As the first 100 days of the newly elected government come to an end in Pakistan, both fans and critics are discussing the first indications of the change promised by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Pledging to give results as soon as his party formed government in Islamabad, Khan has been planning changes in the administration structure, making efforts for corrective reforms and focusing on ending corruption. Based on six main themes, the ‘First 100 Days Agenda’ constitutes of economic reforms, better governance, national security, revamping of the agricultural sector, improving social services and strengthening the federation.
Describing his vision for transforming Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state, Imran Khan said that, “Our first pledge is to lift people socio economically. Then, we need civil service reforms; the delivery of civil services and how they can become beneficial to the public.” Preferring to take the difficult decisions in the initial days of his ruling tenure, Imran Khan believes that this is the right time for drastic measures as the government has its maximum strength and resolve in the very beginning. Broadly assessing his first 100 days, the focus has been mainly on austerity and schemes for the betterment of the masses, the economy and the foreign policy.
Notably, in these 100 days, long and short-term policies have been formed to fix the chronic problems with the economy, encouraging foreign investment, growing exports, facilitating smooth inflow of remittances and updating taxationSabena Siddiqui
Austerity and alleviating poverty
One of the first noticeable changes has been a tendency towards austerity and doing away with unnecessary pomp and splendor. To some extent, this has led to other top officials and politicians cutting down on costs as well. Though it is too early to give sustainable results, efforts are underway for social uplift with a housing program and efforts for poverty alleviation. Planning to build five million housing units, create ten million jobs, reform the police system as well as update the local government, there seems to be a clear road map for the days ahead. Planning to provide clean water and provide jobs, the government has achievable targets and only the implementation phase remains, and the year ahead is crucial for the success of this agenda.
Facing a severe financial crisis as soon they came into power, dealing with a shortage of foreign exchange has been the biggest hurdle for the new government. Dealing with the balance of payments crisis on an urgent basis, the Prime Minister undertook trips to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, China, UAE and Malaysia to request for help in dealing with the emergency and managed to avert this existential crisis. Alongside, negotiations have been undertaken with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well for a bailout and restructuring of the economy.
Notably, in these 100 days, long and short-term policies have been formed to fix the chronic problems with the economy, encouraging foreign investment, growing exports, facilitating smooth inflow of remittances and updating taxation. At the same time, steps were taken to end corruption and illegal money-laundering practises to strengthen the economy.
Where Pakistan’s foreign policy is concerned, traditional strategic relationships have been re-strengthened and consolidated with Saudi Arabia, the U.S., China, UAE and Malaysia. Notwithstanding the recent Twitter episode with President Trump, ties with the U.S. are on a positive trajectory. As Colonel Manning from the US Department of Defense explained ‘there was no change in the military- to -military relationship between Pakistan and the United States.’ At the same time, the Afghan peace process has been accelerated and Pakistan’s involvement remains crucial for peace in South Asia. Significantly, the ‘change’ lies in the way Pakistan’s foreign policy is much more Pakistan-centric and national interests have been given top priority.
Just days from now, the PM plans to take the nation into confidence regarding the implementation of his 100-day program after his return from Malaysia at the end of this month. Comparing the previous two elected governments to his own, he is expected to analyze and assess the situation. Having directed his cabinet team to prepare a ‘progress report’, it is expected that this would be read out during his speech to the nation on 29th November. Meanwhile, the opposition parties plan to release a ‘white paper’ of their own to present their point of view the day after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation.
Giving Pakistani politics a fresh new look, Imran Khan is now the public face and for his country and its administration. In addition, he elicits much more public interest as he has been a top celebrity. Rejecting the status quo, Imran Khan also happens to symbolize a ‘zeitgeist’ type of movement for social reforms combined with a modern approach in the country, and this is the reason that the hopes of the youth are pinned on Khan. Having outlined his targets, he has presented his vision and if he remains set on his goals the result should be a changed Pakistan.
Sabena Siddiqui is a foreign affairs journalist and geopolitical analyst with special focus on the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC and South Asia. She tweets @sabena_siddiqi.