On March 04, 1929, Herbert Hoover assumed office as America’s 31st President and he promised “continued peace and prosperity” to the American people. In his inaugural address he had confidently committed,” I have no fear for the future of American people” which he saw, “bright with hope”. His robust optimism and conservative political philosophy prevented him from measuring the devastating magnitude of Great Depression which deepened far more quickly than he could imagine. Within seven months of his presidency, US stock market crashed. Banks bordered bankruptcy. Factories got sudden closures. Millions lost their jobs, homes and savings. More importantly, they lost hope as they waited in breadlines for food. Hence, Great Depression was all over America with full force. Mr. Hoover still pinned his high hopes on the inherent power of American individualism & capitalism. He seriously questioned the dominant role of the federal government to address Great Depression and relied more heavily on voluntary service at local level. This was too simple a solution for the hugely destructive Depression which gripped Americans like a hydra-headed monster. Every other day, Mr. Hoover promised Americans “a better tomorrow” which never saw light of the day until he was voted out of office in 1933 by the Democrat nominee-Mr. FD Roosevelt- New York Governor.

Unlike his predecessor, FD Roosevelt in his very first fire-side chat to the American people promised action as he roared,” This country needs action and action here & now!” He gave Americans their lost confidence as he remarked,” The only fear we have to fear is fear itself”. He coined the term, “first 100 days in office” and acted with full zeal and passion to reverse the downward slide of US economy. He moved with an unprecedented speed and immediately called Congress in special session stretching over three months in which he got about fifteen important bills of legislation approved which he termed as New Deal for Americans.

He won over the immense support of Congress wherein the Congressmen acted beyond party lines with rare consensus. Raymond Moley, a member of FDR’s inner circle, said many legislators “ had forgotten to be Republicans or Democrats” as they worked in unison to ease the impacts of Depression. “Never before had a president converted so many promises into legislation so quickly,” wrote historian James McGregor Burns in “The Lion and the Fox.”Thus, as promised, Mr. FDR fundamentally changed the course of governance. He expanded the role & scope of federal government through aggressive social and economic legislation at a war footing. Literally, his first 100 days in office became the most eventful period and he largely reversed the course of events and put US economy back on track.

Since FDR times, the concept of first 100-days in office has gained proverbial significance and it has been used by quite a few political heads in different parts of world. Even in Pakistan and to the pleasant surprise of many, PM Yousaf Raza Gillani announced his ambitious 100 days agenda the same day he took office on March 24, 2008. It consisted of a wide array of much needed measures including a truth and reconciliation commission, PM House budget cut by 40 percent, special counters at airports for parliamentarians to be removed, no money to be spent on the renovation of government buildings and residences, a freedom of information law to be framed, talks to be initiated with extremists who lay down arms and ‘adopt the path of peace’, a new package for tribal areas promised, employment commission to be set up, madrassah authority to implement a uniform education curriculum, one million housing units to be built annually for low-income groups, and so on.

Unfortunately, to the shocking dismay of the hapless millions in Pakistan, this beautifully worded 100-days framework was forgotten the day it was announced and like many political promises this too came with a bang but ended on a whimper. Adding salt to the injury, the regime was found mired in the mayhem of cronyism and corruption and it resulted in the worst possible defeat of the PPP-led coalition in 2013 general elections except in Sindh.

Today, Pakistan stands at the cross-roads of history. Coincidently, the country confronts with almost the same gigantic challenges which America faced under Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933. The likes of Hoover here in the land of pure have always made huge and mighty promises of a better tomorrow but every day the country has slid into deeper crisis. Our self-styled political leaders have only promoted their vested interests under the garb of national cause. They have more often than not been caught red handed in the dirty game of loot and plunder as they flouted their official clout at will for their personal material gains. Their adhoc and whimsical policies based on error and trial continue to bleed us white while the country suffers from a wide array of plaguing problems- corruption, cronyism, terrorism, poverty, energy crisis, inflation, economic misery, social chaos, worsening law & order, rising unemployment and constant devaluation of currency- with no saviour or solution in sight. Millions have gone down in their graves with only dreams and aspirations to see the promised better tomorrow. Alas! Millions more are struggling to make two square meals a day despite the presence of immense resources in this land of God’s plenty-Pakistan. The flawed distributive mechanism have only helped a dwindling minority get richer at the cost of teeming millions who have been served with a cup of life in far lesser measure.

A few weeks ago, Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaaf (PTI) came up with an ambitious and to some a presumptuous 100-days agenda which they unveiled in a ceremonious afternoon at a five star in Islamabad. Once again, they borrowed heavily from the diction of US President FD Roosevelt. But can they emulate his will and vigour? Will they, once vested with enough mandated to form national government, have same zeal and passion to convert these promises into legislation, followed by immaculate execution? Can Imran Khan become FDR here in Pakistan-the saviour and statesman our country and people have long been waiting for? Can he win the upcoming national elections in a landslide manner as did Mr.FD Roosevelt against Herbert Hoover in 1933? Can he follow the footsteps of Mahatir Muhammad and replicate his Malaysian Model here in Pakistan? Can he translate his party tag-line (If not now-when; If not me-who?) into real action on ground? Can he offer a New Deal and a better tomorrow to the people of Pakistan and thus rebuild the country as envisaged by our founding father-Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah? These questions combined together make the shared dreams and common aspirations of the marginalised majority in Pakistan. Count down has already begun for the upcoming elections in July, 2018. He who lives will see!

 

The writer is a Public Policy Analyst.