The cricketer-turned politician and the Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan has taken oath as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan. In a country like Pakistan where politics is dominated by a few political clans and the parties, elevation at the helm of a non-traditional politician with no political heritage is indeed a stunning political upset and a welcome change.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s joyful face, during the oath taking ceremony, tells the story how happy the captain was on his great political achievement. For Imran Khan- once alone member of PTI in National Assembly- becoming the prime minister of Pakistan is like a dream comes true after a long and hard fought political battle spanning over twenty two years.
Khan has successfully mobilised the youth of the country and inspired them with his political vision of ‘Change’. The people disappointed with the status-quo and traditional politics voted for him hoping for a positive change to country’s dismal economic, political and security situation.
With Imran Khan at the helm, never before, the nation was seen so optimistic and upbeat about the future of country. The PTI supporters, especially the youth, showed their optimism by expressing their views on social media.
Will the Prime Minister Imran Khan and PTI be able to carry the burden of high hopes with gigantic economic, political and law and order challenges ahead?
Pakistan face colossal challenges: limited foreign exchange reserves, huge current account deficit, debt servicing, international isolation, ever deteriorating bilateral relations with the US, a hostile neighbor squeezing it from the Eastern and the Western flanks, governance, corruption, terrorism and foreign funded insurgency in the Baluchistan top the list.
The PTI government has inherited monumental challenges. Imran Khan has worn the crown of thrones, especially when he has set high standards. It will be no easy task to manage the high hopes of masses waiting anxiously for the promised change to address their grievances.
PTI-led government will not be able to bring about any revolutionary change overnight but the direction of the country set in the initial few months could decide the ultimate fate of their governance and the country at large.
Imran Khan has been one of the greatest advocates of meritocracy in the country. If he ensures merit-based selections in every department of the government, capable people could get opportunity to serve the country and people’s trust in the system could be restored.
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But the appointment Prime Minister Imran Khan has made so far suggests a lot needs to be improved. Asad Qaisar as the Speaker of the National Assembly disappointed many as he was clueless how to handle the house during the inaugural session. Was he the best choice available with PTI?
People were expecting to see new faces in the federal cabinet. The young politicians like Ali Ameen Gandapur from D.I.Khan and Zartaj Gul from D.G Khan who defeated political giants like Molana Fazal Ur Rehman and Awais Laghari were expected to be part of the federal cabinet. But people were utterly disappointed to see old faces dominating the federal cabinet as half of the cabinet slots were filled with ministers who remained part of PML-Q, or PPP governments in the past.
Usman Buzdar’s nomination for the slot of CM Punjab has also raised quite a few eyebrows. People are asking if hailing from a deprived area of the province is the sole merit to run the largest province. Instead of appointing a CM with a questionable past, a capable person should have been appointed on merit as the Punjab CM. Buzdar’s journey with the PTI is not longer than a few months; doesn’t a seasoned PTI stalwart deserve to be appointed as the CM Punjab?
A leader has to prefer tough decisions over popular ones to bring nations out of troubled waters. So far, Imran Khan’s decisions seem to be compromised for one or the other reason. Probably, he has to accommodate his allies and various factions within the PTI which is affecting the quality of his decision making. With a thin majority in the National Assembly, will he be able to take bold and independent decisions?
On foreign policy front, Pakistan faces huge challenges. The US has abandoned Pakistan forcing it come closer to Russia and Iran to address regional issues along with China. The PTI-led government, if it has any say in the foreign policy matters, has to strike balance between its ties with Russia and the US and Iran-Saudi Arabia. Pakistan mustn’t repeat the mistakes of past when it put all its eggs in the US basket at the cost of relations with the then USSR. PTI government needs to formulate independent foreign policy for the country in which good relations with one country should not be on the cost of other. It has to protect and maximize Pakistan’s national interest.
Instead of embracing the IMF, the government should try reduce import bill, encourage foreign investment, end corruption and embezzlement and announce austerity measures that reduce burden on national kitty. Seven million Pakistani expatriates could also be appealed to transfer dollars to their family via banking channels to boost foreign exchange reserves.
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Imran Khan has been very vocal on governance issues. The greatest challenge ahead of his government would be to introduce reforms especially in police, bureaucracy, revenue, health and education departments as they directly affect the people’s day to day business.
Drastic measures need to be taken to change Pakistan’s course to a new direction to bring about a real change to the desperate economic, political and security situation of the country. The government alone won’t be able to deliver it all; all state institutions need to work in close coordination to keep the hopes alive. Seventy one years have gone by; people need a real change that could address their issues and put Pakistan on the course of welfare state. Failing to deliver this time around, would weaken people trust not in the government but the state.