NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 03

Opposition’s APC

The opposition parties have announced calling an All Parties Conference (APC) in Islamabad on September 20. They aim to discuss possibilities of an in-house change or fresh elections. However, serious rifts between two mainstream parties mean the opposition will end up making the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan more powerful and confident despite its failure to deliver.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) have developed deep mistrust of each other, which could not be bridged despite several meetings of their leaders. Recently, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif called on PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari in Karachi. However, both parties are suspicious of each other. It is also a fact that the opposition parties do not have the required majority to bring a no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. The only option to force the government to announce fresh elections is en bloc resignations. However, the PPP and the PML-N will never use the option because they have stakes in the system. The PPP rules Sindh and it has come closer to the PTI after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a Rs1,100 billion Karachi package. On the other hand, the PML-N is the main opposition party in the Punjab and the Centre and resignations will seriously damage its political interests.

It is clear that the opposition is not in a position to pose a serious challenge to the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. It is bad governance that has tainted his government. He holds meetings for up to 12-14 hours in the Prime Minister’s House daily, but governance has not improved. He openly expresses his displeasure over his ministers for their failure or lack of interest in implementing government policies. He also blames an inefficient and corrupt system for his failure to provide relief to the common people, which critics say is an open admission of his poor performance on all fronts.

He has vented out his frustration with the system and ministers on many occasions. He was annoyed after relevant ministries and ministers failed to implement his repeated orders to take effective measures to reduce prices of essentials. Addressing a public gathering, he expressed his annoyance at the “unprofessional” conduct of his cabinet members, who, he said, were creating more trouble for the government than the opposition. “Sometimes, the opposition doesn’t even need to do something against the government as the ministers’ performance is sufficient to land the government in trouble. When the opposition does nothing, some minister makes such a statement that it becomes difficult to handle,” he told his party’s social media team.

Critics say it is an open admission of his failure to run the affairs of his party and government. He has come to power on the promise to change the system. He waged a long struggle against his entrenched political rivals and he was supposed to be fully aware of the weaknesses of the system and how to remove them. It is disheartening for the people of the country to hear him merely complaining against the system and not making an effort to change it. He could have at least changed his ministers who he thinks are not delivering.

His critics and opposition parties daily remind him of his election promises. His major election promise was to cut prices. Instead, prices of all essentials have almost doubled after rupee devaluation against the dollar and hikes in electricity and gas tariff. Medicine rates are also beyond the reach of the common man. His government policies have badly hurt the common people.

The opposition accuses him of taking U-turns on every election promise. The poor economy is called his biggest blunder after Pakistan’s currency lost 35pc of its value in the first year of his government. Imran Khan is taunted for reneging on his promise to fix Pakistan’s economy without taking foreign loans while his government has broken all previous records by borrowing $16b in just one year, the highest ever external borrowing in any fiscal year since Pakistan’s creation in 1947. Like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the PTI government also relied on short-term foreign commercial loans to run the affairs of the country. The PML-N had added Rs15 trillion to public debt and liabilities in five years, while the PTI increased total debt and liabilities by Rs11 trillion in one year. More than 80pc loan was piled up by the PTI in one year in comparison with five years of the PML-N. The public debt and liabilities stood at Rs29 trillion in June 2018, which peaked to Rs40 trillion on June 30, 2019.

Imran Khan also blames mafias in the country for obstructing and creating trouble for his government. He may be right to some extent but he cannot absolve himself and his government of bad governance and inefficiency. He should have come to power with better preparedness when he already knew he had to face such hurdles.

It is a fact that past governments failed to make structural changes and improve governance but the PTI government cannot blame them now. Consequences of all blunders, mismanagement and inaction of the past governments lie on the table of Prime Minister Imran Khan and he has no option of failure. The situation is not easy to handle. The government is finding it difficult even to foot debt servicing and necessary expenditure and funds for public welfare look impossible at the moment.

He has promised to make Pakistan a modern welfare state. The government will have to take harsh measures for years for it. Modern welfare states have gained status after hard work for centuries. It will be a great achievement of the government if the people even start feeling that the country has been put on the path to become a welfare state.