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August 20, 2020

Two years in power

Editorial

 
August 20, 2020

The PTI government has completed two years in power. During what may be some of the most divisive times seen by the country, the incumbents say that they have shown a solid performance, given what they were handed to begin with. This assessment is strongly refuted by the opposition, which has pointed out – among other things – that the GDP growth rate has registered a decline from 5.8 percent in 2018 to 0.45 percent in 2020. As a result of this economic decline, combined with the Covid-19 outbreak millions have been forced out of jobs while prices of sugar, wheat and medicine as well as other commodities have almost doubled. The ruling party, however, has laid out a complete picture of what it counts as successes achieved in the past two years – from its Ehsaas Programme aid to the poor during the pandemic to the recent deal with the IPPs to attempts at reviving the economy during a global epidemic and recession-like state.

A key issue the past two years has been the performance of the government in parliament. Almost all legislation has been passed through ordinances rather than through legislative bills which are debated in the House, and the bills which have been passed pertained mainly to FATF requirements. Prime Minister Imran Khan too has generally stayed away from parliament – something his government and the previous PML-N government share in common and which has been an unfortunate practice in our parliamentary democracy. The large amount of foreign exchange from outside the country the PTI had pledged to bring in has not yet appeared, tax collection targets have not been met and the performance of NAB has come under consistent criticism for failing to deliver transparent accountability.

There have, however, been some good measures that have been widely appreciated. Going by the opinion of many independent observers and analysts, the Ehsaas Programme has indeed helped people in need, having delivered Rs12,000 each to over 13 million households. While the new national curriculum has been a highly controversial matter from the beginning, it has been encouraging that the government is taking the issue of education seriously. We have not seen much emphasis on education beyond the cosmetic in past governments and we hope that the future of this reform attempt proves its critics wrong and that the government will also listen to any reservation educationists and academics may have over this. For now, we need timely and well-thought-out interventions in both health and education.

During much of 2020, the PTI has essentially been bogged down by the Covid-19 disaster. The latest figures show it has handled it with a greater degree of success than has been anticipated. We can only hope this will remain true. Issues in foreign relations, notably the downside in ties with Saudi Arabia as well as the belligerent Modi government constantly posing a threat, remain challenges for the future. How these are handled may determine what the PTI government is eventually able to achieve and what mark it leaves behind on the otherwise-tortured parliamentary history of Pakistan.