PM Imran Khan has planned to describe his government’s progress in Convention Centre Islamabad on completion of his first hundred days in office. His address will be telecast live by PTV and will point out that he has made TV addresses a handmaiden, a practice not even followed by arbitrary rulers. The democratic practice demanded that he appraised the parliament of the progress of his performance but he prefers going to the people directly as he fears the intensely adverse reaction he is certainly expected to get from the house. It is getting clear that he heavily relies on the heavy endorsement of his TV speeches from his close colleagues and completely ignores contrary views.
First 100 days of course is not the ultimate yardstick to judge the performance of such macro-oriented entity as government of a country but most governments try to spell out their future course of action during this period. Even judging the first 100 days of PTI government it must be borne in mind that Imran Khan and his close colleagues had no experience of governmental affairs and particularly Imran Khan specifically ignored familiarising himself with official matters during five years of his party’s rule in KP. May be he was not given a chance by his representatives in KP to groom himself as is evident by his diatribe against his own government at the end of its term and his steadfast efforts to sideline his former CM KP.
PTI government faced furious parliamentary opposition right from the beginning as the opposition had resolved to pay him back in the same coin. He felt helpless against the determined stance of the opposition and the result saw him withdrawing to his shell, a decision not auguring well for democracy itself. His aversion to parliament is one of the primary reasons for not forming parliamentary committees that are considered backbone of the work of a democratic dispensation. PTI’s stringent opposition to appointment of Shahbaz Sharif as Chairman Public Accounts Committee came as a handy excuse but it completely blocked parliamentary work. On the flip side it provided the opposition to declare that it will boycott all parliamentary committees if Shahbaz Sharif was not given the responsibility the opposition claims is its due.
People pinned high hopes on PTI’s high-profile unveiling of its agenda for the first three months after coming to power. It was expected that the agenda, presented three months before the elections, was a well-thought plan prepared by seasoned former bureaucrats as members of his team. The agenda stipulated contours of future governance of PTI government and focused on important issues such as expeditious merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bifurcation of Punjab and reconciliation with estranged Baloch leaders.
The agenda also laid out a development package for Karachi because it was expected that PTI will be made to gain from political vacuum in Karachi. The agenda also emphasised alleviation of poverty and many steps for improving economic conditions of the country. It undertook to create 10 million jobs, growth of trade and industry, facilitating private sector and building 5 million homes. It also promised transformation of state-owned enterprises and reformation of tax administration.
No concrete measures appear to have emerged out of the ambitious 100-days agenda and the government looks to be in a quandary to stamp its credibility. The most serious shock to hit the government is the gradually increasing perception amongst a wide cross-section of people that it is not able enough to govern. To add to the apparent inefficiency is the widely inflammatory remarks attributed to the prime minister as well as his senior and visible cabinet colleagues.
The positions taken by the PM and his associates fluctuate consistently making a mockery of the entire government. The vow that PM will not visit foreign shores in the first three months and that he will fly in commercial airliners fell flat after he was seen going on visits abroad twice to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, China and Malaysia in special aircrafts. He vociferously castigated his predecessors for extending beggar bowls for money but gleefully informed the nation of the Saudi financial succour. He also rushed to China and the UAE for seeking more aid.
The difficulty seen clearly emerging is the defiant stance taken by PTI government on changing its positions frequently. The PM surprised people when he equated his change of policy as a necessary requirement for leadership thereby denying the very essence of steadfast following of principles while governing.
While assessing the initial performance it must be conceded that PTI government formed a parliamentary committee to investigate alleged poll rigging in direct contrast to the delaying tactics adopted by its preceding government. It has started to work on housing project and has begun to explore employment opportunities for people. There is hardly any doubt that its functional arrangements are dictated by austerity and substantial reduction in government expenditures are expected to be felt later.
People still retain high hopes and they expect that the PTI government will bring about improvement in governance. Unfortunately, the misplaced populist tendencies of political heads of the government are taking time to subside as was evident from the gung-ho activity of Faisal Vawda during the attack on Chinese consulate in Karachi. Prime Minister would be better-off if he starts consulting wide array of people about governance matters instead of relying on a cabal of trusted advisers who appear to be out of depth.
Schehram Siddiqi is an industrialist based in Lahore