A new development has occurred in the political culture of Pakistan as the leading contender for governmental power in the upcoming national elections, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), announced its plan for the first 100 days if voted to power. Such a plan is, indeed, a commendable step as it charts the priorities of a party if voted to power and sets out the roadmap for future course of action. Whether the PTI would be able to act upon this plan or not is a question to be left to the future, but at the moment what we need to discuss are the merits and demerits of the 100-day plan.
An important point in the post-election 100-day plan is how education could be made accessible to the common man and how a maximum number of jobs could be created. Obviously, education and employment are the key issues of Pakistan, but the latter is considered more important by the masses than the former. However, from a government’s point of view, education is more important. Because education is the vehicle through which the affairs of the entire state and society could be progressively organized, which is the raison d’être of any government. But even more important than the access to education, is the quality of education that is imparted in a country. Although access to educational facilities for most of the population is a key challenge in Pakistan, it is the quality of education which should be even more important for the government, given the state of education in this country.
The PTI or, for that matter, any party could not establish the required number of schools in the first 100 days, if voted to power, even constructing so many schools would be nearly impossible in five years. So the PTI should concentrate in the first 100 days on the quality of both higher and primary education and set clear and world recognized criteria for quality education which are followed as standards in the developed world. If this is done there would be marked improvement in overall governance in the country in the next five years.
The PTI’s first 100 days post election plan reveals it is all- encompassing in the sense that it has strategies for all important aspects of social and civic life. The plans include strategies for the economy, security and the environment.
The most important part of the PTI 100-day post power plan is revitalizing the economy and within that, coming up with a policy for the creation of 10 million jobs within five years. This part of the plan would attract the most attention and interest and could result in many undecided youth voters casting their ballot in favour of the PTI in the hope that the party government would provide them jobs. The PTI seems to have conceived the plan of 10 million or one crore jobs, under a well thought out strategy, the immediate aim of which is to get maximum number of votes. If the aim is attaining political power by making any promise then so be it. That the PTI has really any plans to achieve the task is difficult to believe. With ex-Engro maven, Asad Umer, as proposed finance minister this is a quixotic promise.
The proposed step to establish a Council of Business Leaders to improve Pakistan’s global business standing and raising of a Pakistan Wealth Fund to fund institutions such as the Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills and power distribution companies (DISCOS) to bring “revolutionary changes in them” is significant but overly ambitious. The PTI post power 100-day plan is shrewdly bereft of tall claims regarding ending the acute power crisis in the country and the only promise is an unspecified timeframe to put an end to the crisis.
Regarding the environment, the PTI plan touches upon the key but politically ignored area of climate change. Global warming or climate change is a very critical issue that is recognized and realized by even the most developed countries, although its impact has been most severe on developing countries like Pakistan. However, unlike other underdeveloped countries there has been virtually no attention paid by successive Pakistani governments to the issue of climate change. Therefore, if it has been included in the PTI’s 100 day plan, this is commendable. In fact, the PTI realized the issue in the last elections and, therefore, when the party formed the government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province after the 2003 national elections, a comprehensive plan of planting an unprecedented number of trees was initiated, named the Billion Tree Tsunami. This plan has been a success and at least 80 percent of the target of planting a billon trees has been achieved and this is testified to by such organizations as the World Conservation Union and the Bonn Challenge. The PTI, thus, has an experience in carrying out massive afforestation. As the PTI leadership has vowed to replicate the KP Billion Tree Tsunami success story in the entire country, if voted to power, this would be a milestone in improving the country’s physical environment. The opposition parties criticism over the Billon Tree Tsunami project is nonsensical as making money in such a non-infrastructure project is impossible.
A very important aspect of the PTI post power 100-day plan is conserving water. Pakistan is increasingly becoming a water-deficient country and there is total social indifference to the careful use of this precious natural resource. So if a political party in an extensively underdeveloped country like Pakistan speaks of conserving water in its electoral manifesto, this is commendable.
Strengthening the federation is the cornerstone of the PTI post election victory 100-day plan. Independent analysis also establishes the significance of the measure as the Pakistani federation has once again been passing through crisis. Rather it would be apt to say that the Pakistani federation could never be considered strong, except for the initial 10 years after the birth of the country. The PTI’s strengthening of the federation strategy although is far short of addressing all key maladies afflicting the federation, yet caters largely to important symptoms of this weakness. The plan includes launching a dialogue in Balochistan; merging FATA with the KP and creation of a south Punjab province. The PML-N in order to deny credit to the PTI, merged FATA with KP just a couple of days before the end of its five-year tenure. However, the merger has been made in haste and therefore it would have its negative consequences.
Creation of a south Punjab province within a 100 days is very much doable provided there is political will on the part of the key political stakeholder, which after elections and probable win of the PTI, would be required of the party the most. Balochistan could also be given wider autonomy and control over its provincial resources as the framework in the shape of the 18th Constitutional Amendment is there.
Security is a holistic concept and economic security is a very critical aspect of security. Against this backdrop, the PTI argument to revive the economy through reforming foreign policy is, indeed, praiseworthy. Indubitably, there are a lot of issues with the formulation and conduct of our foreign policy and the PTI plan alludes to these shortcomings. The PTI post-election 100-day plans states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be strengthened by revamping its legal and institutional capabilities. So there is a realization within the PTI that there is a need to capacitate our foreign affairs ministry, which should have been the key institution in the foreign policy making of the country. However, this has not been the case and Paksitan’s foreign policy has consistently been formulated by institutions whose primary tasks do not include this.
With regard to Pakistan’s war on extremism and terrorism, the PTI 100-day plan has a strategy of 4 Es: Expose links between active and passive terrorists; Enforce full implementation and expansion of the National Action Plan; Eliminate through isolation, extermination and blowback prevention and Educate by restructuring syllabi and mainstreaming madrasas.
The PTI’s plan is commendable. However, one of Pakistan’s major problems has been the chasm between intent and implementation. Given institutional and societal conditions and the PTI’s overall pathetic leadership qualities, one cannot be too sanguine of the plan’s success.