–PM Imran highlights ‘future plans’ in 100-day review speech, blames corruption for all ills in country
–Gives credit to wife Bushra for standing by him, says she keeps reminding him that he’s Pakistan’s PM
–Calls for expanding tax net, enhancing exports and bringing in foreign investment to pull Pakistan out of debt
–Asad Umar says PTI reduced average deficit to $1bn per month; Qureshi says foreign policy to promote soft image of country
ISLAMABAD: Even though the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has failed to deliver on most of its promises in the first 100 days in power, Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that his government was focussed on making policies that would benefit the poor segments of society.
Addressing a ceremony that marked the ‘successful’ first 100 days of the PTI government at the Jinnah Convention Centre in the federal capital, PM Khan gave the credit for the smooth running of the government to his wife Bushra Bibi, thanking her for standing by him through his tough schedule.
“In the 100 days, I want to give credit to Bushra Begum. In these 100 days I took one day off and want to praise her for such a difficult life during the last 100 days,” the prime minister said.
Imran said that he was asked about the difference he saw in the 100 days. “When I watch TV at home and see some injustice and get angry, I turn to Bushra Begum and say look at this injustice to which she replies that you are the prime minister.”
“After being in the opposition for 22 years, I still need to be reminded that I am the prime minister,” he added.
During his address which was attended by federal cabinet and the government dignitaries, PM Khan once again mentioned his aspiration for a Madina-like state. “In Madina, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) adopted policies that were based on compassion; all policies were made for the poor,” he said.
In contrast to pro-poor policies as claimed by PM Khan, the downtrodden segments have found no relief during the 100 days. Gas prices, power tariff hike, increase in prices of POL products, and anti-encroachment drive to name a few.
PM Khan blamed corruption for almost all the ills of the country and said his government did take some measures to address it.
“We have so many assets but we are still behind due to corruption, which harms our institutions as well,” he said, adding, “The difference between developed and underdeveloped countries is corruption.”
“I did not know the extent of theft and corruption until I came to power. Every day something new comes up.”
He said that to address the rampant corruption, the government had strengthened the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to curb money laundering; signed agreements with 26 countries [to share information and recover assets]; created a task force to improve the situation of government hospitals; recovered Rs350 billion worth of land as part of the anti-encroachment drive; lodged FIRs against bigwigs involved in power theft; allotted land to build shelters for poor people in Rawalpindi and Lahore.
PM Khan addressed the issue of malnutrition in his first address. However, with the exception of a low-profile task force formed to address stunted growth in children, the masses haven’t seen any tangible steps. Today, the issue came up again, when Imran announced that “four million children will be provided nourishment in order to reduce stunted growth”, whereas the Benazir Income Support Programme will be expanded.”
About education, he said the government was trying to introduce a uniform curriculum across the county. “We planned how to bring children back to schools; now we are bringing a complete plan for education.” He said his government was trying to introduce an education system “which could change the things”.
Another subject that the PM touched upon was the state of farmers. Special programmes are being started in rural areas, he said, adding that subsidies will be given to small farmers in order to improve agricultural productivity and socioeconomic status of peasants.
PM Khan hinted at an increase in fish exports of the country.
“In spite of freshwater resources, Pakistan’s fisheries exports are non-existent. A private party has done a pilot project through which shrimp farming can be done,” he said as he floated a proposal of “caged fishing in Balochistan”.
PM Khan, who soon after coming into power announced to join the CJP’s dam fund initiative, offered a “low-cost and quick” solution to the water crisis.
“Bhasha Dam will take time as it’s a huge project,” he said. “We found out that we can conserve water by lining our canals but this project will cost an estimated Rs150 billion,” he said.
Taking a hit at the nationalisation policy of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the 70s, he said it was “wrong decision” as investors won’t “come until they make money”.
‘FDI, TAXATION & INFLATION’:
The prime minister also highlighted Pakistan’s geographical location and population demographics, which he said make the country an attractive market for foreign investors. The prime minister is right, investors are needed for wealth to grow; however, Bears reigned the stocks market, as it has lost over 2,000 points in the last 100 days.
The PM said taxation system will be improved to increase revenue, explaining that low tax collection leads to inflation.
“How is it that only 72,000 people show their income above Rs200,000?” he wondered.
PM Khan said he “is aware that our salaried class is under pressure” due to inflation but assured that “I am doing whatever i can to [take you out of this problem].”
The prime minister gave an overview of the planned legal forms, for which he credited Law Minister Farogh Naseem. As part of the reforms, he said, “civil courts will have to decide cases within a year and a half”. “Legal aid authority will assist people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer,” he added.
PM Khan said that Pakistan’s tourism industry has great potential, adding that a task force has been formed to promote the country’s religious and ecological tourism.
‘WON’T HIDE BEHIND IMF’:
Addressing the audience before the PM, Finance Minister Asad Umar said he urged Prime Minister Imran to take a “U-turn” on his statement and visit foreign countries to explore financial opportunities.
Umar said that economic direction has been set during the first one hundred days of the incumbent government.
“The average deficit was $2bn per month, but efforts were made to reduce it to a slightly over $1bn,” he said, adding that different steps helped improve the situation of the balance of payments.
The FM said any agreement with IMF [International Monetary Fund] will be made keeping in view the interest of the people of Pakistan. “Unlike the previous governments, we will not hide behind IMF,” he said.
He said the decisions to increase taxes, import duties, and utility rates were targeted only on those segments of society who could afford it. No increase was made for the less privileged.
‘NATIONAL INTEREST SUPREME’:
In his speech, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the incumbent government has revised the foreign policy in line with the national interest. He said focus of the new policy is to improve relations with Pakistan’s immediate neighbours.
For this purpose, he made his first foreign visit to Afghanistan as Pakistan has key stakes in the neighbouring country. Qureshi said the improvement in relations with India is very important for regional peace, adding that the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor is a step in that direction.
He said the component of cultural diplomacy has also been added into the foreign policy as part of promoting a soft image of the country.
WHAT WAS ACTUALLY DONE:
Ironically, what was supposed to be an evaluation/summary of achievements made over the last 100 days, PTI hardly mentioned any. Instead, PM Imran appeared to be making more promises. Probably, he had nothing much to show for.
It would be unfair to judge the PTI government on the basis of 100 days; however, in its own words, these first three months mirror its five-year tenure.
Asad Umar, before he took charge as finance minister, had said, “The first 100 days would also not see a decision that would change the destiny of the nation, but a clear direction on what we promised and where we are headed for stock-taking.”
Out of 49 promises made by PTI, only one is complete, while four are partially complete; 16 are in progress and work hasn’t been started on the rest–24, according to a media report.
PTI has also failed to address the crisis in Balochistan, especially the increasing enforced disappearances in the province–the basis of agreement between the PTI and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M). In fact, the situation in Balochistan has further escalated.
Progress on FATA merger has stopped and south Punjab, from a promise of a separate province, is reduced to a mini-secretariat in Multan.