The cacophony in the media about PM Imran Khan’s so-called U-turns is uncalled for, if not downright stupid. What has come to be termed U-turn is basically policy revisions and reversals which is a norm in today’s complex social, economic and political milieu.
Governments everywhere make policies and programmes in the light of given circumstances and modify them when the situation changes. This is nothing unusual in today’s fast changing world. We are living in the digital age where information travels from one corner of the world to another in milliseconds. Those who don’t change are consigned to the dustbin of history.
Last week PM Imran Khan, responding to the barbs of criticism, defended his changing stance on critical national and international issues. He justified his policy reversals with reference to his cricket career. He said that he used to alter his game plan when he realised that the rival team had also changed its strategy.
Citing examples from history, he said great leaders have often changed course to deal with new emerging challenges. In this context, he referred to Hitler and Napoleon who he said would not have suffered losses had they taken U-turns. Hitler’s ambition was to rule over the whole of Europe. He considered Germans were a superior race, while all other races, including the Jews, were racially inferior. A paranoid dictator, Hitler was a mad man, rigid and unyielding in his views and decisions. When stuck in the snow storms of northern Russia he refused to turn back and suffered a humiliating defeat. Napoleon mounted a massive attack on Russia in 1812. This led to a brutal war which ended in the withdrawal of the French Grande Armee. This was followed by the decisive defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig in October 1813 and the capture of France in March 1814.
It is indisputable that policies have to be modified in the light of changing circumstances. But some people do not agree and say his cricket analogy is flawed. In this context they cite the examples of many politicians whom he condemned in the past but has now appointed them as members of the cabinet or given them important positions in provincial and federal governments. Similarly, critics say that before coming to power, Imran Khan categorically declared that he would never seek financial assistance from the IMF but has now asked the Fund for assistance. It has also been pointed out by some analysts that Imran Khan had built his entire political edifice on the premise of a new framework of morality and ethical values. But he has deviated from his ideological stand and included in his cabinet persons with a tainted and dubious past. At the same time, he and his cabinet members have been accused of exercising considerable flexibility in political and economic decision-making in violation of ethical principles and fundamental value systems.
All these charges miss the main point. PM Khan has not deviated an inch from his basic commitment. Adjustments, modifications and accommodations are not U-turns but signs of flexibility to keep pace with the shifting ground situation. For instance, he said that he would not go to IMF in order to make Pakistan economically autonomous. But when he assumed office he found the national treasury empty and foreign reserves at a critical level. The debt burden was back breaking. The budget and current account deficits were touching astronomical levels. Although faced with a daunting situation, he did not initially turn to the IMF but to long-time dependable friends like China, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Thus, in the overall scenario, going to the IMF is a sideshow necessitated by the need to be online with international financial and economic systems.
PTI’s original platform is intact. Khan’s political career started as a movement to fill the gaps in our political system, particularly pertaining to the provision of justice and the elimination of corruption. This path the government is pursuing with unflinching determination. The extravagant, regal style of governance has been replaced with an austere administrative regime and the hemorrhaging of the economy through corruption has been stopped. All the guilty are being brought to book and billions of Pakistan’s stolen money have been recovered.
PTI is a party of the youth, and it has moved quickly to fulfil its promise to provide jobs to the people. Schemes have also been launched to build low cost housing for the masses. No government of the past ever thought about it. The drug and land mafias have been taken on frontally and brought to their knees. Encroachments have been demolished and lands restored to their rightful owners.
The initial difficulties the government is facing can be described as teething problems which will in time be overcome. For Imran Khan the greatest challenge is to introduce a new political culture of probity and transparency and that he is doing. Governance is showing unmistakable signs of improvement which will help lift the economy out of the present quagmire compounded by structural problems, bleeding State-owned enterprises and inefficiency and sloth at all levels of the administration.
In running a huge country like Pakistan, mistakes are liable to be made. But there is no doubting the sincerity of PM Imran Khan. Policies are all pointing in the right direction which hold the promise of a positive outcome in the near future. Change is in the air irrespective of what the Doubting Thomases may say.