PRIME Minister Imran Khan, who has a reputation of an eloquent speaker adept at delivering emotional speeches,made a mark on the minds and souls of the people during his lengthy address on the floor of the National Assembly on July 30, as he covered almost all topics and issues that matter for the country and its people, conveying a pleasant reassuring message that the interests of the nation were in safe hands.
The Prime Minister is always passionate while making his point but there was a dominant view in the galleries on Wednesday that he was speaking from his heart as a true and patriotic leader, who was really concerned about challenges facing the country, problems being encountered by masses and is fully resolved to address them squarely.
The National Assembly speech of the PM was distinctive in many respects – notably a departure from the tendency of lashing out at the political opposition and instead adopting a reconciliatory tone that augurs well for national unity and solidarity at a time when the country was in the midst of a myriad of challenges that are likely to compound due to emerging regional and global developments.
The PM, who was heard by the opposition parties silently, extended an invitation to the other side for talks on the crucial issue of electoral reforms on which hinges the credibility of the future elections.
This is in sharp contrast to the previous strategy under which the bill on the electoral reforms was approved unilaterally by the treasury benches in the National Assembly.
That the PM was quite serious about meaningful dialogue on the issue is evident from the media reports that he has directed his legal team to contact the opposition as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for developing consensus on the proposed reforms.
This is important as the reforms would lack legitimacy if concerns of the opposition and the Commission were not addressed in a spirit of accommodation.
Introduction of electronic voting machines might be an answer to the problem of rigging or change of results but for this to happen the hardware and software has to be firewalled.
Another important element of the speech that won the hearts of the people was Imran’s plain and candid talk on the issue of war on terror and relations with the United States.
His reiteration about upholding of the national sovereignty in the backdrop of consistent reports that Pakistan was being pressurized by the US for establishment of military bases has widely been acclaimed as he gave a categorical message that Pakistan could be a partner with the United States in peace but could never be a partner in conflicts.
Imran Khan’s assessment of the role played by Pakistan in the war against terror at the instance of the United States is subscribed by a majority of people of Pakistan and based on their bitter experience they are opposed to the conclusion of any arrangement with Washington that could drag the country again into a vicious cycle of violence and instability.
There is no reason to doubt the PM when he says the national prestige and sovereignty would be upheld at all costs but prudence demands evolution of institutional guarantees against such an eventuality and this can be done by linking foreign accords with the approval of Parliament.
As for the new budget, the Prime Minister took pride in presenting proposals in line with his vision of transforming Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.
Of course, the present Government has taken a number of initiatives to promote welfare of the disadvantaged segments of the society but much needs to be done and more so in the broader context to realize this cherished objective.
With some exceptions, the budget for 2021-22 is, of course, people friendly but it has to be seen whether or not it remains so throughout the year in the backdrop of the abhorring practice of presenting mini budgets and a beginning has been made on the first day of the New Year by increasing prices of the POL products.
The problems of the country and those of the people can surely be mitigated if the strategy incorporated in the budget to increase exports, promote agriculture sector and create more economic and employment opportunities are implemented in letter and spirit.