Enough talk, time for action!
Imran Khan’s first 100 days in power have been ridden with promises and the government’s good intentions to bring measurable constructive change.
The area of foreign policy is among one of the major accomplishments made by the current government. During the last three months, we have seen Khan calling on Pakistan’s closest allies such as China, Saudi Arabia and at the same time making Pakistan’s intentions clear to open dialogue with India. On the issue of militancy in Afghanistan, Khan has reiterated his position to keep Pakistan’s interest above and beyond everything while sending out a strong message that Pakistan and it’s all major national institutions support peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor with India is something which has been on the table for decades but had not materialized. While India continues to play down the significance of the corridor, Pakistan has made it clear that the country is interested in having a good working relationship with New Delhi. From here onward, the onus of the breakdown of bilateral relationship will be on India. With Washington, Prime Minister Khan strongly condemned President Trump’s policy of isolating Pakistan and rejecting Islamabad’s efforts for peace in the region. A number of well-reputed career diplomats have been appointed by the current government in all important regions of the world which is a clear break from the outgoing government’s policy of appointing political personalities on diplomatic posts. Overall, Pakistan has done well during the last three months in terms of managing its foreign policy and laying new grounds to conduct better diplomacy.
However, Khan’s biggest challenge remains in domestic politics and the government’s promises to bring radical change in socio-economic fields. Imran Khan’s 100-day agenda dealing with domestic politics promised changes in six major areas. One of the key components of Khan’s 100-day agenda promised to transform governance by bringing accountability to the central government, empowering people at the grassroots, depoliticizing and strengthening police, revolutionizing access to justice and initiating civil service reforms. Unfortunately, on all these fronts, not much has been done beyond making committees and lodging proposals to bring reforms. Even if one argues that practically, 100 days are not enough to bring measurable change in abovementioned areas which require sustained and comprehensive interventions at the government and institutional level, the commitment of bringing such a change doesn’t require a timeline. However, with Khan’s government, we have seen backtracking on a number of promises and growing disinterest in various important areas related to civil service reforms and police reforms. Moreover, the issue of transforming governance by bringing accountability to the central government is something which would require commitment beyond Khan’s own personality.
We have seen Pakistan’s currency further sliding against the US dollar. This doesn’t bode well for Khan’s economic plans as the strong devaluation of the Pakistani currency will further increase import bills and external debt.
The second important promise which Khan made concerning his party’s 100-day agenda dealt with revitalizing Pakistan’s economic growth. The stated focus in this area was laid out on rapidly creating jobs for youth, reviving manufacturing, launching policy framework to build 5 million houses, fixing Pakistan’s energy sector, boosting the tourism industry and ensuring that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) transforms into a game changer. The results in this sector are a mix of forming policy outlines and showing intentions to deliver on promises made. While opposition parties can talk about Khan’s inability to introduce major reforms in sectors dealing with Pakistan’s economy, this is an area which has remained neglected for a long time. However, the question remains: does the government have enough resources, political will and a competent team to get Pakistan out of this deep economic mess? The last few weeks of interventions on the part of the government concerning Pakistan’s economy are not encouraging. We have seen Pakistan’s currency further sliding against the US dollar. This doesn’t bode well for Khan’s economic plans as the strong devaluation of the Pakistani currency will further increase import bills and external debt. Arguably, other areas of governance such as strengthening the federation, uplifting the country’s agriculture sector and revolutionizing social services are in one way or the other tied to the country’s economy. All these areas require a significant amount of financial capital which Pakistan currently cannot afford.
On the whole, Khan’s 100- days in power should be taken by the government as a learning experience. All missteps and slip-ups in managing the economy, politics and institutional level reforms should offer the party some insights into the very question of how to talk about issues and how to formulate policies around them.