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EDITORIAL: Speaking on Thursday at a special award giving ceremony for the best performing members of his cabinet — a rather strange thing to do — Prime Minister Imran Khan acknowledged that he was wrong when he promised to “change” the country — his party’s slogan being to make ‘Naya Pakistan’ — due to “faults” in the system. In an apparent reference to his campaign vows not to spare political elites allegedly involved in mega corruption cases, create millions of new jobs, and establish rule of law, he said: “in the beginning we wanted to bring change immediately through revolutionary steps, but later realised that our system is incapable of absorbing shock.”

He did not elaborate what ‘revolutionary’ steps the government could have taken under existing laws, what is obvious is that hope and confidence alone were not enough to deliver on his promises.

According to sceptics, he had set himself unrealistic targets. There is no denying, though, that the country’s full potential cannot be harnessed unless the seemingly impracticable becomes practicable. The PM explained that “the biggest problem is that there has been no connection between the government and the interests of the country.”

This implies that the system is still geared towards serving the interests of power elites at the expense of public welfare projects and plans. In other words, ‘elite capture’ continues to hamper this government’s ability to do what it wanted. The claim of holding the alleged corrupt public figures to account has proved to be a tricky issue. The National Accountability Bureau has yet to take any of the cases to a logical conclusion.

The government lays the blame at the judiciary’s door. The PM could have done better by letting the relevant authorities to do their job, and forged a working relationship with the opposition leaders in order to make progress on other public interest issues. But not only did he refuse to talk to them, even shake hands, hence thwarting any possibility of major political parties coming together to work for greater good of the country.

Also, there is little to show for improvement in governance. As usual, the bureaucracy gets censured even though it has been considerably weakened. For senior civil servants, constant transfers and postings have become a revolving door, keeping them under constant pressure. The promise to end the ‘culture of thana and patwari’, a bane of life for disadvantaged sections of society, especially those in rural areas, has also fallen by the wayside.

True that initially the government did try to introduce police reforms in Punjab, resisted by one of its allies. But it gave up the effort to keep its ally in good humour. Similarly, patwaris (tehsil level land-record officers) and those supervising thana (police officers) are transferred and posted at the whims of ruling party legislators. Consequently, there remains a huge gap between desire and grievances.

At Thursday’s event, the PM also said increasing exports, finding import substitution, and alleviating poverty are significant areas of national interest. Indeed, they are highly desirable goals though it will take time to show results. For now, given the present state of affairs that ambition looks like pie in the sky.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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