Naveed Aman Khan
NO matter how dedicated and upright the leadership is, it becomes impossible to deliver when a country is surrounded by economic mess and inflicted with bad governance, corruption and other issues. States do not fail overnight but consistent bad policies and lack of vision ultimately erode the system thus leaving debris for the successive governments. It requires serious efforts to deliver when tall claims are made just to bag votes. Contrary to the promises made, the record of PTI is a volte-face on various policies and issues. It seems the government is plagued with ‘extractive institutions’ run by carpetbaggers. The PTI government led by IK is under the influence of individuals and coteries. This has overshadowed the political lustre he built while haranguing against opponents from atop of containers. For erecting a building, it requires grading, framing roofing and siding, but as of today, it looks like the castles have been built in air and no homework was done before logging in new government. Out of forty nine reforms packages, the PTI could only successfully form a task force to combat corruption.
The country is drenched into national and international debt to the tune of Rs 2.4 trillion and is left at the behest of the IMF. For whole years, PTI team lambasted Nawaz’s government for an economic companion with the IMF but all his pastoral speeches fizzled out when his own government struck a bailout deal of US $6 billion with the IMF and elsewhere. Rising inflation, hike in petroleum prices, current account deficit, unemployment and no foreign direct investment are the core economic heads in which PTI has miserably failed despite making lofty claims. In his entire anti-corruption drive and stormy march, IK gave a tongue lashing to the opponents including former military ruler Musharraff, Altaf Hussain, Sharif brothers and Zardari. But just after coming into power, he turned a blind eye towards many of them. He teamed up with MQM and PML-Q. The members of these political outfits are under investigation by NAB for possessing assets beyond means. Besides, cases against Pervez Khattak, Aleem Khan and others are hanging in balance. How can one forget his much glorified performance by establishing independent anti-graft institution “Ehteshab Commission (EC)”? It was established in 2014 but had to abolish by the present KP Assembly. Inquiries, references and complaints have been transferred to the anti corruption establishment. DG EC had to resign from his post after the influence of PTI members whose cases were registered with EC. Top of all, Peshawar Metro Bus has proven to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of IK’s failure.
In his televised speech to the nation, Imran Khan had announced that austerity measures would be adopted to cut expenditures. He had declared that the expenses of the president and prime minister houses would be decreased besides bars on VIP protocol for ministers and the government officials. Unfortunately, the drive didn’t yield substantial outcome but proved much as a political stunt rather than improving the condition of the ailing economy. What a pity, the size of the cabinet at the time of administering the oath was 21 and now it has swollen to 47 thus increasing administrative expenditure manifold. Interestingly, the prime minister is not living in the official residence yet the budget of the PM House has been increased by 19%.
Last year, Rs269 m was allocated to the President’s household and staff expenditure, but this year it is Rs282 m. So much so, the President House released a tender of Rs. 2 m to construct new cages for parrots. So, the selling of luxury cars and the cattle was just an eyewash? Besides, many other departments are not paying heed to the PM’s drive for austerity. It became evident that PTI in power is a different beast from the party that had campaigned for bringing back the looted money of the nation, establishing the state like that of Madina, abolishing amnesty scheme, providing jobs to youngsters, low cost houses to millions of people and adopting austerity measures. It is the poorer segment of the society that always suffers the most when a country is grappling with economic turmoil. Like the previous government, the PTI is also demanding from the poor strata to sacrifice more rather shifting the burden onto the wealthy segment of the society. IK has not been able to stand even on his own maxims. A few days ago, IK announced an amnesty scheme for tax evaders. It was a bolt from the blue for the public and provided a reason to mock at the government’s own policies.
When the previous government had announced tax amnesty, it drew angry rebuke from IK calling it scheme of “protecting the thieves” and ensured the public he would put all those behind the bars who took benefits from the amnesty scheme but after assuming the power, Aleema Khan, Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan are given a fair chance to clean up their black money. During the election campaign of 2013, IK was the sole leader who visited Northern Areas of Pakistan canvassing for votes by using the ethnic card. He has been advocating for the cause of Pashtoon for the last several years so much so he has remained a staunch supporter of Pashtoon Taliban. All his affection for Pashtoon slowly petered out when Pashtoon took to streets for their rights and the political leaders were arrested by law enforcing agencies.
IK told the nation that in ‘Naya Pakistan’ minorities would be treated as equal citizens. Apparently, he is more welcoming to the minorities of India by opening up borders for them, but for minorities in Pakistan, priorities are different. How minorities are safe in Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that IK is more kind to Sikhs of India but pays little heeds towards the forced conversion of Hindu girls in Sindh. Pathetically, IK lauded the act of New Zealand’s premier for her solidarity with the Muslim community, but he himself didn’t bother to console the victims of Sahiwal and Hazara community. These mantras are not new. It is easier said than done. Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that country is facing, political economic and social woes, but common people must realise that every politician uses the rhetoric approach as populist tactics and there is wide difference while being inside and outside of the government. It is evident that the captain, along with the crew, has no clear vision yet to steer the ship. Before becoming as Premier of the country, substantial homework was required to avoid chaos and bedlam.
— The writer is book ambassador, columnist, political analyst and author of several books based in Islamabad.