August Issue 2014
Abdul Majeed Abid: If I Were Prime Minister
In a parliamentary democracy such as ours, the office of the prime minister is the highest position to which a person can be elected. It is the most powerful office in the country and only a handful of politicians have been able to secure the office by legitimate means. Judging by the performance of those politicians, it is clear that they either focused on particular issues close to their heart, or were blatant populists.
If I were the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I would first order the temporary closure of the Prime Minister’s house, as the daily expenditure incurred by the place is almost one million rupees per day. I would find a less lavish residence in Islamabad and make it my abode. In times of financial crisis (which is an eternal problem for us), austerity should be given top priority in the government’s agenda. Considering the dire security situation faced by our country, it would be hard to do away with the security cavalcade, but some innovative ways can be devised to ensure both safety and belt-tightening.
As the elected leader of the house, I would attend every session of the National Assembly. I would institute a specific time slot every month for members of parliament to direct their questions at me, similar to the Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) in Britain, which would be broadcast live on national television. I would appoint ministers to my cabinet based on their experience in respective fields, and not on the basis of political manoeuvring or patronage. I would demand austerity measures from members of my cabinet as well. Their performance would be reviewed every year and changes made according to the audit reports.
I would not keep any additional ministries for myself and depute people as ministers of defence, foreign affairs and finance. I would direct the foreign minister to focus more on mending relations with India and step up Track One diplomacy, with an aim to easing the hassles faced by people on both sides of the border when obtaining visas. I would instruct the defence minister to convey my message to the ‘veritable’ institutions that it is time to let go of ‘India-centric’ policies and fantasies. I would initiate trade with India and ease movement across the borders.
I would ask members of my party and the opposition to work together to draft a new constitution for Pakistan. Constitutions are living documents and they are the basis on which the legal framework of a country is designed. My priority would be to develop a modern constitution — as all the previous ones have been slight improvements on the Government of India Act, 1935 — and also reform the penal laws on an urgent basis.
I would spend official holidays with underpriveleged children in different SOS villages. My aim would be to make Pakistan safe for its citizens and safe for investors.
This article was originally published in Newsline’s August 2014 issue.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore. He writes on History, Political Economy and Literature. Follow him on Twitter