Volume 22 Issue 9, September 2018
 
 

 

There is no example in the history of contemporary Pakistan that one political party which won only one seat in an election (November 2002) secured 115 seats in polls sixteen years later (July 2018). Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insraf’s road to power in the last 16 years speaks of self-confidence, persistence, struggle and the courage of its Chairman who founded PTI in 1996 and transformed it into a major political force in Pakistan in just 22 years. The unthinkable has happened and those who used to treat Imran Khan in a casual manner, ridiculed him and dismissed the possibility of his becoming Prime Minister ever, are shocked.

However, the post 2018-election scenario in Pakistan is marred with challenges and opportunities as was articulated by Prim Minister Imran Khan in his speech on August 19. He made it clear that he will not compromise on merit, good governance and the rule of law. Amidst the allegations of rigging and ‘invisible’ forces helping PTI to come to power, one can expect not only the deepening of political polarization but also a real test for Imran Khan to govern one of the most ungovernable countries in the world.

How will he fulfill expectations and aspirations of the people and what is the likelihood of Imran Khan transforming Pakistan in terms of governance, rule of law, justice system, taxation system and foreign policy? The pledges made by him to eradicate corruption and nepotism and restore the image of Pakistan will go through a tough test. His speeches, when his party had organized the country’s longest sit-in in Islamabad in 2014, along with his election and post-election speeches, need to be carefully examined. The opposition parties and his critics have labelled him as a symbol of contradictions and a person who has a track record of making U-turns on every major issue. Now that he is in power, it will be interesting to observe his policies and how they will be implemented. Will he be able to mitigate the sufferings of the common people by improving the quality of their lives? Will they really be provided clean and safe drinking water, better education, housing, public transport and medical facilities?

Pakistan as a country of 220 million people and a hub of conflicts at various levels, provides an opportunity to Imran Khan to replace the corrupt and rust-ridden system with a system based on accountability, transparency, good governance, rule of law and a workable justice system. Asad Umar, who is perceived as an economic whizkid, is the new minister responsible for finance and economic matters. He is confronted with the gigantic task of saving the country from economic collapse. With 95 billion dollars of external and another 90 billion dollars of internal debt that amount to 60% of the GDP of Pakistan, it will certainly be an uphill task for Imran Khan’s government to meet the serious economic challenges.

It is not only the question of a debt burden but low foreign exchange reserves and 27 billion dollars of trade gap as well. This must be a source of serious concern for the new government. From where will the financial resources be arranged to pay a foreign debt of billions of dollars in the near future and to implement the programmes that Imran Khan has pledged. He has promised to provide 10 million jobs and 5 million low-cost houses to the people during his five year tenure. How will his government deal with the menace of money laundering of billions of dollars every year and succeed in bringing ill-gotten wealth from abroad? To what extent will the overseas Pakistanis, who are a major support base for Pakistan’s economy, help Imran Khan in dealing with the looming financial crisis? The questions need answers and though Prime Minister Imran Khan has infused a lot of hope in his address to the nation, the proof of the pudding is in the wating.

Imran Khan has accomplished his dream of coming to power but faces major challenges. First is the role of the ‘mafias’ in depleting the financial, natural and human resources of Pakistan. The age-old culture of corruption and nepotism which has now deep roots in Pakistan cannot be dismantled so easily because the beneficiaries of a system which patronized people involved in taking bribes, commissions and misusing their authority, will not give up their privileges and benefits which they have accumulated over several decades. Does Imran’s government have the capacity and capability to confront such ‘mafias’, particularly when in Imran Khan’s party there is no dearth of people who have a track record of acquiring ill-gotten wealth and considering themselves above the law?

Imran Khan has pledged that the heads of public sector institutions will be honest persons and will be appointed on the basis of merit. How will debt-ridden PIA, the Steel Mill, Railways and other such state owned organizations be dealt with? Will Imran Khan succeed in appointing the heads of the State Bank, the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency on merit? Asking for votes in elections by making tall promises is one thing but doing it practically is another.
The challenge of good governance, rule of law, an equitable justice system and eradication of corruption and nepotism is an absolute necessity. As such, if Imran’s government is able to complete five years in power, will it go for the next elections in 2023 with a clean slate?

It is true that Pakistan is an ungovernable country but if the leadership is determined to uphold the rule of law and justice system and embark on across the board accountability by showing that it is a doer in terms of providing people basic facilities of life, things in the country can certainly be expected to turn around. Yet, will it be wishful thinking to expect Pakistan to become a model of good governance in a span of merely five years? What is possible is to set the ball rolling and strengthen institutions which are essential in the efficient, transparent and honest mode of governance.

The mother of all challenges to be faced by the new government is to meet the expectations and aspirations of people because, since his struggle began in 1996 till today, Imran Khan is firm and determined to change things for the better by uprooting corruption, nepotism, establishing the rule of law and preventing things which cause pain and misery to the people.
Thirdly, Imran Khan’s government faces uncooperative and hostile opposition parties. This particularly makes the PML (N) a major challenge for the new government. An earlier reflection of such behaviour was witnessed during the voting for the Leader of the House in the National Assembly on July 17. Should the government concentrate on its agenda or allow itself to be bogged down in the politics of confrontation which some opposition parties are planning and which is yet to be seen. Finally, the economic predicament of Pakistan and the internal and external security threats are termed as square challenges for the new government. If the government is able to manage the economic malaise, this would mean a great success for the country because, without financial resources, it will be impossible to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people. The other issues can then be tackled with more confidence. The early months (the first 100 days of Imran Khan’s government) will determine the future direction of the government and its ability to deal with the gigantic issues of governance.

 
 

 
 
     
The writer is meritorious Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. He can be reached at amoonis@hotmail.com    
 
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