Two years back no one could have predicted what we’re witnessing right now in Pakistan. Many used to say Imran Khan would never become PM as he was unacceptable to unseen forces. They thought Nawaz Sharif’s party would again be in power. Some were saying PTI would be in power (minus Imran) with PPP’s support. But today, Imran Khan is PM of the country. Before coming to power, he had unveiled his 100-day plan. Some days back he laid out the achievements of his government in the first 100 days and his future course of action. As a matter of fact, this in itself is a good gesture that he remembered what he had promise to the nation.
The austerity drive: A good start
Imran Khan started his government with announcing an austerity drive. He said that he would not live in PM house, and turn the building into a world class university. The number of government employees in PM House has been reduced to under 10 from about 500. Almost 70 cars of PM House were auctioned. He also directed his cabinet to cut off useless expenses. Many of them followed the order. All these steps were not going to boost the economy but were intended to give an impression to the masses that the tax paid by them was not being used on luxuries of the rulers.
Economy: Starting from the scratch
In last five years, the economy was introduced to new lows in the nation’s history. Trade deficit widened, current account deficit reached 2 billion dollars per month, exports declined from 25bn dollars to 20bn dollars and agriculture sector was completely ignored. In first 100 days, government succeeded in getting a breather in shape of a hefty financial package from Saudi Arabia. China and UAE also committed to give huge packages. Beside packages, some trade and investment agreements also were signed with these countries. However, all these packages are temporary solutions to increase foreign reserves.
The three-factor economic model: So far so good
According to Finance Minister Asad Umar, PTI’s economic model is based on three factors: exports, remittances and foreign direct investments. In first 100 days, despite the difficult economic situation government tried to provide impetus to the exports by cutting down gas and electricity prices. There was a marginal increase in exports in the first three months as a result of this policy. Remittances in first five months of the current year are 9.028bn dollars as compared 8.021bn dollars of last year showing an increase of 12.56%, which is a good sign. In first 100 days, government was contacted by some big investors including Suzuki, Pepsi, Coke, Exon Mobil along with many companies from Malaysia and China that expressed willingness to invest in Pakistan. The challenge for the government is to convert these commitments into tangible investments and create an enabling environment for the investors. Prime minister is focusing on making the business as easy to start in Pakistan as possible and he is soon going to open an office at PM secretariat that will operate as a one-window shop for all functions related to setting up new businesses in Pakistan. So there are positive signs about all three factors and things will be clearer in coming months.
Foreign Policy: Well Done Shah Mehmood
PTI has so far been doing well on the foreign policy front. Shah Mehmood Qureshi has a vast experience of running foreign office. Opening of Karatrpur Corridor was a huge success of the foreign office over India. Moreover, after a heated exchange between Imran Khan and Donald Trump on Twitter, Pakistan is getting good response from America. After a long time Pakistan and UAE are also getting closer. Bilateral discussions have started with 76 different countries. In first four years of PML-N government, they didn’t even have a foreign minister, which was a huge failure on its part.
Punjab Police Reforms: Pace is slow
Police reforms in Punjab is another challenge for PTI. In KP, during the last five years, PTI claimed that it had depoliticized the police, and the claim had substance too. It took them three years to get the Police Act passed from KP assembly. In Punjab it is a much more difficult task, probably the most difficult in fact. Nasir Durrani (man behind KP police reforms) was given task to reform Punjab police, but he resigned. Another seven-member committee has now been formed. The pace on fulfillment of this promise is slow and if PTI fails to reform Punjab police, they will face the consequences.
Devolution of Power: This could bring a revolution
Devolution of power is another promise that PTI made. Local Government Bill is ready in Punjab according to government representatives. They want the city and tehsil mayors to be elected by direct vote of the people. Moreover, there should be a village council too which would directly get funds from provincial government. If they successfully implement this, it will be a revolution.
Civil Service Reform: Is it even doable?
They made another promise of civil service reform, which seems almost impossible at the outset. After coming to government, the task was handed to Dr Ishrat Hussain. He visited all the four provinces to take them into confidence but since then we haven’t heard a word about it. Imran Khan also did not inform the nation of the progress on this front. The pace on this issue is very slow. In coming months it will be clear whether they can fulfill this promise or not.
Poverty alleviation and the 5 million houses: Even half would do
Another promise by Imran Khan was to uplift the poor people and eliminate poverty. After successful implementation of Sehat Insaf Cards in KP, they are going to expand this project to Punjab, Islamabad and FATA districts which have now been merged into KP. They have committed that 80 million people will get health insurance within next two years. It will be a huge achievement. Shelter home is another project started in various cities across the country for the poorer segments of the society. 5 million houses in 5 years is also one of the promises. If Imran even fulfills half of it, it will be a massive success.
Rumours about govt’s future: Been there before
Lastly, there are rumours regarding government’s future. We heard similar things throughout the last five years about KP government too. Critics of Imran khan used to say that nothing was done in KP and that he would lose badly but the people of KP overwhelmingly voted for his party, which was a proof of the trust of the people of KP in Imran Khan. They have never given a second chance to anyone but this time they created history by voting PTI to power for the consecutive second term.
But only time will tell if they will be accepted in Punjab next time or not. Their past experience in KP has been superb. And as the saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. If anything, Imran Khan does have the will to change the fate of this country.