Imran Khan has been sworn in after a struggle of more than two decades, and his first speech in the National Assembly, muffled by a verbal mob attack from PML-N’s parliamentarians, is being criticized for rotating backwards to the agenda of corruption. Khan’s rise to power is being seen as resting on the narrative built around fighting corruption. But look closely at one of his more shining moments - his victory speech after most of the results of General Elections 2018 were in, lauded by supporters and critics alike. The core agenda, there, was not just corruption. It was human development. If we join the dots, Khan’s sloganeering against corruption has always led to one single point of convergence: Let’s get back the nation’s money from those who usurped it, and spend it on human development. In Khan, then, Pakistan may well have its most human-centric prime minister to date.
Consider the man’s journey from November 10, 1989, when he made a nation-wide appeal for the collection of funds from a match between Pakistan and India on at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, to start collection of money for the cancer hospital he wanted to establish. Some five years later, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital opened its doors for the first time. The philanthropic spending to date at SKMT has been Rs 32.835 billion (US$ 371 Million). Namal College in his home district of Mianwali followed, and is a success story in itself. This has been Khan’s focus in life apart from his relentless and eventually successful efforts at changing the country’s political landscape from the platform of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Perhaps no human is actually ever altruistic, and whatever good that we do for others is actually done because it makes us feel good about ourselves. And Khan is as human as they come. Combustible, emotional, flawed, egoistic, and duly criticized for all of this across the board. But he is also quintessentially gritty, dedicated, committed, sincere and kindhearted. Whether his passion for social causes like public health and education is altruistically driven, and why he invests so much of himself in the human-centric approach, would be a futile and lengthy psychoanalysis. But this human-centric approach, if properly used, can mean definitely better tomorrows for Pakistan’s people, and that is what we must reflect upon.
Look at just a few examples from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) under the reign of the PTI from 2013 to 2018. The Sehat Sahulat card is KP government’s flagship health insurance programme, very low on premiums, that allows families to utilise up to a decent sum of PKR 540,000 per annum, not in public sector but also private sector hospitals and healthcare facilities. On a broader level, PTI’s establishing the Right to Public Services Commission has been an effective move. Responsible government functionaries can get penalised if services are not provided to citizens promptly. Some of the public services in this regard include issuance of domicile, death and birth certificates, approval of residential building plans, OPD and Emergency services, release zakat funds, grant of Jahez fund, water connection, clean drinking water, disposal of garbage/solid waste, and issuance of wood permit for construction of house. In an earlier report, Atif Khan, the then Minister for Education, KP, had shared that education of girls was prioritised by the PTI-led provincial government. He had mentioned that 70 per cent of all new schools the government is working on are schools for girls, and also 70 per cent of the work to provide missing facilities in schools is focused on facilities for girls. As an incentive, female education managers in backward districts like Kohistan were being paid 50 per cent extra.
In the 100-Days plan the PTI unveiled a couple of months short of the General Elections was perhaps too ambitious, and even idealistic. Yet, the path was clear. It was mostly focused on human development. In fact even when PTI talks of economic stability and financial growth in the country, the dot is joined to ideas like creation of jobs, especially for the youth, construction of houses, and availability of quality education and healthcare for all Pakistanis. What they are presenting the plan for, then, is infrastructure and business growth that, in turn, helps work on the human capital of the country. For too long there has been a lopsided focus on the building of infrastructure and material expressions of development, but somewhere the average Pakistani got lost. Whatever work was done in the past by previous rulers (leaders would be a debatable and probably refutable term) was clearly not enough. Under the pressure of social media and induced awareness, previous governments sporadically and isolatedly did some work in areas like health and education, it was never the singular focus. Today it is, and this is a refreshing change for Pakistan. A Tabdeeli (change) that one hopes and prays the PTI government, under Imran Khan, is able to pull off, and put into action.
The author is a freelance journalist, media trainer and communications practitioner. Her focus is human-centric stories.