With the Kaptaan as the new prime minister in clear sight, a frequent question being raised is about the challenges he would face in the office. The challenges are too many, too complex and deep-rooted. First and foremost is the economy. It is overburdened by debt servicing which is not possible to honour repayment without procuring more debts in the short term. The fiscal deficit between imports and exports has reached a historic high, around $35 billion that speaks a lot about our trade policies, stagnant export base and the liberal imports policies. Our tax-to-GDP ratio at about 8.5-9 per cent is one of the lowest in the world that continuously forces the governments to borrow domestically and internally, even to build roads, highways and motorways.
More disgusting is the fact that state run entities, like PIA, the PSM and power distribution companies cause around an estimated Rs3 trillion of losses because of overstaffing, inefficiencies and systemic corruptions. Our tertiary public education system is in the worst shape compared to other South Asian countries. So is our lower rate of human development in the region. No country in the world has ever progressed without a robust, uniform and universally accessible public education system. Pakistan with a massive youth bulge could have transformed itself into a knowledge economy by reforming the public education system.
Over the decades, the elite political class has subverted the state institutions—the bureaucracy—to serve its political interests. Its autonomy, respect and efficiency in delivering public services have never been so bad as during the past 10 years of two tenures of the PPP and the PML-N. The pervasive corruption and inefficiency we see at all levels of governance is because of planned, wilful and systematic plunder of national wealth by the ruling parties and their allies. They couldn’t do it without undermining the rule of law norms, ruining institutions and promoting a culture of graft.
The PPP and the PML-N now together in a ‘united’ opposition to a government that has yet to take office have to answer for where Pakistan stands today. The clever tongues they have hired and gentrified as members of the assemblies and the Senate to defend the dynasties in the media have no moral strength or any argument. For decades, the ‘spokespersons’ have been parroting two phrases: their bosses have done no wrong and no case has been proven against them. When a case has been proved, they attack the courts, the justice system, accountability process and investigating agencies.
Pakistan is truly in a mess, failing, facing severe and multiple crises. Sadly, there is a split mandate that gives not much political space to the PTI to take bold and unpopular decisions. The bitter political truth that the PTI and the people of Pakistan must face is this: we will have to take unpopular decisions, like privatising loss-making public enterprises, ensuring accountability and reforms that may not go well with the vested interests. Unsurprisingly, we may find the opposition parties standing in the way of reforms, disrupting reforms.
Imran Khan will have to prove, he is different, a true reformer, political risk taker, bold and as determined to change Pakistan as he has been in confronting the two corrupt political dynasties. His life history, record, political struggle and social work shows, he is a fighter to the end, relentless, undefeatable for a cause.
In history, determined, strong-willed, reformist leaders have succeeded against the strongest of currents of opposition. The question is not why IK will succeed when others have failed, the question is why he will not succeed. The difference between him and others is integrity, sense of purpose and public trust.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2018.