Pakistan has elected its 22nd prime minister. The country has spoken and the people have placed their trust in a new system, government and leader.
While the general elections themselves displayed a high level of maturity on the part of the people of Pakistan, it also reflected a very specific mindset. This mindset is based overhauling the present system and introducing a new vision that is popularly referred to as Naya Pakistan. After all, this is the dream that the PTI has been selling to the people for the last five years. But what does fulfilling this dream entail?
If we decipher Imran Khan’s victory speech, we see some specific agenda points that seem to cover ‘his’ vision for Pakistan. Overall, most of Pakistan seemed rather pleased with this vision. Some termed his speech as bold and mature, while other said that it was eloquent and composed. Either way, Khan seemed to have made his first impression (as PM) very impactful and convincing. The promises made were heart-warming, albeit ambitious, and the sentiment was genuine.
However, his second speech, given at the National Assembly upon officially winning enough votes to be elected prime minister, was quite the opposite. Signs of aggression prevailed and there was no real composure. To the contrary, it seemed that Khan was still in ‘opposition mode’. Regardless, he stuck to his agenda and ensured a new, better and more transparent Pakistan.
But can Khan deliver on his promises? Can the people expect to see the vision of Naya Pakistan coming to fruition? Will the next five years genuinely change the face of Pakistan from what it is today? These questions are all too simple to answer in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
There are, however, certain surrounding factors which can shed light on the above questions.
We now have a leader who has made himself clear in terms of transparency and corruption. The formula is simple: corruption deters investment, especially from overseas Pakistanis. To counter this, we will not only strengthen our institutions, but also bolster our economy by starting with ourselves. Yes, literally, ourselves. For example, I will forego my VIP treatment at the PM House and will make sure that the rest of the country follows this example. Anyone practising otherwise will be dealt with under the law – even if they are PTI leaders. This will translate into the people feeling more comfortable paying taxes and also witnessing development – both economic and infrastructural – being carried out across the country. In addition, job opportunities will be created for the youth within Pakistan by enhancing our labour’s skill and ensuring job security.
As a starting point, this vision sounds quite appealing. More interestingly, Khan has placed himself as the guinea pig to set the record straight. Now that independents and coalition parties have supported the PTI in forming a government, Khan will have to ensure that his vision of simplicity and transparency is shared by others alike. This is likely to be a challenge and could prove to be a potential deterrent in the smooth running of Naya Pakistan. Only time will tell how successful the simple-life routine proves for team Naya Pakistan.
It is also important to analyse the fact that this is the PTI’s maiden term as the incumbent government of Pakistan. This means new leaders will be running the country based on the different portfolios that they receive. It is difficult to recall a time in our history when new faces came to the forefront to lead the country. The political landscape has always seen the same faces run the country. The only difference was that they did so in different capacities.
A simple question comes to mind at this point: will team Naya Pakistan be able to deliver as promised? If so, will it succeed?
To the PTI’s advantage, we (technically) have a completely fresh cabinet of leaders; leaders who will be leading Pakistan and its people based on a unified vision of Naya Pakistan. Some have yet to be tested and others are perceived as ‘the smart lot’ of politicians. Some have already hit the limelight as doubts have surfaced about their potential to lead. Despite the hue and cry, we can say with certainty that many new faces have entered the arena and this bodes well for the PTI in two respects.
First, Khan’s inner group consists of highly technocratic elites. If placed sensibly, each leader’s expertise can be utilised to the fullest based on the portfolio he or she receives. If there is one thing that we have learned as a nation, it is that the leadership should have substance. This is Khan’s chance to prove this.
Second, having a team of leaders who have not necessarily ‘grown up’ to politics but have instead developed expertise based on their professional careers is something Pakistan has rarely witnessed. They understand politics to the extent of politics and can simultaneously relate to fulfilling their portfolio agenda based on their specialised experience. This could prove to be extremely beneficial for the vision that Khan has in mind for Naya Pakistan: a dream team of leaders possessing technical experience and knowledge in their respective areas of expertise.
Khan must utilise this opportunity to the fullest. Choosing to do otherwise, even if it is for the right reasons, could impact positive development in the country. After all, you cannot expect a chartered accountant to perform a brain surgery. Pushing him to do so is likely to lead to one outcome: failure.
The coming months will, therefore, be crucial for the PTI in convincing the people what their vision for Naya Pakistan entails. For now, being elected as PM is enough. However, the promises that have been made need to be delivered in due course. These promises won’t easily be forgotten. They have a deep connection with the people. Khan is the leader they are counting on for deliverance. While Khan appears to have his dream team in place, how he utilises it is vital to the success of his promises.
Let’s not forget what Naya Pakistan initially stood for. It stood for hope against a traditional leadership and system of governance to allow a new generation of leaders to govern the country towards democratic success and development. The question that needs to be asked within the next 100 days is whether this vision has been achieved. If so, we are in for a treat. If not, Khan needs to think of Plan B fast.
Pakistan has chosen democracy. The people have chosen their leader. The Kaptaan has chosen a new Pakistan. The clock of change is officially ticking.
The writer is a lawyer based in Vienna.