One-month on, Kaptan rolls out reforms programme

Islamabad: The performance of the PTI government in its first month in office can be summed up in three words: reforms, reforms and reforms.

Over the past month Prime Minister Imran Khan has already initiated a massive reforms programme across the country doing away with discretionary funds and cutting non-development expenditures drastically.

During the past month, Imran has not gone on any foreign visit — neither on Umra (pilgrimage) to Saudi Arabia nor on a goodwill visit to China or America — which had been a traditional practice of his predecessors Nawaz Sharif, Yusuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Zardari.

In his own words, how can you afford such luxury visits when the country has to pay Rs6 billion (Dh177.90 million) mark-up daily on external debts?

His austerity drive — declining to live in the Prime Minister’s House, opening to the public the doors to the Governor’s Houses, auctioning luxury cars, banning foreign tours by government officials and ministers and mobilising the masses to generously aid the Chief Justice-initiated funds for water reservoirs is received well by the masses.

During a meeting of the federal cabinet last month, the prime minister constituted six task force teams to suggest steps for implementation of the government’s 100-day plan of ‘change’ and introduce reforms in different sectors, including civil services and the local government system. Gulf News approached a number of experts on security, economy, foreign affairs, social sector and local government and sought their opinion of how the government is faring and what needs to be done.

For the first time in decades they think the government is acting like a custodian of each penny collected from them in taxes.

Education, health care and social welfare sectors are being overhauled.

In Punjab the PTI government’s provincial health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid has launched a public health insurance programme through which Rs0.5 million (AED 148,206) health cards will be issued to the poor throughout the province.

At the federal level too, the government is planning to set up four state-of-the-art hospitals in the federal capital and PC-I of the project will soon be initiated.

However, besides these morale-boosting steps taken by the new government within a period of 30 days, there are some fundamental questions the government is yet to answer.

Economy: U-turn on Atif Mian and relying on donations for water reservoirs can backfire.

On the economic front, the PTI-government is continuously oscillating from one stance to another. First it announced then withdrew the name of Dr Atif Mian, an internationally recognised economist from its much-hyped Economic Advisory Council (EAC) on the basis of his being a Qadiyani non-Muslim.

Adviser on Commerce one day suggested all projects in China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) needed to be put on hold for one year and the next day the words were taken back.

Similarly, Prime Minister Imran Khan in a televised appeal asked the people, particularly overseas Pakistanis, to raise US$14 billion to build dams.

Economists have termed these moves quite startling as they revealed its ignorance of economic matters.

Economist Dr Kaiser Bengali told Gulf News said doubted the government’s plan to raise funds for dams through donations. “It would be a miracle if the government managed to get enough donations required for construction of dams,” he said. If the government doesn’t properly do its homework on water reservoirs, it can backfire and it would be unfortunate as not only the government would lose public trust, construction of dams through international consortium would further be delayed, they said.

“We not only need massive donations but we need to cut non-development expenditures and if the government by some means manages 50pc of resources, the rest can be assured by foreign companies, investors etc, even machinery for the dam can be leased,” he said.

On Dr Atif Mian’s issue he said it was unfortunate that the government was discriminating against citizens of Pakistan on the basis of their faith. This country also belongs to non-Muslims and one should be judged by one’s talent not by one’s faith, he said.

Foreign Policy: A calculated and cautious approach

Former High Commission of Pakistan to India and an expert on Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Ambassador Abdul Basit while talking to Gulf News said on foreign policy, it is good to see the new government is not in a rush and taking its time and moving forward in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. Internal cohesion is a sine qua non for effective and efficient diplomacy and to achieve our foreign policy objectives.

Ambassador Basit was of the view that Foreign Policy is what states do and inspire internally. To a question on Pakistan India relations he said “We must pursue a calculated and patient diplomacy vis a vis India as the BJP government doesn’t seem ready to engage in substantive negotiations. Meanwhile we must set up our efforts to expose Indian atrocities in Kashmir underlining how necessary it is to settle this issue in order to realise lasting peace in South Asia.”

Local Government: Task force to come up with practicable recommendations

Imran Khan has set up a task force to present recommendations for an entirely new and truly representative local government system at the grass-roots level. According to Abid Farooqi, a political worker and analyst: “PTI leadership believes in transfer of power to the masses at the grass-roots level in the real sense. The system Prime Minister Imran Khan is going to introduce would enable people to make their own decisions through an effective and strong local government system.” He said the PTI government wanted to make the local governments more effective and functional in the light of the experience of its previous government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Security: Need to build up a strong narrative against terrorism

According to Pakistan People’s Party Senator Sherry Rehman, the government has to build a narrative on security. “No one wants his mosque, temple, synagogue or any place of worship bombed by terrorists,” she said. Therefore, achieving a consensus on it is not a difficult thing.

Terrorism according to her grows in nursery of extremism and embedded in slippery slope of identity politics and delusion. “Unfortunately those who cannot even read are able to transfer money on their smart phones. She cautioned against the use of technology by terrorists and saboteurs.

In order to counter terrorism and defeat its operatives, we must take those sections of society into confidence that speak of inclusion and reject those who promote hatred, she said while addressing “International Conference on Global Peace Amidst War and Conflict” here on Monday.


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