the burden of unfair system of taxation. Electricity and gas prices will be brought down. We will provide a level-playing field to traders, farmers, businessmen and industrialists,” he said. He announced that the government-owned guesthouses would be turned into hotels and made available for the public, and that four new tourist spots would be discovered within the first 100 days. “A ‘Council of Business Leaders’ would be created to improve Pakistan’s global business standing. ‘Pakistan Wealth Fund’ would be created to fund institutions such as the Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills and power distribution companies to bring revolutionary changes in them,” he added.

Uplift Agriculture and conserve water…

Promising numerous packages for farmers, PTI’s manifesto stated that its government would work to enhance farmer’s profitability and boost this sector’s growth rate, optimise existing subsidy programmes, reduce input costs, transform agriculture produce markets, improve access to finance, and mechanisation, and incentivise value-addition for exports.

The manifesto also insisted that the party would build dams and strengthen the ministry of water resources. It also promised to expedite the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and other dams.

“More fruits and vegetable markets will be set up across Pakistan. We will impose an agriculture emergency to increase farmer profitability, reduce taxes on diesel, encourage a change in crop-mix, and optimize subsidy programs along with other initiatives,” Jahangir Tareen said.

The social services…

The ‘Healthcare for All’ programme will ensure universal health coverage and enhance the focus on primary care while upgrading secondary & tertiary facilities, while Sehat Insaf Card programme will be introduced across the country. Similarly, PTI pledged to introduce the most ambitious education agenda in Pakistan’s history, spanning reforms in primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational, and special education. The agenda also promised to set up a National Commission for Education Standards. Ex KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak recalled the party’s initiatives and reforms brought in its five-year stint in power in the province. He promised that important changes to education and health system in the country would be ensured along with an expansion in the social safety net. The Sehat Insaf Card, currently only restricted to KP, would be expanded to the entire country and a total of 8 million families would be provided with income support, up from 5.4million families today under the Benazir Income Support Programme. He said that the party would protect the rights of women and ensure their progress in society. He said that his party would ensure provision of clean drinking water and begin a tree-plantation campaign.

National security…

PTI government will focus on territorial integrity and sovereignty, socioeconomic development, the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and protection of Pakistani citizens wherever they may happen to be.

The party says it will introduce structural reforms in the ministry of foreign affairs. PTI, the manifesto insisted, would focus on expanding the existing strategic partnership with China and other allies in the region, including the newly-emerging cooperation with Russia. With the US, reciprocity and mutuality of interest will be the determinants of our relationship, the party said. For internal security, a National Security Organisation will be established.

The dawn of hope…

PTI was the first political party that spelled out its priorities and action plans for the change it wants to bring in Pakistan. The plan is ambitious as indeed it should be and if the election results are something to go by, endorsed by the majority of the electorate. In that context the PTI first hundred days plan of action does provide a ray of hope. If PTI, now with a mandate manages to pursue what it has spelled out, we just might shift from mere ‘existence’ to being ‘lively’ and look forward to some real progress.

Published in Melange Intl. Magazine September 2018.

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