Govt must get on with work rather seriously, set its goals right now—1

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Salahuddin Haider

THE Tehreek-i-Insaaf government of Imran Khan, has faced the opposition onslaught with considerable courage and determination, but now that the fray for electioneering will start from next year, it must prepare itself for the daunting task with much more seriously than seen till now. It must set its goals well in advance, squeezing time of weeks or days to hours, for every minute will count in the battle for survival.

It has to do some soul searching as to where it failed, plug those holes, and launch on a plan, where programme and planning uplifted into reality with timely execution. It has done not too bad so far, but not too good either. First, it must form a full-fledged, Planning Commission, completely independent and autonomous in its working, and secondly, allow Pakistanis at home to deposit their savings in local currency to Roshan Digital accounts, which the Banks have been operating, but to draw maximum mileage from it, mere transmission of foreign currencies from overseas Pakistanis, would never be ideal.

Thousands of families, getting money from their loved ones, living abroad, are unable to have their accounts because of stringent State Bank steps of biometric system. Some of the families received cheques after winning court battles in Pakistani rupee, but these cheques, bearing State Bank stamp , cannot be cashed, Neither could it be converted into foreign currencies because of ban from the central bank to buy dollars from the market and deposit in foreign currency market. These cheques, awarded to them by courts after protracted litigation, running into lakhs of rupees, means a lot to middle and lower class families, but are totally useless. These would expire in six months time, and would nothing but waist papers.

If only an amendment is made into the currency laws, these cheques can easily be deposited in the name of persons issued, who can endorse it to it nominees, so that those looking helpless now, can draw the welfare plans on the sum total, like children’s education, renovation of houses, or paying debts.

Lessons should be drawn from Ayub Khan, who despite being a military dictator, had taken the country to pinnacle of glory where industrial progress, commerce and trade, had earned Pakistan a name in the region. He had set up a planning commission under Saeed Ahmad, with Sartaj Aziz, and Jameel Nishtar as members. Its job was to prepare 5-year development plans, 10-year and 20-year perspective planning for the government to frame its annual budget.

Pakistani plan of economic development was cited as role model for many a country. A country on the threshold of youthful years (1947 to1960—just 1 years too short a period for any nation or country—, was far, far ahead of India, and even served as land route for landlocked Nepal and Afghan Transit Trade, so much so that even a country like South Korea borrowed the development strategy from financial wizard Dr Mahboobul Haq, and helped soar its economy sky-high while Pakistan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto abandoned the Planning Commission. Since then a planning minister is looking after a task, which is beyond the capability of any individual, howsoever clever or intelligent his capacity to conceive a well-thought-out programme for long term planning, would always be in question.

Whatever Bhutto’s weaknesses, his role in 1971 crisis, has been debated for long. No point recalling it here, for, it would serve no purpose. But Bhutto should also be remembered for his hard work, working for 15 to 16 hours a day and tasking his ministers to produce results or go home. The country got the Steel Mill from Russia, and the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant remains a towering monument as his brain-child.
Imran too, instead of forming commissions and committees, must believe in action, prompt execution of plans, without delay, show to the world and his own countrymen that he means business. Mere promises would just not do Bhutto used to work on files till wee hours in the morning, whether he hand in country’s break-up, is a useless exercise now, but what he did and the way he pulled the country from morass, must be a lesson for others. Hard work and dedication or commitment, is always rewarding. Imran is not lacking in determination, but his dream of turning Pakistan into a welfare State, can only be realized through deeds, rather than word.

Time being of essence, though old adage, remain relevant even today. It should be the main motto and guiding principle for him. Success comes the hard way. Opposition, whether the combination of 11-party alliance called Pakistan Democratic Movement, cannot do him much harm, but procrastination can be killing. Bhutto failed because of his feudal mindset, his left leaning training from California’s Berkley University, drove him to nationalize industries, banks, insurance companies, which damaged the country more than anything else, even a war with military hardware.

Pakistan’s economy halted when it genuinely needed government patronage. Imran, as country’s chief executive has to scan through the pages of history. He is well educated, well versed with history. The only thing he needs to concentrate on is execution, for a work half-done leads to success, so says the maxim, which is still too good to do away with.