With the assumption of power on August 18, 2018, in his first ever address to the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resolve and strong determination to pull his country out of the current mess came as a ray of hope for the nation.  Prime Minister assured the nation that his government would introduce political, economic and administrative reforms to check massive corruption in state institutions, curb the menace of terrorism and cut unnecessary non-developmental expenditures by launching an austerity drive.  By Dr Ashraf Ali

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech was termed by many as far reaching and comprehensive. But will he deliver on what he pledged, is a million dollar question?

“The list of challenges ahead for the PM Khan’s led PTI government is no doubt, too long, but Khan’s determination is even more stronger to achieve the desired results”, Mr. Tahir Khan, a seasoned journalist in Islamabad opines. “The cricketer turned politician has a proven record of doing what he goes after”, say Khan.

The legendary cricketer who won Pakistan Cricket world cup in 1992 proved to be a successful social worker as well. Khan’s successful ventures in health and education sectors earned him a good name as a social worker before he rose to prominence as a leading politician.

Pakistan is faced with a lot of challenges on national as well as international fronts. Poverty, unemployment, price hike and diseases are all weather friends. The scarcity of basic facilities like gas, electricity and water resources in the country have made people’s life miserable. Natural disasters – flood, earthquakes and droughts in the rural Sindh take precious lives of Pakistanis every now and then. Militancy and the subsequent military operations have displaced millions of people to displace in the recent past. The country lost over 70,000 men while its material damages have gone over 120 billion US dollars in the ongoing war on terror.

But despite these huge losses in terms of men and materials, the international community is yet to acknowdge Pakistan’s services in the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border areas. On the contrary, the country earns the title of a foul player for its alleged double game. US President Donald Trump in his January 1st tweet said the US gave Pakistan billions of dollars but in turn received nothing but ‘lies and deceits’. Pakistan’s challenges were multiplied by putting its name onto the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) followed by US decision to cut its aid by 300 million US dollars as Coalition Support Fund. The US decision came at a time when Pakistan is desperately looking for funds to meet its annual expenditures. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, before his visit to Islamabad said US will oppose a bailout package to Pakistan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In another such development the US barred Pakistan’s military officials from participating in US military training program.

The moves are seen as part of US broader agenda to bring Pakistan to its knees. However the political pundits believe it may have disastrous consequences for the US policy objectives in the region. A leading Pakistan economist Dr. Shabbir Ahmad Khan fears “the US is taking risk by alienating its strong ally in the war on terror”, adding, “this may result in Pakistan drifting towards the Chines and Russian orbit”, Khan revealed.

Mike Pompeo in his recent visit to Islamabad made it clear to the Pakistani authorities that the US want Pakistan to honor its commitment on joint ventures, a veil reference to the Pakistani military establishment to do more for bringing in the Afghan taliban to the negotiating table and take deceive action against the Haqqani network on Pakistani soil. Imran Khan, however, on the even of national defense day at the general headquarters (GHQ) together with the military leadership made it very clear to the world that Pakistan will no more fight anyone else war.

Having tensions on its eastern border with India and western border with Afghanistan, Pakistan has little time to concentrate on its domestic front.

Energy is one of the country’s pressing needs. But due to lack of resources Pakistan is still falling short of almost 4500 MG of electricity that forces thousands of people to roads in summers to protest the unscheduled and unannounced load shedding resulting in losses to the public properties. To meet the challenge, Khan has appealed to the people to donate generously in the PM fund for the construction of Bhasha and Mohmand dams. The dams, however, needs Rs. 1400 billion. Can he raise this huge amount through public donations is a common man’s guess.

The Finance Minister Asad Umar says the shattered economy of the country needs 10-12 billion dollars on emergency basis to run the state affairs. With a total international debt of over Rs. 30 thousand billions, the country is paying Rs six billions as interest on daily basis. At present, every single Pakistani is under a debt of Rs. 1,25,000.

To meet the economic crises, PM Khan’s austerity drive is, though symbolic, but a right step in the right direction. The prime minister has initiated practical steps to convert the sprawling Prime Minister house located at an area of 1096 canal of land into a University and the governor houses into museums and tourist resorts to raise money. The Prime Minister has assigned with a task force to bring the billions of dollars back home laying in the west that was plundered by wealthy Pakistanis over the years. The big fishes include the powerful and influential politicians from both the leading opposition parties - the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) beside a good number of business tycoons, army generals and former judges. Will that be a smooth sail of business for the Khan’s government, is yet to be seen.

09/17/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

A supporter of Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, celebrates during the general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, July 25, 2018.
De Ashraf Ali