PM Khan needs to roll up his sleeves to address political challenges
It was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s charismatic appeal which convinced his supporters that his government could bring a change in their lives and in Pakistan’s societal affairs. His slogans for a corruption-free country attracted a large number of people, especially those from the age group of 18-40 years. Two months after his assumption of power, a majority continue to bank on Khan for positive developments in the country and, specifically, in their individual lives.
So far, the new government has explored ideas, announced plans and reiterated its determination to rid the administration of corruption and nepotism. It has also announced plans to build five million small-sized houses, in addition to setting up an online portal which would allow citizens to lodge complaints if their issues are not addressed by government officials.
The most significant exercise undertaken by the federal and provincial governments was to cut down expenses as part of Khan’s austerity drive. This has reduced the unnecessary protocol extended to top government officials, bringing down administrative costs, while making their offices more accessible to the people.
Another noteworthy development is the harmonious interaction between the civilian government and the military’s top brass who are working together on terrorism-related issues, foreign policy and national security measures. In Pakistan, especially, this contributes significantly to political continuity and stability.
And while these steps may have helped create a sense of goodwill among the political class, Khan has yet to announce concrete measures to ensure improved governance, greater attention to education and healthcare, better employment opportunities for the youth, in addition to coping with poverty and underdevelopment. The long-term challenges continue to demand credible solutions, specifically the faltering economy which Khan has inherited from the previous governments.
Some of the major deficit issues plaguing the nation today are related to its current account, overall budget and trade -- caused by declining exports and increasing imports. Pakistan also suffers from a dwindling foreign exchange reserve and a downward trend of the Pakistani rupee against the dollar. Much is needed to be done in order to improve the income tax collection in the country as well.
The long-term challenges continue to demand credible solutions, specifically the faltering economy which Khan has inherited from the previous governments.
Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi
In the domestic sector, the current state of economic affairs limits the resources available to pursue socio-economic welfare programs on a large scale, resulting in a scenario where it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance job opportunities while dealing with the pressures of an ever-expanding population.
At the global level, Pakistan’s foreign debts and liabilities amount to $95 billion. The recent economic assistance promised by Saudi Arabia – which will see the Kingdom lend $3 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan and provide oil on a deferred payment of $3 billion for the next three years -- is a welcome relief for Pakistan.
These gestures from friendly countries provide Pakistan with the much-needed space to restructure its economy by paying greater attention to mobilizing resources in the domestic sector and creating job opportunities.
This isn’t the first time that Saudi Arabia has bailed Pakistan out, with Islamabad now turning to the United Arab Emirates and China for additional help. If these efforts mature, Pakistan may not have to approach the International Monetary Fund for an economic restructuring program and even if it does, it could be for a limited amount.
The present government’s success also depends on its commitment to avoid a misuse of state resources, keep a check on corruption and work towards the recovery of cash and assets stashed abroad due to money laundering.
Additionally, Khan would have to emerge from the conflicts introduced by those with vested economic and political interests. As the pressure of accountability increases on the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz – who ruled at the federal level from 2008-2013 and 2013-2018 respectively – some leaders are describing Khan’s anti-corruption efforts as political vendetta.
These factions are also mobilizing loyalists to mount political pressure on the government in order to stop its anti-corruption and anti-money laundering drives; while raising objections on the premier’s efforts to seek financial support from friendly countries.
The Khan government faces strong political resistance if it decides to continue with its efforts to restructure Pakistan’s economy and improve the quality of life for people. A failure to cope with these challenges would make it difficult for the government to pursue its economic agenda and benefit entirely from the assistance extended by its allies.
- Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi is a Pakistan-based political analyst. Twitter: @har132har