August Issue 2018
What are the three biggest challenges the new government faces?
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob is the President of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (PILDAT).
The most important task before the next government should be to address the strained civil-military relations. As long as the civil-military equation does not follow the agreed principles set by the Constitution of Pakistan and all institutions do not operate within their defined spheres, there cannot be a focused effort to address the issues relating to the national economy and security.
Several elected civilian governments faced challenges and some were even dismissed prematurely because the civil services and the military developed differences on key aspects of national security and foreign policy.
Pakistan has been unable to develop the National Security Committee (NSC), formed in 2013, into a robust, effective and consistent institutional mechanism of civil-military consultation on vital national issues. A regime of regular monthly meetings of the NSC needs to be adopted. Above all, a consensus needs to be reached that the elected government has the final authority to take decisions.
Until such a consensus is reached, major decisions on the economy, security, foreign policy and even mega development projects cannot be taken and civil-military differences will continue to threaten political stability. The new government will have to further build on the existing NSC and increase its effectiveness by adding research and planning infrastructure, and ensuring regular meetings.
Rebuilding key state institutions will also require urgent attention. Pakistan’s civil services have deteriorated over the years. Successive political governments promoted their favourites and, in the process, damaged the quality and morale of the civil service. Instead of upholding the rule of law, the civil services started safeguarding the vested interests of one political master or another.
There is an urgent need to provide essential constitutional protection to the civil service, restore meritocracy in postings and promotions and protect its integrity and independence. The operational autonomy of all civil services in general and the police service in particular, is important for the rule of law.
Fast depleting water resources also need urgent attention. While the demand for water is increasing, the silting of reservoirs has substantially reduced the availability of irrigation water when needed. Pakistan, to its peril, has ignored water development projects for more than two decades. The government will also need to adopt modern water conservation techniques applied elsewhere in the world.
There are several other pressing issues such as population control, capitalising on our youth bulge through human development and ensuring the universal supply of safe drinking water, which both the federal and provincial governments need to focus on urgently.
Arif Hasan is an architect, activist and writer.
The new government, headed by Imran Khan, will have to establish a working relationship with the opposition. Without this, given the numbers and an opposition government in Sindh, it will not be able to function effectively. Given an acrimonious election campaign, justifiable accusations of pre-election rigging, backed by controversial court judgements, use of foul language and a headstrong leader of the house, this will not be an easy task.
The government will also have to establish a more equitable working relationship with the ‘deep state,’ without which it will be powerless and incapable of taking decisions on foreign policy, defence and internal security-related issues, such as disappearances, Balochistan and extremism. Relations can only be made more equitable if the Parliament is supreme. This can only happen if there is broad understanding between the parties in the National Assembly on deep state-related issues and if all discretionary powers of various public representatives and government officials (including army personnel) are dispensed with.
Last but not least, our problems of population growth, development and social change, have outgrown our colonial-gifted institutions and laws. Ineffective institutions and laws invariably lead to corruption. This has happened to us. To rectify this, public sector reform is necessary so that we can deal with issues related to poverty, environment, consolidation of social change and justice. Public sector reform cannot work if a few ‘experts’ sit down and develop it to serve questionable short-term political goals. This has happened several times before, with disastrous results.
Also public sector reform cannot be carried out in a hurry. It has to be the result of hundreds of public hearings with communities and interest groups. If it leads to establishing a system of local governance at the grassroots, then political and social alienation can be reduced and service delivery along with the organisation and management of social and physical infrastructure can be improved and made more affordable.
Reforms will also have to address larger macro-level issues. There is a major contradiction between traditional poverty alleviation methodologies and the dominant neo-liberal thinking, both at the national and international level, in the interests of global capital, and in the processes for overcoming economic deficits. It is possible that in the process of dealing with these larger issues, Imran Khan may have to soften much of the rhetoric that has brought him to power in the first place. And in the process, it is possible that he may lose much of his charisma and appeal.
Dr Huma Baqai is the Associate Dean and an Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).
Imran Khan’s biggest challenge in the coming years will be to break away from the past while trying to retain his popularity. The rebuilding and restructuring of institutions is, perhaps, the biggest long-term challenge his government faces. The short-term challenge will be to bring about transparency in matters of the state. He will have to ensure that the rule of law prevails and that merit trumps loyalty. Last but not least, delivery systems must be put in place that function without financial lubrication and phone-calls from people in positions of power.
The PTI will have to be prepared for a very strong push-back, both inside and outside the Parliament. Political stability may be difficult to achieve, but it is of utmost importance if any progress is to be made on meeting the challenges faced by the country. These include the economy, foreign investment, institutional reforms, internal security, foreign relations and civil-military relations. An across-the-board political consensus is needed — where there is constructive opposition and not opposition for the sake of opposition, which is the norm in Pakistan.
Moreover, Khan’s non-traditional stance on various issues, such as a no-tolerance policy on corruption, merit-based appointments and across-the-board accountability, ruffles a lot of feathers.
The equation that has emerged is fairly simple. The political parties and leaders who have lost are very angry. The streets are quiet, despite repeated calls for protests. The people are hopeful. After a very long time, there is hope in the midst of hopelessness. But it’s not going to be easy. For the new government to be able to deliver on any front, it will have to be willing to take unpopular decisions that may not go down well with the people, initially. The disgruntled opposition is waiting with bated breath to exploit the mistakes of the new leadership and discredit it.
The continuity of democracy — despite its shortcomings — has given rise to the culture of accountability. As of now, investors’ confidence is restored with the stock exchange performing relatively better and the rupee inching up against the dollar every day.
Khan and his party have won the confidence of most of the people of Pakistan, who are extremely supportive of him. However, there are those who are waiting for him to falter.
Ikram Sehgal is a defence and security analyst.
The new PTI-led coalition government will need all the skills, assurance and diplomacy it can muster to meet the existing challenges in the country. It must use them as opportunities to prove itself.
Economic challenges lie at the top of the list and need urgent attention.
There is a balance of payment crisis that was aggravated by major currency devaluations that have taken place over the last few months. The current-account gap widened by 43 per cent in the last fiscal year, as foreign-exchange reserves dropped by about $9 billion.
The current account deficit has increased manifold, further eroding our scarce reserves. With Pakistan strapped for funds to pay for imports needed to sustain economic growth, build foreign exchange reserves and stabilise the local currency, the government must ban luxury goods. There is talk of securing IMF loans, but these loans are always conditional, since the structural reforms promised were not adhered to by the previous government. Moreover, the US government, which contributes a major chunk to the IMF pool, is not keen on Pakistan getting any IMF funding, since it is convinced that these funds would be used to pay off the Chinese loans taken under CPEC.
On the campaign trail, Imran Khan zeroed in on Pakistan’s prevalent culture of tax evasion. Only two per cent of the 200-million-plus population is registered in the tax system. This is one area which needs massive reform to bring all the tax-evaders into the tax net.
Khan’s willingness to ensure accountability was seen in his dismissal of 20 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) legislators for selling their votes in the Senate elections. But in the absence of both sound internal controls and institutionalised accountability, our government departments have turned into dens of corruption. Accountability requires a survey of those living beyond their means.
A comprehensive national security strategy is necessary for a stable foreign policy. Good governance is needed to create the socio-economic conditions that can, in turn, have a positive impact on national security. Relations with India, the Kashmir dilemma, relations with the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, must remain in step with the emerging dynamics in the region.
Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are important neighbours, and we must strive for a balanced relationship with them. Subject to India’s tutelage, Afghanistan’s attitude has mostly been negative. However, a significant change in policy towards Pakistan may be in the offing. Imran envisions open borders with Afghanistan, similar to those within the European Union.
Two of the world’s most successful counter-insurgency operations — Zarb-e-Azab and Raad-ul-Fasad — against militant and criminal elements, has reduced terrorist activity across the country considerably. However, the militants have retained both their resources and accessibility. The new government will have to gear up ‘actionable intelligence’ to eradicate them.
Moreover, with India vehemently opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, its security poses yet another major challenge for the government.