Friday, August 16, 2019
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb on Friday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s first year was a series of miserable failures when it comes to governance and policy-making.
In a statement, the former information minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has successfully turned every national success into terminal failure. “The country has gone from one of the most affordable countries in the region to one of the most difficult countries to survive in,” she said.
She said that PM Imran will break his own “world record of compulsive lying” on August 18 when his government would have completed its first year in power. “Over 4.5 million people have been pushed below the poverty line whereas 1.5 million have become jobless. Despite borrowing huge sums from other countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government has not completed a single developmental project,” she said.
She said that inflation has spiked from 3 per cent to 13 per cent, growth rate of 5.8 per cent has fallen to under 2 per cent and interest rate has shot up from 5.75 per cent to 14 per cent, which is nothing but catastrophic for the national economy.
She asked how many “paradigm-changing chickens and cattle” were distributed by the government. “The government had promised five million homes and 10 million jobs but it has not delivered on a single promise,” she added.
The PTI will be completing the first year of its tenure tomorrow. It is time to take account of its perceived achievements and failures.
Two million jobs and 200,000 houses per year were required to fulfil the promise of 10 million jobs and one million homes in five years. While tens of thousands of people have lost jobs, not a single new residential unit has been built so far. The party considers a handful of ‘Panah Gahs’ a major achievement. Other steps paraded as landmarks include E-visa extension and visa on arrival, which have no bearing on the life of the people of this country. That no financial scandal involving government high ups has been reported is also presented as a remarkable feat.
Within eight months of coming to power a clueless PTI government fired its own financial wizards, handing over the country’s economic management to the IMF’s team which is least bothered about the impact of its policies on the life of the common man. The people are consequently suffering under the impact of rising prices and inflated gas and electricity bills. The government’s economic policies have pushed tens of thousands below the poverty line.
The PTI government took political polarisation to an unprecedented height in the very first year of its rule. It goaded NAB to arrest opponents even when no offense had been proved against them in a court of law. The arrest of former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Finance Minister Miftah Ismail and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz are some of the cases that prove that malice was the motive behind the arrests.
Free speech has been suppressed, TV channels pulled off-air without due process, newspapers pressurised to ban columnists and baseless treason cases filed to silence the media.
The government has squandered the opportunity provided to it by the Trump Administration’s urgency to quit Afghanistan. The government has played its cards badly. Instead of supporting Pakistan’s Kashmir stand, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s message on August 14 underlines the need to build on the important commitments made during recent visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the senior leadership of the Government of Pakistan. Back to do more, Pakistan.
BY Harris Khalique
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to provide relief to citizens when he came to power last year, but his government has only added to their misery, says Harris Khalique of Pakistan's human rights commission.
When Imran Khan was elected as Pakistan's prime minister on August 17, 2018, some Pakistanis saw him as the the best option, but others saw Khan as a messiah, and followed him like blinkered members of a populist cult.
Khan's victory was the triumph of Pakistan's self-righteous and self-serving affluent urban middle class. They were aided internationally by a well-meaning but naive diaspora, and domestically by the leadership of the politically dominating and psychologically impatient judiciary and military.
Khan's supporters agreed on his prescription for treating the ills of Pakistan's economy and polity: i.e. moral answers to material questions and administrative solutions to structural problems.
Both have failed to work. Rather than providing relief to common citizens as promised, the past year has added to their misery.
In 2018, the narrative that was sold to the public for a "new idea of Pakistan" could be summarized as a corruption-free economy and a justly governed country. This narrative was realized through Khan's rise to power, along the rise of his political outfit, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in national and provincial general elections.
The July 2018 general elections were marred by accusations of pre-poll manipulation and vote-rigging. But those who understood that a nascent democracy constrained by a colonial structure would stumble before finding its feet were willing to give Pakistan's new democratic dispensation a serious chance. Even the main opposition parties were cautious and feared that their non-cooperation could have brought an end to the democratic order altogether.
Therefore, Khan's government began with even better support than two of his predecessors — Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972, and Nawaz Sharif in 1990. All powerful institutions of the state were on his side, opposition was reluctant to agitate and a large part of the affluent middle class — having sway over both market and media at that time — saw him as a savior.
One year into this government, not only do we find all the promises made for improving the economy and governance unfulfilled, the path forward seems to have been lost as well.
Capitalism works in a certain way in a developing country, and the PTI claims it can fix the system without knowing how it works.
The PTI's rhetoric about curbing corruption and ending financial debt was turned upside down sooner than imagined. The cluelessness, and therefore poor performance of PTI's economic managers appointed at the outset, brought their unceremonious ouster within months.
A late agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not only put more pressure on Khan's government, it also meant the IMF could exercise more control over Pakistan's financial decision-making.
In the name of bringing macroeconomic stability, growth has been stifled, the currency is majorly devalued and markets have lost their trust. Hyper-inflation and unprecedented power and energy price hikes coupled with sharp decline in incomes of middle, lower middle and working class have brought extraordinary hardships on common people. Poverty indicators soar and under- and unemployment rise as a consequence of this economic slowdown.
On top of this, there have been major cuts introduced in spending on health and education directly hitting the disadvantaged. As far as public debt is concerned, a recent report in The Express Tribunenewspaper revealed that more than two-thirds of what the previous Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) government had borrowed in five years has already been acquired by Khan's government in less than one year.
Foreign relations and domestic policies
In terms of foreign relations, Khan's government is finding it hard to create a balance between the US and China for its own benefit. The pace of investments and development under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is caught up in uncertainty, while the US seems to be reluctant in offering any substantial support unless Pakistan fulfills the role Washington envisages for it in the ongoing Afghan peace process.
Bending over backwards to woo Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the past year has brought limited dividends to Khan in every quarter, including support to Pakistan's economic stability.
The Arab countries' response was cold when Pakistan expected them to denounce India's recent annexation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, where constitutional safeguards were withdrawn, compounded with stark military aggression against civilians.
What Khan's government and its backers in the establishment have successfully done over the past year is to systematically curb political dissent and constrain freedom of the mainstream media.
But those who can recall Pakistan's political history —however chequered it may have been — know full well that muffling of voices eventually leads to unmanageable dissonance in the body politic that in turn erodes the very base of the government.
Need for introspection
At the end of its first year in power, what Khan's government needs is a critical introspection in order to fundamentally alter its economic policies to realize the economic rights of Pakistani citizens. This includes alleviating poverty and increasing productivity.
The government also needs to better manage the country's foreign relations with a long-term vision that helps strike a balance between global powers to Pakistan's advantage.
Finally, the government needs to appreciate the importance of civil and political rights and respect for the freedom of expression, which are prerequisites to creating a healthy society and sustainable polity.