The hunger can be placed within the global inclination toward right-wing populism that has seen several reformists, some only so-called, to the highest offices. Jair Bolsonaro’s crowning in Brazil and Amlo’s in Mexico are two of the many recent examples where populists have secured the top office from often being nowhere in the initial polls – Pakistan’s saga is not materially different. It was seeing a right-wing surge over the past decade since the return of PML-N to Punjab but what it needed to align with the international wave of populism was a right-wing ideology but that complimented by utopian ideas of reform, populist sloganeering and a bitter opposition to the status-quo polity. The new and maiden government of Imran Khan has achieved nothing but exactly that. Imran Khan was buoyed to the top office in the polls held on July the 25th primarily by his agenda of a large-scale systemic overhaul, establishment of a polity based on tenets of good governance and promises of ridding the country off the malice of corruption through increased transparency and a robust system of accountability. His government is in its fourth month, reform has arguably not happened and despite the massive support base that thrusted his party onto center stage, the public sentiment doesn’t all seem to be on his side anymore. Things have surely happened in the first three months, some in the right direction, some maybe in the wrong, but it’s safe to say that it isn’t a ‘so far-so good’ situation. Governance and reform are clichéd terms within the political, parliamentary and administrative discourse of Pakistan. But to the generations that have inherited these terms, their understanding of the terms and ability to give a certain meaning to them remains limited or has been eroded as a result of their excessive usage. Many political parties, around the world have promised reform, especially in the aftermath of the Arab spring when populist and reformist politics assumed the forefront and took the entire Europe, Middle East and certain parts of Africa and South America by a storm. But unfortunately, reform, in its true sense, seems to have eluded these regions. Similarly, in Pakistan, neither has reform happened nor does the current government have a reform agenda ready. It has reviewed the performance of several sectors and institutions and made its observations public. In some sectors, it has expressed its intention to make a reform but that is at best where things currently stand. If there is one word that can attributed to what the government has achieved so far is ‘review’ and not ‘reform’. Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, in his second speech in the national assembly pointed to lack of reformist agenda and the absence of the promised 100-day plan of the PTI government A close examination of events in Pakistan points to an incidence of total confusion within the government ranks. It seems to be struggling to conceptualize the sort of reform that should happen, the resources that need be allocated and the institutions that shall be made responsible to carry out the functional and operational components of the reform process. Its good not to begin in haste but even worse if around a semester has passed and the government is unsure of where to start if at all it has to do so to give policy expression to its own ideas of reform. These are critical public policy questions that incoming governments usually have to confront but veritably those that have made promises for quick, effective and immediate reform and by virtue of those, set unrealistically high standards for themselves. In that vein, the ruling PTI seems to be less at war with the current problems of Pakistan and more with the claims that it made prior its election on July 25th. The government has tried to make popular decisions to govern in ways different to the erstwhile incumbent PML-N and PPP but in trying to look different, it seems to have lost track of its homegrown ideas of reform. The cabinet has met several times in the first three months which indicates that the government isn’t balking at working hard however, nothing like a policy, plan or strategy for reform has resulted from the meetings. Some progress may have been made on the civil service reform front, but unless a great structural transformation is made, cosmetic changes that have been made several times in the past, most recently during Ahsan Iqbal’s reign at the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, wouldn’t account for the desired efficiency improvement and productivity enhancement. The application forms for CSS examination for 2019 recruitment were delayed by 45 days to make changes to the provincial quotas that will be reflected in the forms but the forms returned unchanged implying no reform to the service recruitment has so far taken place and that the government, despite buying enough time to finalize and implement the change wasn’t either able to conceptualize the reform or find enough cabinetry support for it. It must also be realized that enactment of policies, plans and strategies is a painstaking and cumbersome process and demanding change in 100 days wouldn’t be fair with the government. The government is absolutely justified in asking for more time to change things. Reform does take time, in fact so do the policies, plans and strategies that segue into the reform process. However, if not the realization of its own 100 day plan, the least that the government could have done in first three months was to present before the parliament, the direction in which it expects to move. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting has remained quite proactive in the first 100 days but he hasn’t really gone beyond the rhetoric of laying down the problems that the country faces and fixating the blame on the erstwhile incumbent governments of the PPP and PMLN. There’s a lot of merit in making them accountable, but there’s a lot wrong if that is almost all what the government has done in a span of time that it solicited to change many things. Some of this has been picked up by opposition leaders in the parliament who’ve raised serious concerns about the possibility of a successful formation of a reform agenda during the tenure of the incumbent government. Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, in his second speech in the national assembly pointed to lack of reformist agenda and the absence of the promised 100-day plan of the PTI government. Speaking earlier at the same platform, Hina Rabbani Khar of the PPP also raised a similar concern when she argued that running to the IMF to request a bailout in times of a tight fiscal situation at home and increasing oil and gas process to transfer the inflationary pressures to the consumers were ways of the purana Pakistan. The ex-foreignminister also lamented the lack of direction of the government, traces of which she thought could also be found in the finance bill that was recently deliberated upon in the parliament. Clearly, reform can happen at the center and in the provinces and in the districts. A reform plan can be formulated in the federal which can then be vertically devolved to the provinces and the districts or some level of reform can then be implemented horizontally through the federal institutions. This is where it could be most useful where the reform agenda is rolled-out through the institutions thereby also enabling institution building and strengthening. This is the second step in a long-winded process. The first being the conceptualization of the larger reform plan. What sort of reform will take place? What are the objectives? Who will be the implementing parties? And most importantly, while the government aims for reform while it simultaneously seeks to cut down expenditures and costs, it must also realize that implementation of a reformist plan may involve higher spending and financial outlays associated with it and therefore the projection and earmarking of resources to roll-out the reform agenda hold critical importance in a fiscal situation that Pakistan currently finds itself in. The writer is the Director of the Burki Institute of Public Policy and a University Instructor of Economics. He tweets @AsadAijaz Published in Daily Times, December 31st 2018.