It was a different address from a different prime minister in a ‘Naya Pakistan’. PM Imran Khan was not addressing the nation but was talking to the people in an unconventional manner. He looked relaxed, confident and connected to the people. He clearly set the tone and outlined his vision for his government.
The new PM has announced some immediate measures as part of his austerity drive, leading from the front by declaring that he will be living in a three-bedroom house with two cars and two servants.
With high expectations there are also challenges and difficulties in building the ‘institutions’, across the board accountability, zero tolerance for corruption, economic prosperity and come up to the expectation of the people.
He outlines his plan for doing something different in the field of education, health, tourism, human rights and most important to reform highly politicised and corrupt departments; civil service, police, NAB, FIA and FBR. Full marks to him on his first appearance after taking oath. Austerity measures always get positive response from the people and in this way he has made quite an impact. It was appreciated by all including the opposition parties, which may now have to look for a counter narrative and Parliament can adopt a unanimous resolution or through legislation declare that in future all presidents, PMs and heads of other institutions will live in small houses and use small cars. In this way opposition can put its input into it.
His biggest task will be institution-building and Imran is lucky that at present all the ‘Pillars of the State’, look supportive to him and want him to deliver. He has also made up his mind that he will be meeting with the Chief Justice of Pakistan for major judicial reforms so that people can get speedy justice.
Prime Minister of ‘Naya Pakistan’ has outlined his vision by declaring the austerity measures for himself and his ministers, CMs and governors as well as for others. The PM has already started living in the three-bedroom house, will only have two cars and two servants. All other official cars of PM including eight to nine bulletproof cars would be auctioned. Hope he will keep his ministers or partymen out of it for showing transparency.
His nominated ministers, governors and chief ministers will also have to adopt the same way of life. There is still a lot more to do and let’s see how effective will be this austerity drive and what change will it bring in our social and cultural life. One also expects ministers and at time even the PM, should also travel by train and not only leave to railway minister.
Expectations from the prime minister of ‘Naya Pakistan’ are too high and that is why people generally appreciated his ‘style’ of first address as he looked very much connected to the people. We all know high expectations at times bring disappointment as well and one can only hope that the PM will bring more smiles than sad faces.
He already hinted at transferring MNAs and MPAs development funds to local government and called for direct elections of district nazims. He has promised to make Karachi, Pakistan’s economic hub and biggest city a true metropolitan city.
With Imran Khan in such a mood it would not be easy for joint or divided opposition to challenge him in the absence of any counter narrative. For instance, people will judge the opposition government in Sindh with Centre and Punjab. How much the PPP and Sindh government will change itself. If the opposition parties fail to come out with counter narrative and more impressive plan, Imran’s narrative will get stronger.
Now, his strong cabinet has also taken oath and while there are chances that few more ministers and advisers may be inducted one hope it will not be a very big cabinet. He is lucky that he enjoyed unprecedented support, both from the people and from the institutions, something which was essential for ‘Naya Pakistan’ and which was missing for several years. With such a backing he will have no excuse not to bring good governance. He has government at the Centre and directly in two, Punjab and KP and coalition in Balochistan. Importantly, he has talked about those Baloch groups and militants, who are angry and not in mainstream. He still has to come out with his foreign policy and national security policy and it will be interesting to watch.
It would be even better if instead of keeping many ministries to himself like interior, he should hand over ministries and look after all ministries like a captain. If he has plans to depoliticise all institutions and make them autonomous, there is no need to keep some ministries to himself. Prime minister of ‘Naya Pakistan’ has also outlined his vision and basic reform agenda for ‘tabdeeli’.
In the first six months, the premier will have to set the directions in the light of the recommendations of more than one ‘task force’, he has announced in his speech. Change should not only come but should also be seen as people have very high expectations from him and his government.
His cabinet on paper looked good and irrespective of their past it will be very important how they deliver under the prime minister. The chief executive has to ensure that his ministers or advisers should not have ‘conflict of interest’.
While everyone appreciated his ‘austerity plan’, it is also important that he should abolish all ‘secret funds’ of ministries and different institutions or at least evolve a transparent mechanism in case of confidential matters.
The PM has an uphill task to reform civil services and institutions like FBR, police, FIA and NAB. Will he be able depoliticise these institutions, meaning no government interference but, certainly government oversight. Prime Minister Imran Khan has to develop the concept of a public servant. His ministers, advisers should travel in small cars, no need to put flags on their cars or VIP number plates.
It was also quite reassuring that the prime minister has announced uplifting the standard of public sector particularly government schools. He has five years to do it and execute his reforms agenda. He has also promised ‘madrassa reforms’, and gives an indication that he would bring some 2.4 million madrassa students in mainstream education system so that these students should also become doctors and engineers.
How much time PM will give to different ‘task forces’, the most important is the one which intends to reform civil service, FBR and police. Imran has high expectations from overseas Pakistanis. He has also asked people to give tax, and is confident that people would respond. All in all it was a very promising speech and as some PTI ministers assured that people will soon notice that ‘tabdeeli’ has come and will stay.
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang