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November 20, 2018

A critique of Imran Khan-led PTI govt’s performance so far


November 20, 2018

LAHORE: As the 22nd Pakistani Premier, Imran Khan, braces up to highlight the goals his government has achieved during its first 100 days on November 29, research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” reveals that the ruling regime’s tenure in the cozy power corridors of Islamabad so far has been a mixed bag of accomplishments, disappointments, fortunes, flip-flops and some embarrassment at the hands of the courts chiefly.

The first 100 days of Imran Khan’s Premiership had begun with his swearing-in ceremony on August 18, 2018.

It is imperative to note that on August 17, a day before Imran Khan took oath as premier, the Supreme Court had come up with a landmark decision, whereby allowing overseas Pakistanis the right to cast vote via internet.

The court had been hearing a petition filed by none other than Imran Khan, who had long sought voting rights for Pakistanis abroad, as his party was enjoying a large following amongst the diaspora.

Many local and Western media outlets have viewed that the October 2 murder of dissenting Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Turkey has proved a blessing in disguise for Pakistan as Saudi Arabia needed Islamabad’s moral support at a time when the Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman was under Donald Trump’s spotlight and was being condemned in America, European and Turkish media for allegedly triggering a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, and for his role in a series of diplomatic gaffes and repression at home. And then, the Saudi monarchs were disturbed after the much advertised investment conference in Riyadh was greeted by a boycott by most celebrated invitees from the West in the backdrop of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's ruthless killing.

Imran had earlier visited Saudi Arabia in September, soon after assuming power, but had returned home empty-handed.

So, this is where good fortune has perhaps helped the Pakistani government at helm of affairs in averting a likely Balance of Payments crisis and a resultant melt down of economy.

By far, the best thing the PTI government has probably done---with assistance from courts-- is the launch of an anti-encroachment drive against land mafia and unlawful encroachments countrywide.

Thousands of acres of state land, worth dozens of billions of rupees, has so far been retrieved from land mafia all over the country and one can actually see this on ground.

Since the initiation of this drive, not only a few major land grabbers like Mansha “Bomb” have been apprehended—courtesy Supreme Court-- but a few PTI Lahore lawmakers like Karamat Khokhar have also been reprimanded by the Chief Justice Saqib Nisar-led Apex Court for harbouring and protecting the hardened criminals in this context.

Highlights and chronology of PTI government’s tenure so far:

On August 19, 2018, during his televised address to the public, Imran announced that he would not reside in the 1100-kanal Prime Minister House and would cut down the staff of prime minister house from 524 people to bare minimum, adding that he would only keep two vehicles out of the 80 vehicles available for use of Prime Minister---categorically stating that the rest would be auctioned. The Prime Minister had set the example by living in a simple and much smaller house.

Imran Khan had thus kicked off an austerity campaign across the country to address its financial tough times and to ensure the provision of some cushion for spending on public welfare, human resource development and socio-economic sector etc. He also requested overseas Pakistanis to help the country in this hour of need by keeping money in Pakistani banks and by sending money by banks instead of by illegal means.

Explaining the reason to keep interior ministry to himself he said he wanted to keep the Federal Investigation Agency directly under himself so he can oversee the efforts to curtail money laundering.

During the course of his address, Imran had announced to create a task force to bring laundered money back to Pakistan. He offered all help to the corruption watchdog—the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)—to curb corruption.

On water crisis, he had pledged to build the Diamer-Bhasha Dam. He promised to build four tourism sites every year for development of tourism and take concrete steps to end sexual abuse of children.

The same day, he had nominated a party loyalist Dr. Arif Alvi for the office of the country’s President.

On August 20, 2018, the cabinet condemned the government of Netherlands for allowing a legislator to display "blasphemous caricatures.” Imran had also sought the National Assembly's advice for granting citizenship to Pakistan-born children of Afghan and Bangladeshi migrants.

On August 21, after reviewing a ten year report of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Imran Khan had announced that he would act towards ending corruption in CDA.

The same day, the Premier had also issued directive to solve water crisis in Islamabad. And it was also on August 21 that Imran Khan had paid rich tributes to sufferers of terrorism and lauded Pakistani military and security agencies for combating terrorism.

On August 21, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that government was ending political censorship from state-run media outlets such as PTV and Radio Pakistan etc, so that they could produce content with complete freedom instead of just blowing government’s trumpet.

On August 23, Imran Khan offered humanitarian assistance to the flood-ravaged Indian state of Kerala.

On August 24, the government launched a probe to audit all metro bus projects initiated by the previous PML-N government, including the established metros in Lahore, Multan and Islamabad.

On August 24, a dispute arose after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call to Imran Khan. The US State Department said that Pompeo had discussed "terrorists operating from within Pakistan," while Pakistan's Foreign Office denied the claim. The US State Department reaffirmed its statement even after Pakistan's denial.

The same day, Imran’s Climate change Advisor had informed about first phase launch of 10-billion tree tsunami drive, and announced that 1.5 million saplings would be planted on September 2, 2018 for which 190 plant collection stations would be setup around the country from where public would be able to collect saplings for plantation.

On August 27, the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan had directed staff that no tea or water bottles should be presented to attendees during official meetings.

Meanwhile, Punjab Senior Minister, Aleem Khan, also followed suit and announced that he would donate his monthly salary to Shaukat Khanum Hospital during his tenure as the minister. Aleem also denied official residence and official car.

On August 27, the government had directed Federal Investigation Agency to banish the VIP protocol at airports.

On August 25, 2018, Imran Khan nominated Ehsan Mani and Asad Ali Khan as members of Board of Governors of Pakistan Cricket Board, gave consent to the nomination of Ameer Jogezai as Governor of Baluchistan and nominated Shibli Faraz as leader of the house for Senate.

Noted lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan was appointed Attorney General.

On August 26, Imran Khan took his first noted U-turn by backtracking on the decision to make Ameer Muhammad Khan Jogezai as governor of Balochistan, with his office saying that the name was discussed but never finalized.

It was also on August 26 that a police officer posted in Pakpattan district was removed from his duties as District Police Officer and transferred to Lahore as an Officer on Special Duty over an alleged row with Khawar Maneka, former husband of Prime Minister Imran Khan's wife, Bushra Bibi.

Allegedly, the officer was asked by Chief Minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar to tender an apology to Bushra Bibi's former husband whose vehicle was chased by the said officer since he did not stop at the police check post. The officer had declined to apologize. The case went to the court and Chief Minister had to tender an apology after judges had reprimanded him and Inspector General of Police.

On August 27, Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa, had felicitated Imran on being elected as premier. The two had held their first meeting.

On August 28, Pakistan formally registered its protest with the Dutch government over a proposed sacrilegious caricature competition by a Dutch MP, Geert Wilders.

The same day, opposition had criticized Imran for flouting his own austerity policy after it was reported that the Premier was using a helicopter for his daily travel between Prime Minister House and his Bani Gala residence.

On August 29, Punjab’s Senior Minister Aleem Khan announced that he would present a recommendation for a new local government system in Punjab to the Prime Minister, which he did a few days later.

On August 30, the United States State Department released the transcript of the call between US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Khan, which proved that Pompeo had discussed "terrorists operating from Pakistan,” leading analysts to claim a diplomatic embarrassment for the Pakistani government.

On August 30, Imran paid his first visit to the GHQ. Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhary, publicly cleared all doubts of differences between civilian government and military leadership. Imran’s meeting at the General Headquarters had lasted eight hours.

On August 30, 2018, Punjab Information Minister, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, was part of another controversy as he had publicly aired obscene language against a local television staff, and for passing "vulgar and “misogynistic remarks" against a local film actress, Nargis.

Chohan had to apologize to the actress, but not before a huge storm had blown against him in media.

On September 1, the Prime Minister House had set the date for the auction of a total of 102 luxury vehicles, including 27 bullet-proof cars.

The same day, Supreme Court had reprimanded a PTI Sindh lawmaker Imran Ali Shah for physically assaulting an elderly man on road. Imran Shah was order to donate Rs three million to the Chief Justice’s Dam Fund as a fine and apologize to the victim. He was also suspended by PTI Sindh chapter for a month and was also ordered to pay Rs. 0.5 million in fine as well as bear the costs of medical treatment for 20 patients at an Edhi Centre.

On September 2, Chief Minister Balochistan, Jam Kamal, had vowed to dedicate two chief minister houses being built in Quetta and Urak Valley for public use.

On September 2, Pentagon said aid it had cancelled $300 million in aid to Pakistan due to a lack of "decisive action against militants." The suspension was in addition to another $500 million worth of Coalition Support Fund, which had been withheld earlier in the year by the Trump administration.

On September 3, Imran and Army Chief, General Bajwa, met for the third time since the Premier had assumed office.

On September 4, Imran asked the Petroleum Division to make a plan to stop the stealing of gas, and ordered a 46 per cent increase in gas tariff. His government consequently came under heavy public and media criticism after this decision.

On September 4, Babar Awan, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, resigned from his post in wake of the corruption reference filed against him by NAB over alleged irregularities in the Nandipur Power Project.

On September 5, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Islamabad.

The same day, the government announced a whistleblowers' law would be enacted whereby individuals and firms who helped in trailing and recovering illegal money abroad would be awarded 20 percent of the recovered amount.

The government also announced the end of the Prime Minister’s Laptop Scheme and other loss-making schemes of the previous regime, which reportedly saved up to Rs. 80 billion in funds.

On September 6, the Defence Day was celebrated at the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. During his address on the occasion, Imran Khan paid tribute to the Pakistani soldiers and common people who died in past and present wars, and said the armed forces would "spare no effort to protect the motherland.”

On September 7, September, China's foreign minister arrived in Pakistan to discuss bilateral relations and the ongoing economic projects under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Saudi Arabia's Information Minister, Awwad Alawwad, also arrived in the country to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Fawad Chaudhary.

The same day, the government had asked Atif Mian, an Ahmadi member of the Economic Advisory Council, to step down following a hue and cry mainly raised by religious parties.

Expressing solidarity with Atif Mian, two overseas-based economists (Asim Khwaja and Imran Rasul) had also resigned.

On September 8, JUI-F leader Fazl-ur-Rehman slated the government for appointing Atif Mian.

The same day, the PTI government had slashed the spending on the federal development programme to Rs. 775 billion from Rs. 1,030 billion.

It was also on September 8 that Shahbaz Sharif had accused Imran of coming into power through mass rigging and questioned why a parliamentary commission into rigging allegations had not been constituted yet.

On September 10, Mamnoon Hussain had completed his tenure in office as President of Pakistan and exited the President House with a guard of honour.

On September 17, Pakistan and the United Kingdom announced to undertake ‘justice and accountability initiative’ aimed at expediting operational working on various cases of extradition, money laundering, recovery of stolen assets and other serious organized crimes. Both nations also agreed to establish a joint fund on civil recovery of stolen assets.

On September 18, Imran Khan toured Saudi Arabia. He had met Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his maiden visit to the kingdom.

On September 19, Imran Khan landed in United Arab Emirates. He was received by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

On September 27, eight buffaloes from the Prime Minister's house were auctioned for nearly 2.3 million.

On October 6, Imran Khan visited Quetta along with Army Chief. This was his first trip to Balochistan after taking charge.

On October 13, Imran Khan launched the "Clean and Green Pakistan" initiative at a school in Islamabad, where he also planted a sapling.

On October 22, Pakistani Prime Minister reached Saudi Arabia to take part in a key investment conference.

Saudi Arabia agreed to give Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year and $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports. The $6 billion total assistant has surely helped Pakistan in reducing the size of expected IMF bailout package, parleys for which are still underway.

Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman, had agreed to reduce visa fee for Pakistani workers too.

On October 28, the government had transferred the Inspector General Police Islamabad, Jan Muhammad Khan, after an incident taking place at Federal Minister Azam Swati’s Islamabad farm house. A family was arrested by police on Swati’s insistence for allegedly trespassing on his property. The arrested family had alleged that Azam Swati’s servants had beaten them up and confiscated their animals.

On October 29, the Supreme Court was told that Islamabad IGP, Jan Muhammad Khan, was transferred on the verbal orders of Prime Minister.

Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, took notice of the transfer of the Islamabad IGP and suspended the notification of transfer.

On November 2, 2018, Imran Khan had arrived in China for his five-day visit. Pakistani officials later termed the visit a huge success.

On November 2, the Supreme Court had set up a Joint Investigation Team to probe into the alleged "misconduct" by Federal Minister Azam Swati. During the hearing, the IG Police excused from working and requested the court to let him implement the orders of his transfer as he was unable to work in such circumstances.

The CJ said the court would not insist if he was willing to implement the transfer orders. The chief justice took exception to Azam Swati and remarked that he should resign from his post if he had any regrets about what he had done. Azam Swati’s fate as a minister thus hangs in a balance.

On November 8, the Capital Development Authority had issued a notice to Azam Swati over illegal construction at his farmhouse. According to the notice, the minister had constructed an illegal basement in his farmhouse that was built on state land.

On November 16, as Indian “NDTV” reported that Pakistan had received a "big" package of aid from its all-weather ally, China.

The “NDTV” stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan had pledged not to reveal the quantum of financial support as Chinese President had asked him not to do so.

On November 18, Imran Khan visited UAE and held meetings with his counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and UAE Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan. PM Khan was received by the crown prince at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi.

As far as performance of Federal Ministers is concerned, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary and Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed visibly stand tall among all their colleagues, and Imran is likely to praise the duo during his expected speech on November 29.

As far as the performance of the Fawad Chaudhary-led Information Ministry is concerned, he had announced on August 29 that a new media regulatory authority called Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority would be created by merging all such existing authorities.

Fawad had announced that the Council of Pakistan and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority would be replaced by a new unified regulatory body, which would govern/watch electronic, social and print media.

An area where Fawad needs to work a bit harder is to convince Premier Imran Khan that if the government does not release the outstanding advertisement dues of the local media houses and clear the backlog at the earliest, the monster of downsizing would continue to render many journalists unemployed as revenues from private advertisers have also nosedived due to a recessionary economic phase engulfing the country at present.

There is no doubt that Fawad is making a lot of life-long political enemies for himself by defending his government in both houses of parliament and taking on some most vocal opposition legislators like Mushahidullah Khan and Khurshid Shah, who were never used to facing or countering the kind of criticism being publicly aired daily against them and their party leaders by the incumbent Information Minister.

Pakistan Railways, by the way, has generated over one billion rupees till date. Federal Minister Sheikh Rasheed has claimed that Railways under him has earned Rs 6.7 billion from August to October 2018, as compared to Rs 5.7 billion during the same corresponding period last year.

One hopes all the best for the PTI government and its ministers in coming days as sources continue to assert that Imran Khan’s statement regarding evaluation of ministers’ performances and a vigil on their moral and financial integrity should not be taken lightly.

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