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Has Capt. Imran Khan settled on the political crease?

Syed Anwer Mahmood, a former federal secretary argues, PTI’s prospects in 2023 will depend on its progress in generating employment, containing inflation and establishing law and order. That is the direction in which it must move if it is to win a second term.

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To quote Minister Asad Umar, after two years at the crease, the PTI government (IK) has now settled in for a long innings. In the interest of Pakistan and Pakistanis, I wish him and his government a long innings indeed. However, the problems and issues confronting Pakistan have lessened in intensity only marginally. The country continues to face a head wind and thus the need for constant vigil from the cockpit.

This government’s performance as it completes two years of governance was surveyed in two separate polls released yesterday. Both carry encouraging news for PTI. However, both convey the need for a much stronger effort as the number who polled in the affirmative for the government is below 50%, specially in areas of governance. PTI can take comfort in the report that its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was seen as better than others and that a larger percentage of those polled said it should complete its five year tenure.

Read more: Protecting land records from mafias

Can PTI afford to let the issue of Punjab’s captaincy unaddressed?

On the downside, unemployment and inflation were the leading issues of concern to those polled and amongst the provinces, the PTI led Punjab government got a lowly 26% affirmation with 54% being dissatisfied. Coupled with the fact that one of the two surveys showed Shahbaz getting 28% under the opinion of who could lead the country to prosperity compared to 23% for Imran Khan, the report should attract the PM’s immediate attention towards the country’s largest province and its stewardship by who he calls Wasim Akram plus.

Letting the issue of Punjab’s captaincy unaddressed will be at PTI’s peril as that province decides who would lead Islamabad. Worse, if somehow, it can form a coalition government at the centre but another party returns to govern Lahore in the next elections, its rule in Islamabad will remain tentative. And on very disappointing note only 17% consider corruption a major problem.

Read more: Revisiting the 18th Amendment: Pakistan needs a Stronger Federation

Successful balancing of ‘lives and livelihood’

Having said that, there are glimmers of hope and, as it is said, we should thank Him for even the smaller mercies. I picked up the following from yesterday’s press: The Fitch Ratings affirmed Pakistan’s stable outlook saying the government’s economic policy actions helped resist the shocks of Corona virus. This follows the earlier nod from Moody’s. On the issue of facing the pandemic comes the good news that DRAP has green lighted the phase-III trial of a Chinese vaccine in Pakistan.

Remittances hit a record $2.76 billion in July, the weekly inflation is down, even if marginally, and Punjab and KP have been declared locust free with only one district each in Sindh and Balochistan remaining to be cleared.

The flagship Ehsas programme for the poor is doing very well, specially for the pandemic stricken poor having disbursed a record 1.24 trillion.

Read more: Pakistan Economy: History and Required Reforms 

Brightening chances of a second term: what more needs to be done? 

On the foreign relations front, FATF threat is less today than it was yesterday and the Kashmir issue is no longer on the back burner. Pakistan is comparatively better placed today in the region and the Army Chief is in Saudi Arabia for a timely exchange. The Afghanistan Taliban are well engaged and a settlement there appears not too distant.

All these are important but PTI’s prospects in 2023 will depend on its progress in generating employment, containing inflation and establishing law and order. That is the direction in which it must move post haste if it is to win a second term.

The writer is a former Federal Secretary who also served as Press Secretary to Prime Ministers Junejo & Nawaz Sharif.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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