The federal government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has completed its 100 days in office and there have been many lapses, if not blunders, in this period and also there are no concrete achievements, although priorities for some departments have been very clearly set. The PTI government has been celebrating its 100 days in office, but it is prematurely self-congratulatory. Setting a 100-day plan for government, if voted to office, before the election, by the PTI, was a commendable strategy, to the extent that it gave something to look forward to, to the people.
It is important to note that the first 100-day plan which was unveiled by the PTI before the July 25, 2018 national election included how education could be made accessible to the common man and how maximum number of jobs could be created. Although access to educational facilities for most of the population is a key challenge in Pakistan, but it is the quality of education which should be even more important for the government, given the low quality of education in this country. It is understandable that the PTI government could not establish the required number of schools in the first 100 days. Nevertheless, priorities could have been set regarding the quality of education, but that even could not be done. Therefore, in the next 100 days and during the entire length of its government the PTI should concentrate on the quality of both higher and primary education and set clear and internationally recognized criteria for quality education which are followed as standards in the developed world. If this is done, there would be marked improvement in the education system in the short term, but the real windfall would come in the long term in the required development of the society.
The most important part of the PTI 100-day pre-election plan was revitalizing the economy and, within that, coming up with a policy for creation of 10 million jobs in five years. This part of the plan attracted the most attention and interest and resulted in many undecided young voters casting their ballot in favour of the PTI in a hope that the government would provide them with jobs. The promise of providing such a huge number of jobs was quixotic. It may be recalled that the pre-election announced economic revival plan envisaged establishing a Council of Business Leaders to improve Pakistan’s global business standing and raising of a Pakistan Wealth Fund to finance institutions such as the Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills and power distribution companies (DISCOS) to bring “revolutionary changes in them.” However in the first 100 days the PTI government could not take any such step, which is a palpable failure. More importantly, the government has made a popular but unrealistic decision that no government employee would be sacked. Given the fact that most of the employees of the government departments in the last 30 years have been appointed on political basis, such a decision is a contradiction of the PTI objective of revival of the state institutions.
The PTI with an experience of carrying out massive afforestation as in the KP Billion Tree Tsunami, even could not initiate the same project in the entire country in the first 100 days despite many claims.
Within the plan for the environment, a very important aspect of the PTI post-election 100-day plan was conserving water. Pakistan is increasingly becoming a water-deficient country and there is total social disregard towards the careful use of this precious natural resource. For a political party in an underdeveloped country like Pakistan, promise of conserving water in its electoral manifesto was commendable. In the first 100 days we saw some work and activity from the PTI government in this regard. If this pace of implementation on the water conservation strategy is sustained in the next few years, marked improvement in water availability could be observed.
Strengthening the federation was the cornerstone of the PTI 100-day plan. Independent analysis also establishes the significance of the measure as the Pakistani federation has once again been passing through crisis. The plan included launching a dialogue in Balochistan; merging FATA with KP and creation of a south Punjab province. The PML-N in order to deny the 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. The PTI government in its first 100-days could not ensure catalyzing the process of integration of FATA in KP, claims by Prime Minister Imran Khan notwithstanding. No dialogue in Balochistan could be initiated and even the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, a key ally of the PTI government, seems to be uneasy with the federal government efforts to give Balochistan its rightful share in the federation. More importantly, no significant development could be seen on the question of creation of a south Punjab province in the first 100 days. The fact of the matter is that the appointment of Chief Minister Punjab, Usman Buzdar, who belongs to south Punjab, was a key indicator that there would be no progress on the south Punjab province in the initial period of PTI rule. Otherwise, creation of a South Punjab province within 100 days was very much doable, provided there was political will on the part of key political stakeholders.
The PTI plan included to revive the economy through reforming foreign policy was, indeed, praiseworthy. The plan stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be strengthened by revamping its legal and institutional capabilities. In this respect a lot of progress has been observed in the first 100 days.
With regard to Pakistan’s war on extremism and terrorism the PTI 100-day plan had 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. All these aspects of national security remained ignored in the first 100 days of the government of the PTI.
As a whole, the performance of the PTI government in the first 100 days has been quite unsatisfactory. This can be gauged from the survey by a Pakistan think tank which shows that only 47 percent of the population across the country is satisfied with the performance of the government. It is also important to note that in these 100 days inflation has been escalating, which has made the lives of the majority of Pakistanis miserable. However, PM Khan and other ministers have at least admitted that the economic policies’ burden on Pakistanis has been strong but taking unpopular steps was the compulsion of the government in order to put the economy on the right track. It remains to be seen whether the basics of the economy can, indeed, be rectified, as the entire governance apparatus and the wellbeing of people would depend upon the economic policies of the government.