On August 18th, Imran Khan completed three years in office as Prime Minister. It is sufficient period to evaluate the trend a regime has taken and gauge whether it will deliver on its promises. Irrespective of how the 2018 elections played out, it has been nation’s first experiment with what many have termed as “Hybrid Rule”. Cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan was projected as the final hope and decisively got the job he had coveted for so long – however, from the container to the power corridors, there is no single sign of the capability to take rational decisions on critical issues. On numerous occasions, the military leadership has been involved in sorting out crises with other countries (i.e. China, Saudi Arabia etc.) evolving from some impulsive judgments taken by the Prime Minister or statements made by his cabinet ministers.
Nonetheless, it will be unjust to not acknowledge Khan’s two decades of political struggle. Being principally untested in the political ground had generated several hopes. He was also unblemished with substantial indictments of corruption and enjoyed comprehensive assistance of the military. Boasting reasonable noises concerning problems that vibrated with the masses, the youth of Pakistan wanted him to give a fair chance. Three years down the line, the record on delivering the promises of ushering in a welfare state and modifying foreign, economic, and security policies for this objectives, however, is miserable. The promise of bringing back 200 billion dollars apparently stashed abroad by corrupt politicians turned out be a joke. Poverty levels increased, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) seems to have been put on the back burner and Pakistan’s international isolation has never been as great as it is today.
The account of the Prime Minister Khan administration on the accomplishment of its third year in power is undoubtedly not satisfactory. Governance and corruption remains the prominent dilemma. The Prime Minister had vowed to bring new talent to build a “Naya Pakistan” but, a bloated cabinet is absolutely opposite to the promise. The much-hyped transformation agenda is lost somewhere in the confusion. Here is a list of some promises Imran Khan made to the youth of Pakistan:
Promise: Will not take money or aid from international bodies or other countries.
Promise: No political interference in civil service. Appointments will be made on merit.
Promise: Skill-based education to be introduced in education sector.
Promise: Government school sector to be reformed.
Promise: Police and judiciary to be reformed.
Promise: Curbing child and women abuse will be top priority.
Promise: Will implement “one window operation” which will provide all solutions under one roof.
Promise: Will renovate sports grounds and recreational spaces for activities.
Promises, promises, promises, Prime Minister Khan raised Pakistani youth hopes sky high – from generating 10 million jobs to building an Islamic welfare state and restoring Pakistan’s image abroad, PM Khan is now facing problems of his own making; runaway expectations raised by his lofty speeches.
Similarly, the collapse of leadership is badly exposed during the CoVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister Khan had initially downplayed the gravity of the infection declared it a form of flu. The mixed messaging and denial of complete lockdown in the critical cycle of the infection harmed struggles to contain the virus. Regrettably, the government failed to unify the country in such challenging moments. As a result, there is division and polarization in the country. Likewise, the massive social and economic discrepancies in traditionally diverse country have made the CoVID-19 harder to control. Beyond revealing discriminations and vicious health governance, the pandemic has yielded two dangerous effects in the country. First, CoVID-19 in reality has made socioeconomic inequality worse. Second, it has significantly exacerbated democratic regression. It was only the military leadership intervened to form National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), until now government is unable to craft National Health Security Policy of Pakistan. The irony is that the PTI and its followers genuinely believe that the Prime Minister’s “Smart-Lockdown” strategy for handling of the pandemic was an example for the world to follow. If it is an example for the rest of world – why blame CoVID-19 for every failure?
The slogan of “Naya Pakistan” had political appeal for the middle class of the country to vote for change. For the young people of Pakistan, the anti-corruption narrative established by the Imran Khan was a genuine motivation to participate in the electoral course. There was an opportunity to rebuild the political structure of the country by dislodging hereditary politics. Once again, it is a critical juncture for Imran Khan – to make a decision whether he wants to see his party become a transformative political force representing the aspirations of the middle and lower classes or a handmaiden of powerful classes like his predecessors. As a matter of pragmatic political choice, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin stepped down since losing his administration’s response to a worsening CoVID-19 outbreak and economic hit from pandemic. To set democratic precedent, as proclaimed during D-Chowk 126 days protest, why should not Prime Minister Khan resign from office?