By Ikram Sehgal
Imran Khan has won the Pakistani hearts over through the candid and honest manner in which he addressed the nation as Prime Minister. Delivered from the heart, in simple words- his points were scribbled in his own handwriting giving them extra value. The poverty-stricken masses have been waiting for their leaders to deliver such a speech for the past seventy-one years. Moreover not attacking the opposition directly — he held them responsible for the current debt crisis of Rs.28 trillion that in 2008, was only Rs.6 trillion.
Pledging to cut government spending, end corruption and repatriate public funds, he promised Pakistani expatriates a conducive investment environment; exhorting them to deposit their hard-earned money into Pakistani banks through official channels to provide some relief to our current financial crunch. Outlining deficiencies in Pakistan’s human development and the health-care sector, he promised to adopt austere measures to relieve economic strain and tackle foreign debt. Appealing to the people to team up with him to improve health-care system and provide proper nutrition to children, Khan said his government will improve the public sector educational institutions to cater to more than twenty million children out of school children. Madaris too would include modern subjects so students across the spectrum could become engineers, doctors, etc.
To prove his simplicity, the PM will himself stay in the three bedroom Military Secretary’s residence and keep only two employees out of the 524 employees serving the sitting premier. Retaining only two of the 80 cars at the PM house, 33 of them expensive bullet proof ones, he requested the business community to purchase them at an auction. He promised to convert all existing Governor Houses into public places and the PM House into a world class university.
Urging the wealthy to start paying taxes, a perennial problem with less than 1 percent of the population filing income tax, Pakistan has become notorious for tax dodgers. Instead of trying to rebuild the economy by external loans, he vowed to bring about changes in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as it has lost its credibility due to of corruption. Promising to protect the people’s tax money to ensure it is spent on them, he urged the people to start paying taxes not only for a better life but also to lift the destitute out of poverty.
Imran planned to meet the Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to facilitate in making NAB more effective and more transparent in its fight against corruption. Imran Khan hopes to enact a national law for ‘whistleblowers’ in the manner he has done in Khyber Pahktunkhwa (KPK), whoever helps identify corruption gets a share of the money that is recovered. The PM has decided to keep the Interior Ministry and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under himself as “I want to personally oversee our efforts to eradicate corruption”.
Reforming the civil service which serves as the backbone of bureaucracy is a priority for the PM, to enforce meritocracy and restore it to its former high standards. “In the 1960s we were considered one of the best in the world,” he said. “It is unfortunate how we have fallen behind. This is largely because of a few corrupt individuals and unbridled political interference”. Dr Ishrat Hussain, the former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has been tasked to form a committee to bring the merit back. Warning that political interference will not be tolerated in any appointments, the PM announced bonuses for selfless and efficient employees and penalties for those who failed.
Imran Khan stressed upon transferring the devolution of power saying that previous governments were loathsome in introducing local governments and then creating hindrances in their implementation. According to him “Power must be given to the bottom-most tier. Nazims will be directly elected in districts, while checks and balances will be kept.” Every attempt to introduce local governments has been met with resistance from the bureaucracy, especially by the District Management Group and the Police Service of Pakistan, who claim superiority over the district administration as a result of their colonial legacy.
The PM stressed on increasing Pakistan’s exports by facilitating all the industries to remove bottlenecks and hurdles. He promised to bring back investment into the country by creating a safe environment for investment. Our embassies across the world will engage all overseas Pakistanis who may wish to take our goods and products. A Business Advisory Council is being set up to provide assistance and help address their challenges.
The PM explained his vision of using the examples of governance set by the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) “to bring the nation out of its plight,” in essence creating a Medina-style Islamic welfare state. Calling the Holy Quran as his fundamental and eternal guide for lifting the country based on such a model, he put forth a five-point agenda.
Firstly that the Supremacy of law must be upheld so that law remains equal for all. Secondly Zakat must be paid, where the rich pay more to subsidise the poor. He also listed compassion as an important goal. Followed by merit; which would encourage us to be sadiq and amen. Last is education, which the Holy Prophet stressed on above everything else, even making it incumbent on his people to attain an education.
Treating challenges confronting the nation as opportunities, Imran Khan spoke about revamping the judiciary and implementing the KP model of police in Punjab.
He also spoke of repatriating our Pakistanis stuck in jails abroad, increase green cover in cities, eliminate water scarcity and build new dams. Moreover he mentioned tackling environmental issues, a crackdown on sexual assault against children etc. In essence all reforms and proposals focused on safeguarding Pakistan’s resources and their redistribution from the rich to the less advantaged. Such was the sincerity in his tone and such was the power behind his message that even his detractors failed to find any negative aspects, the best they could do was be critical about the topics Khan did not dwell upon.
The road to “Naya Pakistan” is littered with challenges and threats which are in fact opportunities. This is indeed a new beginning which holds promise for the common man who has become energised by Imran’s words. This uncommon man, someone who does not ask for much in return is now on his way to becoming an uncommon Prime Minister.