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Just as Prime Minister Imran Khan soon after his election on Aug 17 vowed to enforce ‘strict’ accountability under his rule in the country — a claim he repeated while sharing his vision of Naya Pakistan during his first address to the nation as the newly sworn-in premier — the public, too, is determined to hold their rulers accountable.

For this, Dubai-based entrepreneur Salman Saeed has launched a website called ‘Khan Meter’ to keep track of Mr Khan’s performance as the nation’s leader and the promises he made under the 100-day agenda. The website, which will both monitor and record the new government’s progress, has a list of promises divided under various categories, including governance, federation, economy, agriculture, water, society and security.

“This website is a tool to verify compliance or non-compliance of the new government to their commitments. I believe a tool of such a kind should have existed long ago and the people should hold the government accountable and keep an eye on their commitments,” the developer said while speaking to Dawn.

Following in the footsteps of PM Imran, public explores initiatives to hold rulers accountable

The tracker lists wide-ranging topics such as bringing accountability at the centre of the government, depoliticising and strengthening police, transformation of Karachi, youth employment, boost the tourism industry, water policy and civil reforms among many others covered in the PM’s 100-day agenda.

Only four days into Naya Pakistan, of the 35 promises listed on the website, two (initiate civil services reforms and spearhead creation of southern Punjab progress) were categorised as “in progress”.

Explaining when the tracker changed status of the promise made, Mr Saeed said: “If discussion is initiated on either of the topics, its status changes to ‘work in progress’. If a law is enacted to implement this, it is placed under the status of ‘achieved’ and if (there is) a counter law in contravention of the promise, it will be pushed to the promises ‘broken’ category”.

The status of initiating civil reforms was changed after Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioned getting a task force under Dr Ishrat Husain to get the process started, the developer wrote on his website.

When asked how the tracker was impartial in its monitoring and not influenced by public response, Mr Saeed said: “There is a discussion space available on each section on this website allowing people to comment on compliance with each of the promises, as well as express their opinion on the difficulties governance can face in achieving the promises. However, I only update the contents based on reliable (news) sources.”

Greater public scrutiny

Mr Saeed is not the only one to think that the internet can be used for holding the government accountable, Pakistani editor of Wikipedia pages Saqib Qayyum is also taking similar measures to keep record of actions of government officials.

“Wikipedia is highly visible on the internet. It is the first place people refer to when looking into someone’s life. News stories may disappear as they get older but if you note down something about a person on their Wikipedia profile, it will stay and so the site has a huge impact on the reputations of individuals,” he tells Dawn.

Qayyum has established over 500 profile pages of newly-elected ministers, MNAs and MPAs with an aim to document their political history and progress, particularly involvement in corruption cases for greater public transparency.

Since Wikipedia pages are open to public access, the content is vulnerable to bias and incoherence. Frequent attempts at vandalising prominent leaders, including Maryam Nawaz, point to the importance of Wikipedia in manipulation of information for political means.

During election season, Wikipedia saw rigorous efforts to discredit leaders. “There was a concerted effort to vandalise Jibran Nasir’s page which led us to lock the page. There was also an attempt to increase the net worth of Hamza Shahbaz when ECP’s scrutiny was in place,” he highlighted.

For years, the lack of accountability has corroded public respect for political leaders and governance. However, with the advent of social media and increased information proliferation, even minute details of public figures are scrutinised by the public.

“I’ve seen many instances where people have used Wikipedia as a political engine. Politically-motivated opponents try to write profiles in a biased manner to highlight negative aspects of their life. Recently, Imran Khan’s pets got a dedicated page on Wikipedia. The news started rumour mills full steam from his opponents about his personal life and expenditures,” Qayyum revealed.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2018