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WITH national polls round the corner, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on May 19 revealed its first 100-day agenda, to be implemented if voted to power, with ambitious initiatives such as building five million houses and creating 10m jobs.

Addressing a related press conference, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said “all policies under the 100-days agenda will look into how to make education, employment and other basic rights accessible to the common man.”

In the absence of a strategy and detailed road map, political opponents have described the PTI agenda as “rhetoric” or a “political stunt”. The 100-days agenda is a new norm observed in some countries and has its own merits.

However, in the case of PTI , it can also be considered a response to the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) government’s unexpected sixth budget which has been aptly described in this weekly’s headline as the “Government’s last shot to win voters.”

At the macroeconomic level, the country’s governance needs a culture change, as signalled by the fierce, enduring public debate embracing almost every controversial topic under the sun

But, more importantly, the two events indicate that the issues in economic development and social uplift will feature prominently in the upcoming election campaign. With pluralism at its peak, a large segment of the voters — outside the direct influence of political parties and “electable candidates”— who will make a difference have to be convinced on the way forward for the people’s progress and prosperity.

The successful completion of the tenure mandated by the electorate by two successive civilian governments demonstrates that at least in one of its multiple aspects the sanctity of the vote enjoys a broad national consensus.

This is a major step towards citizen-based democracy. Power politics will have to contend with much stronger expression of the peoples’ will on public welfare than ever before, barring perhaps the 1970 polls.

And in all probability, and hopefully, the frequent meetings and the two-way discourse between the civilians and the military leadership in the National Security Committee (NSC) will reduce the divergence of viewpoints of the two sides.

On May 19, the NSC reached a consensus to devolve administrative authority and financial powers to Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan governments in response to the demand of the local leaders for a provincial status.

The NSC also reiterated its stand for the merger of Fata with KP. Sindh and Punjab have redoubled their efforts to modernise a sagging backward agricultural economy. In the midst of one of the worst socio-economic and political crisis, Imran Khan has vowed to build a “new Pakistan.”

PTI wants a return to the abandoned concept of a welfare state (ceded to the market economy) with the difference that it embodies Islamic principles. PTI’s performance record in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is marked by improved education and health facilities/standards and reform of the police system.

PTI claims to be more committed to the development of human resources and local bodies than building of physical infrastructure as the PML-N is doing in Punjab. In its Vision 2025, the PML-N pledges to make Pakistan an upper-middle income country to join the league of the top 25 countries.

The Vision Document says that currently, Pakistan is a middle-income country but its social indicators fall among the least developed countries. It wants to develop a modern economy which is competitive; a people-centric programme and policy, that “preserves good society, good politics and good economy,” measured by the gross national well-being.

PML-N has succeeded in putting the economy on the growth trajectory but it lacks the required level of inclusiveness. Defying economic and business cycles, high economic growth rates sustained over decades in China and India have reduced poverty but enhanced inequality in asset ownership and incomes.

Pakistan is no exception to this trend. Among the foremost national concerns is how to revamp the country’s governance and evolve more realistic state policies for public welfare.

At the microeconomic level when a company goes sick, it is rehabilitated by a culture change: out of the box thinking, adoption of new business models and best management and work practices.

At the macro-economic level too, the country’s governance needs a culture change, as signalled by the fierce, enduring public debate embracing every controversial topic under the sun.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 28th, 2018