November 19, 2018
Imran Khan (IK) is about to account for his first 100 days in office while observers have begun their own assessment, Brookings Institute being one example. While domestic issues and perspectives dominate Pakistani analysis, this hyperlinked video of the Brookings Institute focuses more on foreign policy issues particularly the extent to which they intersect with US interests. Madiha Afzal, one of the three panelists, devotes her attention more methodically to the domestic issues as well. She sounds most relevant to these 100 days of IK and might also be helpful to a neophyte government going through usual turbulence of its teething period.
IK is taking his first steps in governance, an arena that is totally new to him. Most of his comrades are equally new to the field. He had laid out ambitious goals for these few days. If he could chalk out a clear path to move towards those objectives, he would have made a promising beginning. Learning curve of this inexperienced government could deserve primary attention of the observers in this phase. Has IK fully realized that economic crisis that Pakistan faces is definitely far more complex than he had visualized or appreciated during his days in the opposition? Coming to terms with seeking help from potential donors within the region and approaching IMF, against his grain, appears to have been the principal concern of his government in these initial days. Financial support IK has secured from Saudi Arabia and possibly from UAE could help reduce the component of bailout package needed from the IMF for which difficult negotiations have begun. On the reform issues, reality of legislative and political hurdles seems to have sunk in as transformation of local bodies and police has seen its implementation dates reviewed and revised to meet more realistic expectations.
Anti-corruption continues to be a major pursuit of the government despite evidence showing the illusive nature of the quantum of the monies embezzled and reliability of the modes of their recovery. Some progress on this count is evident but would IK apprehend going forward that reliance on financing development schemes through recovered black money or stolen assets might not stand on slippery slopes? Equally difficult it seems to procure evidence that would meet judicial standards. Prime Minister Modi’s disappointment with similar ambitions would be a great learning moment but the government has yet to figure out how to look at India.
Confrontation towards oppositions has defined the government posture during these initial days. While it might continue to resonate with IK base, it does not seems to address potential parliamentary and legislative hurdles he certainly faces with his razor thin majority. Evidence of possible changes is not currently evident. Would he take a “U-turn” on that hazardous course of action?
Confrontation was also the initial posture toward religious extremists as they challenged the writ of the government following Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Asiya Bibi in the blasphemy case. Facing the violence on the street for the first time, IK government opted for a more conciliatory approach to move the mobs off the street. Does that forebode a pattern or he would be able to take on the demons straddling through Pakistan’s sociopolitical matrix?
Inexperience notwithstanding, first time members of the federal and provincial cabinets are finding their voice. The Federal and the Punjab Cabinets nonetheless appear way behind their colleagues in the KPK government. KPK has been the sole five-year model of governance that propelled IK to success in other areas as well. Despite a change of leadership, KPK sounds to be on course in terms of good governance agenda sustaining progress in police, health and education sectors.
At the center, while confrontation defines the posture towards the opposition, IK is demonstrably engaged in figuring out ways to make his vision a reality. His account of 100-days balance sheet would reveal where he stands in his own estimate of success and failure. Beyond averting balance of payment crisis, progress on other areas is less obvious but not totally absent. Anti-corruption drive has produced some results. Efforts to expand health coverage for the poor and the needy, along the KPK model, are afoot. Alleviation of poverty and malnutrition is a well-defined goal. He has moved forward to open shelters for the homeless persons, producing some immediate results and defining parameters for forward movement.
Within the region, foreign policy performance of the IK government followed familiar course. In its relations with the West, clarity has yet to settle in. Irritants like expulsion of international NGOs would require a more than arbitrary response. Relations with the United States would also merit a deeper reflection.
IK might have to brace for a robust phase of Pakistan’s relationship with China with an enhanced people-to-people dimension. CPEC and the Belt and Road initiatives continue to spur people-to-people contact, enhance language learning and educational opportunities, intercultural engagement, banking and commercial links and travel both by air and by road. During IK’s recent visit to China, the two countries agreed to use renminbi as currency of bilateral exchange. The joint statement issued at the end of the visit counted 25,000 Pakistani students in China and indicted an increase in the number of scholarships in the future. Demographic and socioeconomic components of this population would make an interesting study. This could be a group entirely different from the West-bound youth and more visible to lower and middle class in Pakistan. As China’s strategic relationship with Pakistan moves more noticeably into peoples’ lives, regional perspective could strive for a more dominant space in foreign policy orientation than some of the more distant determinants.
IK’s journey has just begun.
Dawn, Naya Pakistan Tracker: a tabulated overview of PTI promises and implementation.
PTI, 100-Day Agenda.
BBC Urdu, Asma Shirazi recalls first 100-days and historic achievement of PPP founder Chairperson, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, 1972-1977.
BBC Urdu, Abid Hussain assesses first 100-days of IK.
Daily Jang, Khalid Mustapha compares 100 days of PTI and PML N governments.
Daily Jang, Fakhar Durrani, recalls some of the recent U-turns of IK.
Dawn,Ahmed Bilal Mahboob on the 100 days of the fifteenth Parliament.
Dawn, 100-Day Round Up.