The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is celebrating its “achievements” in the first 100 days in power. It had promised to reform the bureaucracy, police, education, health and other sectors. People are disappointed with the performance of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government as all departments remain the same or have worsened in the period and prices of all essentials have skyrocketed.
The government believes it has outperformed all governments in the past. It has also set up a progress tracker site to asses the performance Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 100 days. The site deals with six goal, including to transform governance, strengthen the Federation, revitalise economic growth, uplift agriculture and conserve water, revolutionalise social services and ensure Pakistan’s national security. It says 35 tasks undertaken since August 18, when he was sworn in, have been completed while 87 projects have been initiated. However, no bill has so far been tabled in the parliament or any completed task has been enforced through a presidential ordinance, though some bills have been drafted.
The government had promised to depoliticize the bureaucracy, but transfers and postings continue on political grounds. The transfer of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammad Tahir in Punjab, IGP Jan Muhammad in Islamabad, District Police Officer (DPO) Rizwan Gondal in Pakpattan and letters of two deputy commissioners (DCs) to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on interference in their official work by PTI legislators and the resignation of adviser on police reforms Nasir Durrani are few examples, which made headlines and attracted suo motu action from the Supreme Court of Pakistan and maligned the image of the government. The federal government’s policy of allowing parliamentarians to monitor development schemes in their areas will also add to political interference into bureaucratic domains.
The government has reshuffled bureaucrats at least twice and police officers thrice in a bid to achieve desired results. The bureaucracy, trained by the Sharifs for decades, is not willing to cooperate with the government, which has enforced a new policy, under which officers, who had been working in the same province for over 10 years, have either been transferred to other provinces or repatriated to Islamabad. It has also constituted a service reform committee. It is said the government had done proper homework before massive reshuffles in the police and bureaucracy, but the situation remains the same. Experts say only transfers will not work. The government will have to remove corrupt officers from key positions. Former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had removed about 1,300 civil servants to tone up the rest of the administration. Earlier, General Ayub Khan and General Yahya Khan had adopted the same tactics.
The Punjab government has announced a plan to reform 14 departments, including health, education, tourism, labour, agriculture and local government departments. It has introduced a new water management regime, making a policy in consultation with the irrigation, forest and local government departments. It will regulate water usage and make all users pay for it. It will be compulsory for parents to send their children to schools, otherwise they would be punished. It is also going to introduce teachers’ licensing and grading, declaring which teacher is fit for which level and type of school. An authority on private schools, including parents in their management networks, is also on the cards. All schools will be graded and their fees would strictly match their level of education. The government will establish a Workers Welfare Board, on the pattern of the Sindh government, to collect funds from industrialists and utilise them for the welfare of workers. The federal government collects certain percentage of profits of all industrial units. It has Rs160 billion under the head but does not share it with the provinces.
The provincial government is also improving existing laws on child labour. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, it is going to introduce a law on domestic labour to strictly regulate it, and particularly disallow engagement of children as home servants. Another major area will be technical education. At present, the Technical Education and Vocation Training Authority (TEVTA), Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) and Punjab Skilled Development are separately imparting technical education under three different departments. The first is under the Industry Department, the second under Zakat and Ushr and the third under the Planning and Development Department. The Punjab Skilled Development programme is better than the first two as it is being funded by foreign agencies. But there is no coordination among the three. The government will create a joint database of all the three bodies, even enlisting all graduates and their utility in the job market. It also aims to expand the health card facility to the whole province, under which poor families will be able to get free treatment in private hospitals up to an annual Rs350,000. In a significant development, Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered establishment of a National Curriculum Council for creating a consensus among stakeholders for uniform standards of education across the country. The government aims to introduce short and long-term measures to introduce qualitative changes in the education sector.
Apparently, the government has taken a large number of steps to provide relief to the people. However, all progress exists only on paper as the ground situation remains the same. The biggest challenge for the PTI government was fixing a tattered economy. It has only achieved mixed results. The rupee was allowed to go in a free fall and unprecedented hikes in electricity and gas tariffs led to a fresh wave of inflation. Hospitals are still short of staff, medicines and equipment. Education institutes lack facilities, qualified teachers and the quality of education remains poor. The police performance has even worsened. In fact, it will be the greatest achievement of the government if it changes the attitude of the Punjab police. There are no signs of change in the country. The politics of Thana and Patwari continue. A tsunami of price hike has crushed the people. Critics say only Prime Minister Imran Khan is against the status quo while all other leaders of the party are a product of the old political system. Even stanch sympathizers find it hard to defend government policies. It will have to ensure the fruit of its reforms reach the public at the earliest or the opposition can exploit the situation, to make governance even more complicated.