- Efficient but centralised
The new government’s charged cabinet sessions are a welcome break from the past. Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, for example, put the final touches in its drive to bring back looted money, made progress on the ‘whistleblower law’ to fight corruption, decided on uniform curriculum in public and private schools as well as madrassas, and vowed to strip at least 100 big fish of their ill-gotten wealth, among other things. This is a marked departure from the previous cycle, when cabinet sessions were hardly ever held, and top decisions were taken by a close circle of Nawaz’s family and loyalists.
The PPP administration before that gave a little more respect to parliament – by attending sessions, at least – yet everybody knew were the real centre of power was. It’s still too early to tell for sure about the new government, of course, but routing executive decisions through regular cabinet sessions will set the right precedent as well as strengthen the most important institution within the democratic setup. However, there are areas where Imran’s style of governance is not that different from his predecessors. For all his claims of devolution of power, Imran seems to place as little trust in other politicians as Nawaz did.
Other than Asad Omar, other people blessed with ministries hardly fit the profile. They could, in fact, have been allotted any other portfolio for that matter. Shireen Mazari’s human rights ministry seems to have been specially made for her. PTI big shots Amir Kiyani and Shafqat Mehmood have been given health and education, which are now provincial domains. The rest of the ministries have just been divided between allies and at least two CMs are considered very weak. And Imran has kept the interior ministry with himself; just like Nawaz did with the foreign portfolio. These actions betray a desire to keep power centralised. Not only does that threaten to undermine the early efficiency of the administration, but also runs counter to PTI’s own beliefs. Hopefully the new government will avoid making some of the mistakes of old times.