EDITORIAL: Shortly after he took oath as the country's Prime Minister on 18 August 2018 Imran Khan established 14 task forces, committees and commissions to identify the malaise besetting various sectors/subsectors/ and lacunae in holding public officials accountable and provide recommendations with the overarching objective of improving governance. On 14 September 2018 while addressing senior bureaucrats in Islamabad, the Prime Minister stated that his government would protect the bureaucracy from political pressure and acknowledged that quick postings and transfers are disruptive for any government. By 29 October 2018 the Prime Minister accused the bureaucracy of being loyal to previous administrations as the "previous two governments had planted their loyalists in all departments." And on January 2020 as the National Accountability Bureau Amendment Ordinance was promulgated the Prime Minister stated that this is designed to provide protection to the bureaucracy facing unnecessary pressure from NAB and the business community that does not fall under NAB as tax cases are related to the Federal Board of Revenue.
Nasir Durrani tasked to reform the Punjab police on the same pattern as the KPK police which, analysts are agreed, was the reason behind the PTI sweeping the KPK provincial assembly in 2018 resigned in protest against the summary dismissal of the then IG Police. And two years down the line the number of Chief Secretaries and IG Police that Punjab has witnessed is legendary.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also set up commissions to look into serious malpractices of sectors/subsectors that came to light accounting for domestic shortages and a consequent rise in prices of some essential commodities including sugar, wheat and petrol. The cabinet as well as the Prime Minister made the sugar and wheat reports public and his supporters hailed it as a landmark decision reflecting the Prime Minister's desire to hold all accountable, including those who were senior members of the ruling party with an unambiguous reference to Jehangir Khan Tareen.
Smugglers, speculators (satta), cartelization (referred by the government team as the mafia) were identified as contributors to domestic shortages and the consequent raise in their price. The Accountability czar, Shahzad Akber, who has yet to proceed against the 100 or so high net worth individuals (his terms of reference as head of the task force set-up in 2018) and ensure that their ill-gotten wealth is returned to the treasury, revealed that the first reference with respect to sugar scandal has been sent to NAB which as per its amendment cannot deal with members of the business community; there is however no mention of the decisions by the federal and the Punjab cabinets that enabled the sugar mill owners to rake in profits. The Competition Commission of Pakistan was held responsible for failing to deal with collusion by the mill owners and the Chairperson was changed however nothing else was changed that could support the new chairperson in enforcing her decisions.
Prime Minister periodically warns all those who are ganging up to rake in unfair profits that exemplary punishment would be meted out to them but till today no action has been witnessed while the prices of these items remain high which his economic team leaders refer to as supply side issues.
And finally, Karachi remains in the throes of severe hardships. K-E is not only engaged in massive loadshedding due to reasons that are well known for over a month now. Federal cabinet members have periodically hurled insults at the PPP, however, KE operates in the federal domain and disturbingly no definitive decision to resolve these issues has yet been made by the federal cabinet and there appears to be little or no realization that loadshedding during quarantine as a consequence of Covid-19 is even more difficult to withstand.
Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Ali Zaidi has asked for donations of up to 1.75 billion rupees over 90 days maintaining that this was the amount required to execute the first phase of the 'clean Karachi' drive while the Sindh government requested an audit of the money collected in October last year. Prime Minister Imran Khan set up a committee under federal law minister Farogh Naseem to look into matters relating to Karachi however the current position of Karachi streets and residences on the media reveal their own truth.
Surely task forces, committees, threats and warnings have a role to play during the honeymoon period of any new government; however, for this to continue for two years out of a five year term is not acceptable to the general public. Results need to be clearly and unambiguously visible and exclusive reliance on a 'narrative' is not going to win any hearts and minds.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020