Pakistan – Imran Khan’s Anarchic Governance Takes Toll
Pakistan has the dubious distinction of no prime minister having completed a full tenure in recent years, unless a more consensual rather than confrontationist approach is adopted by Mr Khan the writing is on the wall?
18 April was a Black Thursday for Pakistan. In a dastardly terrorist attack 14 innocent passengers were picked out from a bus, identified with their national identity cards as non Balochis and brutally assassinated on the Southern coastal highway.
This comes even as a week earlier on 12 April the Hazaras suffered a tragic bomb attack in Quetta’s, Hazarganji losing 20 lives. These are the traditional areas where terrorists of varied hues, Balochi separatists or sectarian extremists have been active. The signs are that not much has changed in the Naya Pakistan.
As if to underline a degree of anarchy, days before his visit to China to attend the Belt and Road Forum, Prime Minister Imran Khan reshuffled the cabinet removing amongst others Asad Umar a long time loyalist.
This came as a surprise to many including Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who is seen as second in the chain to Imran and the Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari. Both claimed that they were not in picture of Asad’s resignation.
Amongst the other key announcements, retired Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, with a controversial past, has been made in charge of the interior ministry, the portfolio having been held by the Prime Minister so far.
Former Finance Minister Asad Umar had just returned from a trip to Washington where he had finalised negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and had been hailed by Imran as the economic saviour of Pakistan.
The economy during the last eight months however has moved from bad to worse.
State Bank of Pakistan reported that net FDI plunged by 51 per cent to $1.273 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal year, from $2.621bn. The reserves held by the federal bank also dropped by $1.028 billion to $9.244bn during the week ended on April 12.
Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has been nominated as a Special Adviser to the Prime Minister and could be a defacto finance minister until a new one is nominated. He has held the portfolio of finance minister from 2010 to 2013 during the PPP government’s rule and earlier was the minister of finance, planning and development of Sindh as per Dawn. Curiously in the Pervez Musharraf administration which many say has provided many of Imran’s advisers Shaikh served as privatisation and investment minister.
However shuffling of members of the cabinet is unlikely to lead to any change in Pakistan’s economy or the internal security.
Imran’s style of governing through the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to hound out the opposition leaders and targeting businessman howsoever corrupt in the past has led to political instability which in turn has turned off investors.
This is evident from the drop in FDI highlighted by the State Bank of Pakistan for the first nine months – July 2018 to March 2019 as indicated above
The hybrid strategy for overcoming the debt trap to avoid stringent conditions by the IMF has also not worked and resignation of the Finance Minister is a symptom of the same.
In turn Imran may have run the Pakistan economy aground in the long term with debt commitment to Saudi Arabia, UAE and of course all weather friend China.
On the internal security front, continued cover to terrorist groups as Jaish e Mohammad, which claimed the Pulwama terror attack in India on 14 February which led to the spiral of Indo Pakistan aerial skirmishes and brought down trade volumes which were abysmally low in any case, is an indicator that the best course economic option for Pakistan flagged by the World Bank – trade with India is not in sight. India also dropped the token Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan in the same sequence.
The Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which had been neutralised is raising its head again in North and South Waziristan, while sectarian and Baloch groups continue carry out major attacks in the North and South Balochistan.
At this juncture to use cricketing jargon which may be familiar to the former World Cup Captain of Pakistan, resetting the field alone may not work when in a political setting these include members of the opposition and spoilers who have their own agenda.
Getting all players on board is essential and Mr Khan has not demonstrated any capability of doing so.
His loose statements on internal situation in India and Afghanistan on the other hand have created more ill will with key neighbours.
Pakistan Army which is said to have installed Imran as the Prime Minister in the first place is willing to support the government as it appears including making up with the opposition but the first rumblings with the government are now showing.
Pakistan has the dubious distinction of no prime minister having completed a full tenure at least in the past ten years, will Imran Khan join the list remains to be seen?
While it may be too early to write him off, unless a more consensual rather than confrontationist approach is adopted by Mr Khan the writing is on the wall?
Daily Times has sumamrised the number of departures from the Imran Khan government in the past eight months. These include amongst others high profile Asad Umar (finance minister). Others on the Daily Times list are- Fayazul Hassan Chohan (Punjab information and culture minister), Atif Mian (stepped down from the Economic Advisory Council), Muhammad Tahir (inspector general of police Punjab), Amjad Lateef (SNGPL managing director), Amin Rajput (SSGC managing director), Engineer MA Jabba, (Pakistan Steel Mills chairman) and Arshad Khan (PTV managing director).
Amongst those who resigned are Nasir Khan Durrani (chairman of Punjab Commission on Police Reforms and Implementation), Babar Awan (adviser to prime minister on parliamentary affairs), Najam Sethi (chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board), Sahibzada Amir Jahangir (special assistant to prime minister on foreign investment), Dr Imran Rasul and Asim Ijaz Khawaja (part of Economic Advisory Council), Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan (governor of Gilgit-Baltistan), Aleem Khan (Punjab minister for local government), Azam Swati (federal minister for science and technology) and Jan Muhammad (Islamabad inspector general of police).