BY M. FAZAL ELAHI,
In his maiden victory address to the nation on July 26 Prime Minister-in-waiting of Pakistan, Imran Khan (IK) made a number of tall but apparently sincere commitments to the people of Pakistan.
Though somewhat lofty, one couldn’t but sincerely appreciate that all the issues highlighted by IK in his address on July 26 are those that people have been longing to see happen in their beloved motherland-Pakistan. Whatever Imran Khan outlined in his address is unambiguously vital down to the core. The fact however remains that all that he propagated during his election campaign and thereafter, regardless of its ingenuity, was nothing unusual. Successive leaders who were brought to the citadel of power by the people, in the country’s 70 year-old history, had made similar promises in the past but none of them ever fulfilled their commitments.
Having said that, the motive certainly is not to browbeat IK or cast aspersions on his sincerity. IK’s intent may be virtuous but the attainment of these towering goals that he has set for himself may not be as easy as they appear.
Let’s deal with all the issues that Imran Khan put emphasis on during his victory speech on July 26 one by one:
Frugality (prudence), he said, would be the hallmark of his government: Frugality has always been and continues to be a long-drawn issue. This is one issue that successive governments have vociferously talked about during their respective tenures. However, how much parsimony they practically exercised when they were in power has always remained questionable. Undeniably, judicious spending of the tax payers’ money in every sphere of government’s activities must be considered as a sacred responsibility, and no compromise whatsoever should be made in this realm. To what extent Mr. Khan succeeds in realizing this vital commitment, only time will tell.
Won’t live in the palatial PM House: Mr. Khan’s thinking vis-à-vis the matter is worthy of appreciation. It should not be looked at with distrust. But the fact remains that this is yet again a thought that his predecessors had also expressed before they came to power. People who keep a close eye on the Pakistan’s politics would tend to agree that none of those who had landed into power in this country, at one time or the other, ever fulfilled this commitment. End of the day, the plea they took for ultimately moving into the cozy, gorgeous and luxurious Prime Minister House was – ‘susceptible security at other probable places of residence for the Prime Minister’. Would Mr. Khan be able to firmly adhere to this decision of his? I honestly pray he does; prove his detractors wrong and win the hearts of the people out-and-out. Imran Khan’s intent to convert the PM House into an institution, perhaps of higher learning, however doesn’t seem feasible as the PM House is situated at a highly sensitive (Red Zone) area of the capital where giving access to common people would be a difficult proposition. I would, instead, suggest that the government should declare the gargantuan PM’s residence as a state guest house for housing the visiting foreign heads of states and governments, and other high profile foreign dignitaries.
Accountability to start from “me and my ministers”, there will be justice but no victimization: This sounds stately indeed! In fact, this is a phenomenon that has been conspicuously missing in our part of the world. Societies of the world that have attained phenomenal success in every sphere of national development, and today stand out perceptibly among the venerated and highly developed nations of the world have done so by pursuing a transparent, across-the-board accountability process and providing equitable justice to its people. Unfortunately, both these vital elements have been glaringly missing in our country.
Marginalized to get economic opportunities, Will help youth find jobs and develop skills: If Mr. Khan succeeds in attaining these two vital goals that he has so intrepidly and vociferously emphasized during his election campaign, it would unquestionably become the hallmark of his success in other areas too. Opportunities for the marginalized and creation of employment opportunities for the youth of this country have always remained a distant dream. Had we sincerely endeavored to attain these two crucial goals conscientiously, we would have won half the battle on the socio-economic and political front and brought stability and prosperity to Pakistan. Rhetoric of successive governments, vis-à-vis the above two vital concerns has always been optimal, not much however has ever been done in practical terms to address these popular concerns. Unambiguously, a lot of dexterous planning and management would be required to attain desired results in these crucial areas which unfortunately continue to be in a state of utter neglect even after seven decades of country’s existence. Employment generation for the youth of this country will certainly have far-reaching impact on the socio-economic front. But one is compelled by circumstances to admit that the target set forth by IK to create one crore (10 million) jobs during his tenure is a little too ambitious, and would, therefore, be a bit too difficult to attain.
Will make pro-farmers policies: This unambiguously is yet another area which, though extremely significant from the point of view of country’s economic growth, has not been given due importance by successive governments. Pakistan’s economy is fundamentally an agrarian economy. More than 75% of the country’s rural population is dependent on agriculture. Beyond any shadow of doubt, had this vital sector of economic development been duly accentuated in the list of national priorities, it would have not only provided succor to the poor tillers of the soil of this country but also brought exceptional economic growth and prosperity to Pakistan. How much the upcoming government of PTI focuses on the development of the agriculture sector, the backbone of the country’s economic development, would depend on the tangible measures it takes to truly strengthen it?
Will bring investment to Pakistan: Last but not the least, while outlining the charter of his government’s domestic priorities on July 26, Imran Khan expressed his firm commitment to the nation that he would make all out efforts to bring foreign investment into Pakistan. Though highly desirable and essentially required to give boost to economic development in the country, bringing foreign investment to Pakistan is going to be an uphill task. The ongoing war on terror and the prevalent dismal economic situation in the country are two major factors that are playing a critical role in keeping foreign investment at bay. It is a known fact that except CPEC the flow of foreign investment in Pakistan has abysmally shrunk to a disappointingly low level. As far as the issue of foreign investment is concerned, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to say that we have put all our eggs in one basket. There is an urgent need to broaden the base of foreign investment in the country. To be able to successfully rejuvenate the volume of foreign investment in Pakistan, PM-in-waiting Imran Khan’s government will have to particularly deal with the issue of terrorism effectively. In addition, IK’s government would also have take tangible and effective measures to encourage domestic investment with a sense of utmost priority and commitment. Unless this is done on war footing, attainment of this vital goal would, as in the past, remain a far cry.
All said and done, the fact remains that success of the foreseeable government of Mr. Khan both at the centre as well as the provinces would largely depend not only on how steadfast he remains to his commitments, but importantly also on how quickly he fulfills the commitments he has made to the people of this country. If, for whatever reasons, he adopts lukewarm approach towards realization of the pledges he has made to the masses, or if he totally or even partially fails to accomplish these promises, I am afraid he will be no different from his predecessors and would have to face the wrath of not only the upcoming hostile opposition particularly in the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly but also his own ardent supporters imminently. All eyes are glued on Imran Khan. How successfully he manages the affairs of the country would be known to all and sundry as soon as he is on the driving seat.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
BY M. FAZAL ELAHI,