Members of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) turned a talk by the economic team of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday into an unruly celeb fest, leaving little time for an informed discussion on policy matters.
The KCCI had invited Imran Khan, along with his economic policy think-tank – comprising Asad Umar and Jahangir Tarin – to present his “economic roadmap of Pakistan’s economy.” However, no meaningful exchange of economic ideas took place, as both Umar and Tarin chose to stay mute throughout the meeting.
After a painfully long and clichéd speech by former KCCI president Siraj Kassim Teli, which he ended reluctantly after loud boos from the audience, Khan took the podium and regaled attendees with anecdotes from the lives of Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan and India’s Nitish Kumar, who is said to have ended corruption from the state of Bihar in 90 days as chief minister.
“We’re going to do away with the Ministry of Railways and turn the railways into a corporation. We will also make Pakistan International Airlines a corporation by taking it away from the Ministry of Defence,” Khan thundered to the audience.
He observed that Karachi’s law and order problem could not be fixed without first de-politicising the police. “Deputing the army and rangers is not going to solve Karachi’s security problem,” he said. Saying that his economic advisers believed that the tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio could be increased by at least 5%, Khan added that a higher boost in revenue collection was possible given the “elaborate” plan the PTI had envisioned for the reformation of the Federal Board of Revenue and to “incentivise” the bureaucracy to work efficiently.
Khan also vowed to turn all governor houses and other palatial government-owned residences into public parks, educational institutes, libraries and museums. Pandering to right-wing sentiment, he stated he was in favour of regional trade without putting the Kashmir issue on the backburner.
After predicting that the PTI will achieve a two-thirds majority in the next general election, Khan said his party would introduce constitutional amendments that will put an end to all kinds of foreign aid. “We will make it illegal to accept foreign aid. It is the biggest curse. We will balance our budgets and become self-reliant,” he said. Khan also asked the business community to do away with its “apolitical approach,” saying every citizen was supposed to speak up against injustice in society.
Perhaps it was the non-serious atmosphere or the maybe frivolous mood of the businessmen – many of whom had brought along their families to catch a glimpse of the dashing former cricketing star – which forced Umar to simply tune out by the end of the meeting. Umar had to ask a questioner to repeat his query when the PTI chairman unexpectedly requested him to respond on his behalf. In response, Umar ducked the question, which was about the development of Pakistan’s capital markets, by saying that he knew the questioner personally and would discuss the matter with him in detail later.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2012.
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