I have been in politics for more than 50 years now. Thus, I am going to offer my advice, without mincing words or exercising any sort of sycophancy.
Imran Khan’s popularity substantially owes itself to the not-very-excellent performances of the PPP, PML-N and other governments in the past. Otherwise, he would have been known in history as a dishonest, over-ambitious and callous character.
Recalling the times when Shaheed Benazir Bhutto arrived in Lahore amidst a historic welcome (which IK can only dream of), she committed the fatal mistake of going solo, ignoring all the 11-party alliance of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which had fought and sacrificed side by side for the restoration of democracy and human rights, against callous dictator Zia-ul-Haq. Instead, the PPP only chose their favourites from amongst the MRD ranks in their government, ignoring the technocratic/competent stalwarts from the MRD parties. Their demand was to accommodate just 40 people from amongst the MRD, wherein mostly the PPP did not even have potential candidates.
I wish and hope that the PDM led by Shehbaz Sharif does not repeat the same blunder.
In my opinion our country needs to be run by the best talent which 12 parties of the PDM can pool in. This would not merely cement unity further amongst the stakeholders, but also provide strength to the government.
Economy and Good Governance
Last year, the FIA narrated that 85 percent of our budget is allocated to defense and debt servicing. It is no rocket science; we must take some bold steps instead of making unrealistic promises to our innocent people and constantly injecting war hysteria. Imran Khan and his government ought to have done this.
Starting from the armed forces, they are the most disciplined institution in our country. They also possess the biggest medical corps, engineering corps and educational corps in the country, among others. In lots of countries of the world, the medical, engineering and other services that are part of the armed forces have been significantly expanded, converted and utilised in the productive process and cater to the needs of civilians as well. No armed personnel should be removed and rendered jobless; their perks and privileges should remain the same. Their roles however, should be diverted and expanded to be even more productive. Pakistan’s biggest muscles are our defense forces and the fact that we are a nuclear state.
Today, Imran Khan has totally exposed his naivete in global business, lack of knowledge about international affairs and politics. And on top of everything, his selfishness; “Either I’ll be there or nobody else” – it is a mentality that is extremely problematic.
Secondly, the agricultural landowning class (Pakistan predominantly being an agrarian economy) are hardly or marginally taxed. This is one of the biggest maladies of our society, thanks to their stranglehold over our Parliament and provincial assmeblies.
In my view, this is what we should do: give the elite/rich classes good business incentives to make enough money, and tax them heavily and pass on the relief to the poor and middle classes, in terms of utility bills and a reduction of prices on all common people’s consumable items.
Beyond this, we must struggle for an independent judiciary and speedy justice. Moreover, we have to strengthen civil society, make social media more useful and less dangerous, and above all, ensure the supremacy of the parliament at all times.
All loss-incurring state enterprises must be sold off immediately. We must stop the ostentatious living of ministers, other bureaucrats and government functionaries. Their benefits (unlimited use of telephones, petrol etc.) should be sizeably cut down.
Holding local bodies’ elections and ensuring that the system stays in place is a necessary aspect for good governance. Overall, the decadent old system should be quickly replaced.
Finally, owing to the extremely negative polarisation, hatred and distrust in all sections of society, a national commission should be set up for Pakistan, alongside a separate reconciliation commission for Balochistan – before it is too late. Such commissions were formed in numerous countries of the world, including South Africa and even Canada.
Early elections are not the correct prescription for bringing down temperatures across the political divide. In fact, the holding of elections would probably increase the wave of vindictiveness, abusive hate-mongering and mudslinging that the present political discourse has been drowned in. It may even lead to unnecessary bloodshed. At the end of the day, the government needs to be political in character and somewhat technocratic in constitution.
The bottom-line is this: the economic problems of the country are not so complex that it requires rocket science to fix them. What is needed is a level-headed, somewhat visionary and business-savvy leadership, which has handled problems in the past and has a track record of diligence and delivery.
Based on the current crop available in Pakistan, the name of Shehbaz Sharif seems to be a likely candidate (though opinions may differ, and he is not the only choice) to head a national government.