Prof A N Sadhu
Is New Pakistan born? After Imran Khan took oath as PM of Pakistan and thereafter delivered his first address to the nation, several Media channels came out with their reactions. The Press reporters of these channels widely acknowledged the intentions of Imran Khan towards building a New Pakistan by addressing its basic issues, on priority. His first address to the nation is not addressed to contentious issues and does not reflect any long term policy initiatives; instead he talked of poverty, illiteracy and public awareness towards quality of life. Imran Khan has been stressing on establishment of peace as an imperative for his nation’s, development and for building cordial relations with the neighbouring countries and outreaching the world community to help Pakistan establish a vibrant and stable democratic structure.
Imran Khan has an advantage of vast exposure through the world cricket teams who also act as cultural ambassadors of their countries. This exposure should have its impact on Imran Khan conditioning his thinking as more positive and liberal. Going by the history of Pakistan, some people may like to describe his narrative within the routine jargon of the country having been guided or misguided by the triumvirate. This may not be the right way and just to PM Imran Khan, who wants to make a new beginning of shaping Pakistan as a peaceful and progressive country. One can understand that it is very difficult to crack hard nuts but it is always prudent to make a sincere attempt. Even before taking over as PM, Imran Khan has been indicating his approval of PM Modi’s public welfare initiatives and his honest efforts to put India on a higher trajectory of development
PM Imran Khan is faced with a challenging job both on domestic front as also on international front. At the home front, he has to arrest the further deepening of economic crisis and on the international front, he has to convince IMF, for immediately bailing out his financially difficult situation to stem the rot of collapsing economy. The US, at present is not happy with Pakistan for several reasons be it the issue of Talibans or be it the Pak’s leaning towards China and Russia. Americans are also sore about Pakistan not being fair in its utilization of international aid and covertly diverting some part of the foreign assistance towards terror funding in Afghanistan and J&K. The Pak PM is, therefore faced with a daunting task of convincing the US of its commitment of utilizing the IMF assistance strictly for the purposes for which it will be granted.
The austerity measures proposed by the Pak PM will also need strenuous efforts on the part of the administration to implement these and spare the precious public resources for use in poverty alleviation programmes. His proposal for converting PM’s lodge into a global university is a highly welcome step and his austerity measures at the personal level is an exemplary effort to let this feeling of austerity dawn on his colleagues as well. There is no reason to doubt the intentions of Pak PM keeping in view his long struggle of strengthening his party PTI over the last 22 years as a mission against the corrupt political system still based on the feudal structure. But then he has a bigger challenge of effecting the systemic changes and breaking the hard barriers to chalk out a new course for building New Pakistan.
The formidable challenges facing him are (i) Feudal structure of society, (ii) the relations with neighbouring countries (iii) the role of army and (iv) improving the international image that has been sagging in the previous years. For establishment of a democratic polity, the first requirement always is the principle of equality which can’t be brought about without breaking the feudal structure. Pakistan, in the region, is perhaps the only country where there is severe inequality of wealth and income. This inequality has led to extreme poverty resulting into creation of islands of affluence in an ocean of misery. One would wish success to Pak PM in breaking these shackles to build New Pakistan where equality will be prominently visible across the country in all its regions. As the anti equality structures give way, new vistas of development in economic welfare comprising of health, education and employment, open up and his austerity measures will bear fruit.
The relations with neighbouring countries is an issue demanding immediate attention because it is only through a harmonious neighbouring environment that peace can prevail and only then a smooth run can be given to poverty alleviation programmes of prime importance are the relations with Afghanistan and India. America believes that Pakistan has been fomenting trouble in Afghanistan and subverting the efforts of the US to stabilize the country. America has strategic concern in Afghanistan to safeguard against Russian influence and would wish Pakistan not to vitiate its initiatives by supporting Tallibans. Of greater importance is its relationship with India. It has become sore over the years. Pak PM in his address was moderate and careful about the tone and tenor that his address would convey but his foreign Minister, under the previous hangover did not echo the well meaning intention of his PM when he cautioned that both India and Pakistan are Nuclear powers. Such a reference could be avoided to leave an uninhibited environment for Pak PM to talk peace. Such covert statements also increase the trust deficit instead of reducing it. Imran Khan will require to tutor his colleagues to speak on bilateral and international relations. The general belief that Pak Army has supported Imran Khan to emerge as a winning candidate to become the country’s PM should provide a plausible opportunity for a healthy and constructive work out between the two to promote his initiative of building New Pakistan. The political and defense structures should realize the futility of armed struggle and make concerted efforts to curb terrorist activities which yield nothing except death and destruction. Dialogue with right intentions can solve all problems. Pakistan cannot afford to keep America anguished for long because that will not be in its interest and it will have to make all efforts to erase the image of being a terror abettor. Let the majority become relevant because majority all over the world want peace. The policy consistency of Pak PM will be on test.
Prof A N Sadhu