It is getting clearer by the day that the hastily-cobbled PTI government was inherently lacking in the attributes required for effective governance. Hectic efforts were made to fill the ranks of its government with former members of General Musharraf’s team without realising that they were inducted precisely because they were considered ineffective by the military dispensation. So the grand exercise was self-defeating in essence as it was devoid of competent credentials.
The emerging PTI was laced with an eye-catching slogan of bringing about change that was vague in the extreme. Its manifesto promised to eradicate corruption and recover the plundered amounts from foreign bank accounts where they were alleged to have been stashed by corrupt politicians who ironically also joined its ranks. It also undertook strengthening rupee that was already propped-up by complicated governmental help, a fact that would not have been hidden from the financial ranks of PTI that boasted of having support of ‘experts’ in every field.
The PTI leadership emphasised that it will bring in massive investment from abroad without mentioning what steps it would take to instantly transform the conditions in the country. It also mentioned that the poor would be lifted out of poverty and the begging bowl would be broken. In his campaign speeches Imran Khan invoked teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith and promised to turn Pakistan into a welfare state in the likeness of the city state of Medina. He kept on harping on success of his campaigns to build the Shaukat Khanum Hospital and in winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
The promises undertaken by PTI were indeed a tall order but the party was successful in selling this dream to people with more than active support of its supporters in the state. The elements responsible for catapulting PTI into the government appeared to be deeply steeped into the mistaken belief that they could bring back the bygone days of the 1960s without realising that Pakistan has profoundly changed. The problem that the organisers of the show failed to calculate was that it did not take long for resentment to emerge and the days when resentment simmered for years before breaking out had gone.
It did not take long for dissatisfaction to set-in despite feel-good propaganda of the official circles. While the government was intensely congratulating itself on completion of its first 100-days in office, the pendulum had swung in the other direction. People started making fun of prime minister’s puerile enunciations of basing economic prosperity on developing poultry. There was nothing but repetition of good intentions and revenge vows against corrupt elements.
This PTI government has proved long on promises and desperately short on delivery. Despite vicious rants against corrupt elements not a single penny has been recovered from any quarter. PTI’s road to national dominance was protests against Nawaz Sharif’s involvement in the global scandal of Panama Papers and many governments have been successful in recovering $1.2 billion from people involved in dealing with off-shore companies but nothing has come out of PTI’s efforts despite incarcerating both Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif.
Even the bureaucrats alleged for being complicit in the corrupt practices of the previous government are held in custody without anything proven against them. They are not the only government operatives put behind bars but there are many other who are languishing in jail on trumped up charges including a senior formal civil servant who is currently an MPA of MQM-Pakistan. The air is heavy with the perceptions of personalised hatred and willful exercise of the coercive authority of the state.
The time has come for PTI to firmly settle down with a doable functional method aimed at revamping its damaged impression in the country. It should not follow the practices resorted by previous governments that provided temporary respite from financial woes but were widely reviled by the people. Every attempt should be made to increase revenue collection instead of hammering down a slew of new taxes burdening people.
The inflation is galloping and prices of goods have reached unaffordable levels. It is not proper to increase tariffs on utilities as they badly affect the buying power of people. Energy prices should be kept on hold and people should be provided relief. The brow-beating attitude of Asad Umar is creating very negative impression for the government as he appears to be mocking the people on their travails.
The government should strive to achieve national harmony instead of widening divisions by pursuing vendetta against almost all segments of the population. The PTI government should be seen to be acting for the welfare of the people and simply passing on the blame on previous government would not suffice. The sooner PTI begins to deliver on its promise the better and it is only possible if the current negativism is changed into positive, productive activity. TW
Fahad Ali is associated with maritime trade