In Pakistan, the hundred days of Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) PTI government are effectuated. Imran led government is apparently befuddled in addressing the grave challenges the country is confronting with. These challenges span from economics, governance, running officialdom and the effective management of the statecraft.
The manifestation of first hundred days demonstrates a fact that idealistic rhetoric and the grim realities of statecraft are poles apart. Ostensibly, PTI is coming to nought in addressing the abyss. The niceties of the political system, its complex intricacies and the undercurrents of the state apparatus are impinging PTI badly.
The fledgeling cabinet led by Premier Imran is seemingly clumsy, novice and ill-defined. The nebulous trajectory of the incumbent rule is dwindling space and popularity for rather a mainstream party always high on popularity polls. PTI ran polls on the narrative of a merit-oriented, better governed and corruption-free Pakistan. Imran repeatedly cited the State of Madinah as a model state in his electoral campaign and in his first speech to the nation as well. In fact, the resurgence of PTI in 2010 was benefitted by the poor governance of PPP and a friendly opposition of PML-N. It instrumentalized the nationalistic/patriotic sentiment in the backdrop of deteriorating Pak-US relations through processions and blockades and adopted a narrative which was congenial to the middle class of Pakistan. Following its rise, PTI evoked and consolidated the rhetoric of kleptocracy ruling Pakistan.
The pandemonium of the economy is the gravest of all the challenges ahead of PTI. It presents a bleak rather pessimistic picture. PML-N led government has over-relied on foreign aid and burdened the exchequer for their showcase projects. This politics of patronization has cost the economy of Pakistan a great deal. Depleting foreign reserves, dollar hike, circular debt and balance of payments are devaluing the currency at a brisk pace.
The important contention in this regard is the legacy of the predecessor government. PML-N through its botched policies had overstretched the lending and borrowing through international financial institutions putting the national economy under a great pressure. The orientation of development projects was more delved into personal projection through infrastructural landscaping. The showcase projects like Metro and Orange Train were made possible through loans and funding resultantly impinging national economy and waxing debts.
Can PTI be blamed for this turmoil? The simple and convenient answer is ‘No’. PTI should not be apologetic for the legacy of PML-N. The relevant ministers of the cabinet should present a real picture before the masses. Imran led government combats a fierce media tirade which is though quite misleading at times. The phenomenon of fake news is a vindication of this fact. A ruling government which has assumed office merely three months before cannot be held accountable and responsible for the malaise of past 5 years.
The statistics recently surfaced are horrifying where only Punjab has accumulated a total debt of 1.1 trillion. It has completely exhausted its provident fund of 100 billion meant for employees of the government. It crossed the borrowing line of 37 billion and issued cheques of 57 billion in the previous financial year only. The situation is alike at the national landscape where PML-N’s ruling dispensation overburdened the statecraft with its extravagant spending. The amount of money released in the election year for the development projects in it speaks volume of the dastardly treatment with the national exchequer.
What is ironically wrong with PTI right now is the choices dilemma and mismatched priorities. Instead of focusing on improving governance PTI led government is more up for wild goose chases. Education, health and justice delivery still present a depressing picture and so much so the quotidian statecraft is also dealt in a very much blasé manner.  The episode of Azam Swati and some unnecessarily exigent transfers and postings earned a bad name for PTI given it always stridently opposed PML-N on such counts. The projects like Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme are again unnecessary at this point in time. It is going to embroil economy further under tumult having considered a fact that government again lacks an unequivocal policy of funding this unrealistic project. The popular way of raising money through crowdfunding and donations is also a utopian/naive view.
The niceties of the statecraft are quite complex and intricate. PTI has soon realized this fact and it is the high time where PTI should denounce some of its astronomical and unrealistic slogans. The example of Mahathir Muhammad is well relevant in this regard who has recently denounced his promise of toll-free roads made during election campaign declaring it impractical. PTI should also adopt a pragmatic and achievable course of action rather only soaring on the wings of lofty sentiments.
The politics of populism has a certain niche and is generally away from the reality-based approach. The mainstream acceptance of PTI and its ascendancy is an offshoot of this populistic dispensation. The need of the hour for PTI is to settle down with this popularity craze and to consolidate its basis as a substantive political force. The pursuit of realistic policies will be a stepping stone in this regard. The most impeccable revelation of the hundred days for PTI is that hope is not a policy and optimism is not a course of action.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Raja Qaiser Ahmed is a faculty member in the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.