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Jury out on PTI’s performance amid claims, counterclaims

Updated November 26, 2018

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Prime Minister Imran Khan.— AP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan.— AP/File

ISLAMABAD: A furious opposition in parliament, bailout package from Saudi Arabia, TLP protests, U-turns, re-emergence of terrorism, peace overtures to India and its much-hyped austerity drive amid economic upheaval were some of the main features of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government during its first 100 days — a period which is completing today.

While opposition parties are terming the 100-day performance of the government as “unimpressive, ridiculous and full of lies and U-turns,” the ruling party leaders are boasting the period with “remarkable achievements”, claiming that the country has been put on the right track.

Some three months before the July 25 general elections, PTI chairman Imran Khan had unveiled his party’s ambitious “agenda” outlining the party’s commitments for starting work within the first 100 days of forming government after the polls.

The salient features of the agenda were expeditious merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bifurcation of Punjab and reconciliation with estranged Baloch leaders.

The 100-day agenda also contained a plan for introducing a development package for Karachi and a programme for alleviation of poverty, besides a number of steps for improvement of economy.

Opposition sees only ‘lies, U-turns’ while PTI boasts unprecedented achievements

Presenting the salient points of the economic policy of the PTI government, Asad Umar, now finance minister, had promised that the government would create 10 million jobs, revive manufacturing, rapidly grow small and medium enterprises sector, facilitate private sector to build five million houses, reform tax administration and transform state-owned-enterprises.

Later, speaking at the first formal press conference after the elections and before assuming the charge as finance minister, Mr Umar had said that offering any relief or subsidy to the people during first 100 days was like giving lollipops. He said the first 100 days would also not see a decision that would change the destiny of the nation, but a clear direction on what “we promised and where we are headed for stock-taking”.

The opposition parties allege that the government has totally failed to deliver at almost all the fronts, particularly economy and law and order situation. According to the opposition, the government has not done its homework properly.

Parliament in a limbo

The delay in the formation of committees of the National Assembly has almost made the parliament non-functional. NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, who has been struggling to run the house smoothly, is on a tight rope because of the ongoing tussle between the PTI and the opposition parties over the issue of the chairmanship of all powerful Public Accounts Committee. He has stopped the process of the formation of parliamentary committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott all panels if the ruling party does not offer PAC chairmanship to Opposition Leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif as per “parliamentary traditions.”

Due to having no legislative work to do, almost all previous sittings of the lower house of the parliament witnessed debates and speeches on petty matters with members continuing their corruption tirade against each other, causing uproars and even scuffles that resulted into a ban on the entry of Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry to the upper house of the parliament by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani due to former’s refusal to tender an apology for making “personal attacks” on opposition leaders on the floor of the parliament.

While mentioning the U-turns taken by the government, the opposition parties — mainly the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — remind the PTI that after the first cabinet meeting, the information minister had declared that the prime minister would not undertake any foreign visit in the first three months and would only travel in commercial flights, but he had already undertaken the visits of Saudi Arabia, China, the UAE and Malaysia and that too, on special aircraft.

According to the opposition, the prime minister has also taken U-turn on his promise of not seeking loans from abroad by extending begging bowls before Saudi Arabia, China and the UAE.

Defending his actions, the prime minister, during a recent talk with media reporters, said that taking U-turns was a sign of leadership. This statement provided another opportunity to his critics to point their guns towards him, forcing a number of PTI stalwarts and loyalists to come in the field to defend their leader by making different interpretations of Imran Khan’s statement.

The government also had to face the challenge of handling the protest by the religio-political groups, including the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s verdict in Aasia Bibi case. The government’s decision to strike a deal with the protesters who had even used abusive and seditious language against the state institutions drew ire of the opposition as well as the social circles.

Opposition strikes

The PML-N and the PPP, in separate statements on Sunday, termed “the 100 days of the PTI government a tale of 100 U-turns and 100 lies” and criticises it for hike in prices of oil, gas and electricity.

Instead of talking about government policies, the main focus of the main opposition parties, however, remained Aleema Khan, the sister of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had recently regularised her foreign property after paying fine.

“The main achievement of the PTI government in its 100 days is to give an NRO to Aleema Khan,” said both PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and PPP Information Secretary Dr Nafeesa Shah in their separate statements.

“When will Imran Khan tweet about Aleema Khan’s illegal assets? When will the money looted by Aleema Khan be brought back to the country by the PM who used to shout claims of bringing every penny of looted public money and evaded tax back to Pakistan?,” asked the PML-N spokesperson.

“From the miracle of the PM’s visit to Saudi Arabia on a camel to the millions of jobs and houses built on Google, (and) the illegal occupation of the PM on government land in Banigala, those who vowed committing suicide instead of borrowing went begging from country to country, exposing the government’s revolutionary economic turnaround policy,” said Ms Aurangzeb, adding that “the government has nothing to show for these 100 days other than their incompetence and inability.”

“Every word said in these 100 days was a lie, every promise a farce and every claim a hopeless failure, during which merit was murdered and bureaucracy politicised and pressured for favours,” she alleged.

Similarly, the PPP’s Dr Shah said first 100 days of the PTI government had set an example of “bad governance.”

Govt defended

On the other hand, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said theirs was the only government which had set targets for first 100 days. He said no scandal had surfaced during the first 100 days, making it the “first clean government” of the country.

Responding to the opposition’s allegations regarding the prime minister’s sister, Mr Chaudhry said Aleema Khan had nothing to do with the government or the PTI and if the opposition believed that she had committed some offence, they could take legal course against her.

The minister accused the opposition of making the parliament “non-functional” by turning the PAC chairman issue into a controversy. He, however, said the government had already formed a parliamentary committee on alleged polls rigging, besides initiating steps for reviewing the accountability act.

He admitted that the prime minister could not give much time to the parliament because he had to undertake foreign visits due to the economic mess inherited by the government.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister would take the nation into confidence over the government’s achievements, in a function to be held at the Convention Centre in Islamabad on Nov 29.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018

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