In addition to religious turmoil, violence and terrorism at home, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan faces a broad raft of geopoltical challenges - and opportunities.  Photo: AFP
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen as subservient to the military. Photo: AFP

Pakistan’s new government is in place as a result of elections held on July 25. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the election and PTI chairman Imran Khan took charge as the country’s 22nd prime minister.

Khan represents the middle and lower middle classes of the country, unlike most previous prime ministers, who were part of the elite. During his election campaign, he promised to safeguard the tax money of people of Pakistan and to introduce new measures to save money, unlike the lavish spending by previous rulers.

Just after becoming PM, as promised, he announced new frugality measures:

  • He will not live in the designated Prime Minister House, but in a three-bedroom house and save at billions of rupees annually.
  • Reduce the employees at PM House from 531 to two, saving expenditures tremendously.
  • Reduce the fleet of vehicles earmarked for the PM from 80 to two, reducing costs considerably.
  • Surplus vehicles will be auctioned and the revenue raised will be deposited into the Treasury of the government of Pakistan.
  • He spent only 50,000 rupees (US$405) on the reception held on the occasion of his oath-taking ceremony, as compared with 7.6 million and 9 million rupees spent by the previous two PMs.
  • He announced that only four relevant persons would accompany him on his upcoming official trip to the United States, against the previous practice of big delegations of 40-80 members.
  • He himself will travel by business class or club class instead of first class on all official trips by air. All other government officials are also banned from travel by first class on all official trips.
  • During overseas official trips, there is a ban on stays at five-star hotels.
  • Ban on discrete funds.
  • Ban on overseas medical care at government expense.

These are the measures taken at this early stage to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not used for luxuries. Some more measures may come into effect soon.

The economy of Pakistan is not in very good shape. Its huge foreign debt is a heavy burden. Instead of blaming previous governments for their wrongdoings, let us try to rectify things and place our house in order.

The new government needs to focus on the one hand on how to cut expenditure but at the same time it also needs to focus on how to generate revenue. Appropriate policies and reforms are needed to recover the economy. It also needs to improve exports; while there exists a huge export potential, small policy changes could boost exports.

Khan’s political opponents are criticizing his early measures, terming them nothing more than political sloganeering and doubting that they will be implemented with true spirit. A few in his own party are also not happy with his hard decisions.

As the political culture of Pakistan has been that politicians spend money to get elected and once they are elected, they think it is their right to enjoy power and prestige. Khan has started following all these measures himself, so there is no excuse for members of his to refuse openly, even though they might not like it from the core of their hearts.

Khan’s real strength is the people of Pakistan. As a person, the people trust him. However, the implementation of his policies and vision depends upon his team. Most of his team are OK, but without going into details and reasons, a few are questionable.

His political opponents are making various comments on the selection of his team and doubt that he will deliver on his promises or meet the expectations of the people of Pakistan, just because of selecting the wrong people for his team. But Khan is monitoring his team closely. His grip on the state of affairs is very strong. He has also declared that all his ministers are on probation for three months and will be evaluated based on their performance. If found satisfactory, they will be allowed to continue; otherwise, they may lose their jobs.

The first 100 days of Khan’s government are really crucial for PTI’s rule. It is time for him and his team to work hard and deliver what they have promised. Although the challenges are many, people’s expectations are very high. It will be really an uphill task. It can be achieved only if his team are devoted to serving the people of Pakistan.

The common man in Pakistan is willing to sacrifice and contribute his share for the development of his country. Let the prime minister of Pakistan lead the nation.

Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.

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