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Friday, April 19, 2024

Why Imran Khan really matters for Pakistan?

IK significantly increased exports and remittances, to transit to current account surplus in coming years, to render the economy sustainable, and prevent an economic default threatening our survival. Sri Lanka is a good case study of what had to happen if PMLN had continued.

Seeing half-baked opinions, ill-informed perceptions and pretty biased narratives, I thought of writing a few words. The scope of this discussion is limited to Pakistan, what matters for Pakistan and what’s the good and bad in this political drama. It isn’t about Imran Khan’s performance as PM. But being open about my views on his performance, I’d rate him 5/100, that too after including grace marks.
You’d ask why 5/100? If I compare his performance with my standards, or with what should/could have been done, or even with his own promises, IK failed miserably. Literally no reforms in most major areas. Electoral reforms, judicial, police, education, agriculture, transparency. Zero.

IK had his share of issues

From embracing establishment to electives, poor team selection to narcissism to statements to minorities like “won’t be blackmailed”, and rapid rise in inflation to governance issues. Every government has the likes of these, but we have a different standard for IK because we didn’t expect anything from his predecessors, so the bar of expectations is set high, which IK didn’t even touch.

 Mujhay rahzanon say gila nahin, teri rahbari ka sawal hai..
But if I compare him with his predecessors, who are the successors too, IK has proved to be 1000 times better. Rather, he is in a league of his own, there’s no comparison at all. He’s just above zero, barely afloat, but they’re in negative, so there isn’t even a comparison.
1000x better seems like an overstatement, but why not look at it objectively? From Pakistan’s perspective? Not as an IK fanatic, or a vocal anti-heroism hero.

Let’s begin with the most important thing for a state: survival

Our survival has been at stake since ever, more so recently, and here’s what Zardari, Shareefs and Imran did to Pakistan in their tenures.
Pakistan is expected to go dry by 2025, (by 2030 per some forecasts), as we are pumping ground water faster than its replenishment. Nobody did anything for years, even when it was about survival. No water, no crops, no food, no life, no survival, no Pakistan? Makes sense? But IK did something. Rather a lot.
Mohmand, Dasu and Diamer Bhasha dams are expected to be completed in next few years, adding more than 50% of the capacity of Tarbela and Mangla. Even a kid knows we need dams to survive, but successive governments didn’t? Were they naive or insincere? Decide for yourself.
Current account (in layman terms, Total dollars in and out of the country annually; imports, exports, and remittances), if in deficit, leads to borrowing of dollars. CAD rose from $2 bn to $20 bn from 2013-18. For how long can you borrow $20 bn annually? It’s a sure default in a couple of years, or less.
IK significantly increased exports and remittances, to transit to current account surplus in coming years, to render the economy sustainable, and prevent an economic default threatening our survival. Sri Lanka is a good case study of what had to happen if PMLN had continued.
Let’s do a fact check here to validate this statement
Pakistan’s exports (in billion dollars)
2008: 13
2013: 25
2018: 23
2022: 32-38 forecasted (already 25 in 9 months)
The almost stagnant remittances grew from 22 to 30+ bn dollars as well.
Energy, too, is the lifeline for any country. What haunts today’s Pakistan is not the lack, but the cost of it. Pakistan’s share of hydel power was 70% in 1970, today thermal is 65%. Were we idiots? Or suicidal? Or corrupt? Why did this happen? Why were costly thermal power plants installed in all these decades, and negligible hydel and renewable projects whose per unit cost is just a fraction of thermal power plants? Whatever, all power projects launched in IK’s tenure were either renewable or hydel, none was thermal. And by the way, 10k MW of hydel energy projects were added, which is huge. (For context, peak summer demand is 25k MW).
Provision of services and basic amenities is next. What was the state of medical care after 70 years of independence? Overcrowded government hospitals serving only 30% of the population, rest left to hurt and die? And then IK comes, and gets a million rupee health insurance to every household, everybody, rich or poor, can now afford the best healthcare. Like a miracle?
Why wasn’t anything done in the past 70 years? How hard was it? If IK got it done in 3 years, why couldn’t others in 4 and 5 decades if power they had? It was just because service provision, or people, weren’t their priority at all. Is there any justification of this failure of decades?
The difference between IK and others in a few major areas, clearly shows intent and sincerity. Not mentioning anything else because not discussing his performance here.
Now about why he was ousted? Was it inflation? Governance? Not giving in to demands of allies? Not appeasing media? Not going easy on opposition? Did he lose public support? If I think this, I should think again.
And if I believe the foreign conspiracy is a hoax, I should learn a little history, from Mursi to back in 80s, there are a lot of examples of regime changes or assassinations, judicial or otherwise, wherever leaders didn’t toe the US line.
Do you think it’s a miracle that all 16 political parties, with no common ideology, made an alliance? And the ruling party MNAs got their conscience back after meeting US embassy staff? Or do the SC and ECP proactively and openly support the alliance? Or no ‘body’ responsible to thwart such plans, did anything?
Watan ki fikr kar nadaan, museebat anay wali hai..
Teri barbadion k mashwaray hain asmaanon mein..
If I still don’t realize what’s good for me and my country, and who’s good, who’s doing what, then nothing can help me.
What next? I hope IK doesn’t get assassinated or jailed, and the public supports him in every possible way, somehow new elections are called, comes up with a two-third majority, gathers up a good team unlike last term, and goes ahead with his reforms agenda, that’s apparently the only way forward.
Public support, good team and a reforms agenda being the prime factors here, if Pakistan has to become a better state for its citizens, and if we have to survive and have better living standards.
The writer is an aviator by profession, has an interest in governance, public policy and political economy. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.