With Imran Khan all set to assume charge as Pakistan’s twenty-first elected Prime Minister, a question that keeps nagging us all, barring those die-hard supporters of PTI, is whether he can fulfill his lofty promises? Can he replicate the success of his impressive cricketing career and commendable philanthropic endeavors in steering the country out of its current quagmire? Can he finally deliver? To his credit, Imran has already delivered something inspiring –a speech at least. But words are cheap, naysayers would argue. Well, not in Pakistan. When was the last time we heard a national leader speaking with such sincerity and conviction? Barring Bhutto who swept the nation with his eloquence and charisma, there are not many examples.And our recent history is particularly bereft of anything reassuring. With Imran at the helms, the nation can surely avoid the mortification of watching its PM fumbling for cue cards while sitting next to world leaders. That is already some progress. Of course, more critical is to examine whether Imran can deliver practically. There are reasons for optimism, thanks to a confluence of factors. First, the time seems ripe for something different, and hopefully better.The current transfer of power from one democratic government to another is the third on a trot, something unprecedented in the country’s checkered political history. Significant still, our public has voted into power a third party at the center in as many elections. That hints at the palpable desire for change among the masses, the very people routinely ridiculed of selling their votes for a plate of biryani. Certainly, something more profound is going on than what biryani alone could explain. It has been repeatedly asked whether Imran can make a difference amid the all-so-familiar electables. Will they allow him to run a lean and clean government? Let us presume they won’t. Still, the country will be better off with someone at the very top not busy pillaging public funds or pocketing commissions. And that is the worst case, because every other scenario proffers a glimmer of hope Equally important is to flag the change at the top.We got Zardari in 2008, Nawaz in 2013 and now Imran in 2018. That itself is a leap forward, if the public perception of these three leaders is anything to go by. Whether Imran can make Pakistan corruption-free in 90 day is a moot point. At least he has no predilection for seeking kickbacks. That is one stark change in the quality of leadership that we are going to have at the center, ceteris paribus. It has been repeatedly asked whether Imran can make a difference amid the all-so-familiar electables. Will they allow him to run a lean and clean government? Let us presume they won’t. Still, the country will be better off with someone at the very top not busy pillaging public funds or pocketing commissions. And that is the worst case, because every other scenario proffers a glimmer of hope. Given that the electables can’t limit Imran completely, there will always be room for him to deliver. After all, what marred the performance of previous governments was not solely down toelectables. It was blatant corruption or sheer callousness right at the very top. Many of the electablesin fact struggled to get their PM’s ear in four odd years. So much for their power to dictate a government. Second, PTI is taking charge at a relatively more benign time than the previous government, in some respects at least. As a nation, we have already made visible progress in addressing two of the issues that posed existential threat five years back – crippling power shortages and unstable law and order situation. Admittedly, we have not completely resolved either; but our survival is no more at stake because of security threats or power blackouts.In this story of rebound, what should be encouraging for the impending government is our institutional capacity. That is despite our knack for faltering on simpler things while mastering the most arduous of tasks. There is a palpable desire for change among the masses; the very people routinely ridiculed for selling their votes for a plate of biryani. Certainly, something more profound is going on than what biryani alone could explain Economy, however, is undoubtedly in dire straits, brought under by mounting twin deficits and the depleting foreign exchange reserves. Given the intransigent nature of our imports, increasing exports should be a priority, an area where we have woefully underperformed. At USD 28,8 billion, we are at par with Croatia in exports of goods & services; the only problem is they are a nation of over 4 million, some 203 million short of us. If not football, we can possibly learn something about exports from Croatia. Alternatively, we can take a leaf out of Bangladesh’s book which has managed to raise its proceeds to USD 39 billion. Third, Pakistan ranks so low on so many counts that it seems reasonable to hope for an improvement. Look at the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ indicators where Pakistan ranks at 147th out of 190 nations covered. On some of the sub-categories, we are even worse, including paying taxes (172), trading across borders (171), registering property (170) and getting electricity (167). Such poor rankings stem largely from institutional failures. If the new government can manage to staff the public sector with individuals of competence and commitment and give them a free hand, quick gains in some of these areas, and their respective rankings, are not unlikely. But will the public accept anything short of a promised ‘Islamic welfare state’? It will, in all likelihood, because voters’ aspirations are quite reasonable, contrary to what the media suggests.This is ostensibly evident from PTI’s victory in KPK. After all, PTI did not transform the province into a land of milk and honey; it just made a concerted effort in reforming some key institutions and got re-elected. People’s hopes have been dashed so often in the past that they will be happy to see some progress at least. They are certainly not asking for moon. As long as Imran can keep a fraction of his promises, the country is set to take a turn for the better. The writer is a financial sector specialist. Views expressed here are his own. Email: [email protected] Published in Daily Times, August 18th 2018.