By Aamir Latif
As Pakistan is going to have a new government for the next five years in coming days, a jumble of challenges await the country’s likely Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose center-right has emerged as the single largest party in July 25 elections.
Khan, 65, a former cricket star, in his victory speech on Thursday promised that he would run the country on the principles of the state of Madinah -- a reference to a welfare state set up by Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in Madinah 14 centuries ago.
He also promised that his government will be for the underprivileged people of Pakistan that would strengthen the country’s dismal economy, overcome the energy crisis, and root out the endemic corruption.
But, many believe, it will not be walk in the park for Khan to fulfill his promises, of them many are “ambitious”.
In its manifesto, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) billed “a road to a new Pakistan”; among many promises are, creation of 10 million new jobs, construction of 5 million new houses for poor citizens, bringing back the country’s “looted wealth”, and revival of at least 100 industries in first 100 days.
“Hopes are high but challenges ahead (for Khan’s government) are tougher,” Dr. Shahid Hassan Siddiqui, a Karachi-based economist, told Anadolu Agency.
The imminent challenge, according to Siddiqui, is the next federal budget due in August.
“The upcoming budget will tell us whether Khan is serious in implementing its ambitious plans, particularly the economy-related ones,” he opined.
Revival of economy
“The new government will have to increase financial resources if it wants to implement its agenda, especially creation of new jobs, and revival of economy,” he added.
These financial resources, Siddiqui believed, could be acquired only after revamping the current tax system.
“Pakistan is reeling from a deepening current deficit, currency depreciation, receding foreign reserves, and increasing foreign loans and interest. Exports are already lesser than imports,” he went on to say.
Another huge challenge, he said, would be the debt servicing against colossal external loans amid declining foreign reserves.
“This all can be improved only through enhancement of financial resources. Which is not possible without revamping the incumbent tax system”, he maintained.
He observed that Pakistan could get up to $15 billion if it managed to bring back the “looted money” from abroad. But for that, he thought, the new government has to declare null and void the controversial amnesty scheme, which allows the people to keep their undeclared wealth abroad after paying just 5 percent tax on it.
“If Khan manages to do these two steps, at least 30 percent of the country’s economic problems can be resolved”, he opined.
“Khan has made too many promises, including levying of agriculture tax. But I wonder if the big landlords who have recently joined PTI would allow Khan to do that,” he said, referring to dozens of “electables” -- a term to designate influential landlords who often switch loyalties but still manage to win the elections because of their wealth and influence no matter which party they represent.
Kamal Hyder, an Islamabad-based political analyst, believes Khan’s 100-day plan is “too ambitious to implement.”
“Politicians say too much and too many things in their election campaigns. Khan has done the same,” Hyder told Anadolu Agency.
“He has succeeded in elections but his real test will begin when he becomes the prime minister,” he said.
“I think if he succeeds to deliver even a half of what he has promised, it will be a miracle because he is going to face a string of challenges -- all daunting,” he went on to say.
After economy, Hyder believed, rebuilding of national institutions, which currently stand “collapsed” and “deeply politicized”, would be another big challenge for Khan.
“Khan has to show something concrete against corruption, which was his major promise with the nation,” he noted.
“Pakistanis are actually looking for a one-eyed king in the kingdom of blinds,” said Hyder in a reference to many Pakistanis who have voted for “change” in recent elections.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, a professor of International Relations at Quaid-I-Azam International University Islamabad sees equally tough challenge for Khan on foreign policy front.
“Things are not too good for Pakistan on foreign policy front. Islamabad’s relations with Washington have plummeted to a low ebb, Kabul is also not very happy with us, whereas New Delhi has already painted Khan as an anti-India figure,” Jaspal observed.
“Khan has to pull something extra out of his bag to cope up with this situation”, he added.
Khan, in his victory speech on Thursday, said his government would strengthen its ties not only with its traditional allies like China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran but also with its neighbors like Afghanistan, and India.
He had offered an olive branch to arch-rival India, saying the two countries should avoid blame-game, and try to resolve the core issue of Kashmir.
About America, he had said his government would look for a balanced relationship with its former ally in so-called war against terrorist.
But Jaspal does not appear to be very hopeful.
“We should not expect too much from the new government vis-à-vis foreign relations because Pakistan’s foreign policy hugely relies on systemic elements. Therefore it does not matter how much competent our foreign minister is,” he maintained.