LAHORE - Charity begins at home and the new Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated his resolve to start it from himself. In his first speech to the nation the premier formally announced to lead the austerity drive in the country.
He has started living in three-bedroom house of his military secretary and wants to cut down the number of servants for the Prime Minister House from 524 to just two. From 80 official vehicles including 33 bulletproof vehicles he wants just to keep in use just two apart from the necessary security protocol. He wants the austerity drive to trickle down to the lowest level of bureaucracy. He may be successful in the attempt but it is not just the austerity campaigns that raise nations. We will need protocol and security of the highest level when the leaders of other countries will visit Pakistan. I think the premier has the British model in mind. It is practically possible.
As a passing reference he did mention that IMF loan is being worked out. However, at the same time he said he would not go around the world begging for money to run the country. The IMF loan, however, is inevitable if we get it on the right conditions. There is nothing wrong in getting loans as the premier himself mentioned taking into account Germany and Japan who after World War II took loans to bring their economies back on track. Pakistan too is at cross roads where we have to make tough decisions and go in the right direction. The loans must be used for raising industrial production and yield of crops.
The whole speech was about Pakistani agenda and there was not much about the new expected changes in foreign policy. From his first speech it looks as if the new premier wants to put the house in order first. He has kept the interior ministry for himself and revealed that he wants to carry on sweeping reforms in FIA, SECP and Punjab police. Let us hope that the Whistle Blowers Act does not start witch hunt campaign with bounty hunters ready to pounce with the smallest evidence. It has to be a very disciplined and rationale act otherwise it may lead to new ways of capital flight, which we may not be able to control. He, however, expressed his determination to take on all mafias whether they be money launderers, tanker mafia or justice usurpers.
Khan sahib wants to increase the tax net. It can be done with the provision of incentives to tax payers. But the premier must remember that the most powerful tax evaders are sitting in the assemblies.
The plan to bring back money laundered in other countries is good and will have strong backing of the people if the wheels start moving in the right direction. If he is able to make some agreements with foreign governments he may emerge to be the new hero of nation.
One of the most important decisions he announced was the strengthening of democracy at the local government level. None in the past except the dictators have been able to do it. Direct election of mayors will altogether change the political culture of the country. It means the end of development funds to MNAs and MPAs. They will now be asked to do the job for which they are elected for – legislation.
The proposed Right to Service Act may or may not work in the beginning since the premier will first have to take strong steps to end corruption. He has promised to do it but it remains to be seen how punishment or incentive initiative he plans works. If successful it could be the turning point in our services infrastructure improvement.
It would be nothing short of miracle if the judicial cases will be decided in one year. We have seen cases going on for generations. Let us hope his meeting with the Chief Justice of Pakistan proves to be fruitful. It would bring relief to millions of people. It is also hoped that the purposes for which human rights and climate change ministries have been made do work. In the past these ministries failed miserably due to lack of funds and infrastructure.
The premier has promised to impose what he termed education emergency. Double shift programme was introduced many times in the past but failed. Lessons must be learnt from the past failures and only then it should be started.
Khan sahib in his speech talked about a number of initiatives that could transform Pakistan into a truly social welfare state. He talked about the Scandinavian countries and how UK has progressed. The same can happen here. He has a strong will to do so and may be able to deliver. People have a lot of expectations from him and he is eager to come up to them.