The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has secured enough numbers in the house of 272 legislators to form the central government with support for a few smaller parties, or independents. Since the party has come to power after two-decades of politicking on the slogan of change, or tabdeeli, it is important to ask exactly what will be the contours of this change. Some aspects of this were laid out by Imran Khan, the chairman of the party, in his address on Thursday. Among these were promises to safeguard tax revenues, decrease government expenses, ensure across-the-board accountability, and improve ties with neighbouring states. Khan also gave assurances that he would oversee investigation of complaints regarding the fairness of the election process, raised by almost all major parties that contested the election, other than the PTI. None of these issues has emerged overnight, and all of them are concerned with deep-rooted structural flaws in Pakistan’s economy and polity. As they assumed power in the centre in 2008 and 2013, the PPP and the PML-N had come up with almost similar promises. However, when they started implementing their electoral mandates, they encountered vested interests, and the real politicking that followed prevented any meaningful reforms. Take the taxation system first. The idea of value-added tax has been around for a long time. Both PPP and PML-N governments considered imposition of the tax, but both remained unsuccessful in the face of staunch opposition by the trading classes, that are quite well represented in the PTI too. So attempts to radically restructure the taxation system, increasing share of direct taxes, is likely to be confronted first and foremost by forces inside the party. It’s possible that Imran Khan’s cabinet may manage to push up revenues to an extent without this restructuring the taxation system, but that would not be much different from the manner in which the preceding governments ended up managing the economy: opting for quick-fixes and arbitrary measures to fix cash flow problems, without radical reforms that challenge the underlying logic of crony capitalism that permeates the country’s economy. The promises to ensure across the board accountability and to improve ties with neighbouring countries will put the PTI chairman and the PM in waiting in direct clash with the powerful security establishment Khan has promised to decrease government expenses by using colonial-era buildings like the Governor’s houses in Lahore, Nathia Gali, etc, for commercial and educational purposes. Will the initiatives be limited to a handful of such buildings, or will these be expanded to the remnants of the colonial governance structures? Efforts in the latter category will likely be confronted by vested interests in the civil bureaucracy, since these will undercut the privileged positions these groups have had over the years. The promises to ensure across the board accountability and to improve ties with neighbouring countries will put the PTI chairman and the PM in waiting in direct clash with the powerful security establishment. Considering he has been a major player in Pakistani politics in the last decade, it’s impossible that Khan isn’t aware of the power dynamics in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. If he doesn’t intend to be a puppet in the hands of the usual suspects, Khan’s biggest challenge in the days to come will be in setting security and foreign policies that are conducive to peace in the region, and have the stamp of approval of the Pakistani Parliament. Many in Pakistan contend that it was these same efforts on the part of the previous two governments that led to their troubles, and the eventual ouster of two elected PMs, one of whom is currently imprisoned in Adiala. Finally, it must be remembered that the electoral activity that led the PTI to gain majority in the Parliament has been questioned by almost all major parties. These parties haven’t just highlighted procedural irregularities and rigging. The concerns raised by PML-N, and reported in the press too, are about full-fledged engineering of the polling process. These have involved mainstreaming of far-right fringe groups to cut into the N-League’s vote bank in central and northern Punjab and alleged threats to the party’s workers and leaders, aimed at weakening its organisation. Therefore, the investigation of complaints over the electoral activity must cover the alleged engineering of polls as well for Khan’s assurances to be meaningful. There are several other big-ticket problems beyond the issues highlighted by the PTI chairman today whose solutions will be needed for the change he has promised to be substantial. Will the marginalised and persecuted segments of the polity be treated as citizens with equal rights in the ‘naya Pakistan’? Khan’s overtures to the religious right over the issue of the Finality of the Prophethood suggests that the right to life and religious liberty of the persecuted Ahmediyya community as well as religious minorities may not be too high on the agenda of change. Similarly, the right of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan and the formerly FATA regions to live in the protection of the Pakistani constitution is something the PTI has yet to speak on clearly. If the change he promises is indeed going to be transformative, Imran Khan will have to confront the powers-that-be both inside and outside his party. Therefore, as he gets set to sign up for the most difficult job in this country, he should articulate his position on the aforementioned issues clearly. The writer is a member of the staff Published in Daily Times, July 27th 2018.