Dr Kalsoom Sumra |
The incumbent government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has so far lived up to its promise of following an anti-status quo agenda. It has been focused on transforming the institutions and reforming the governance system in Pakistan. Achieving the desired agenda goals, though, appear to be an uphill battle given the noisy political arena and the economic situation.
Any practical steps needed to transform government institutions and organisations are essentially linked to political will and resources available in the national exchequer. On the political front, the situation remains challenging, since many opposition heavyweights have yet to air their support to the idea of the incumbent government completing its term.
A peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict will bring dividends to the entire region. If peace returns to the region the PTI government will likely benefit from it politically in the years to come.
On the other hand, PM Imran Khan has launched many positive initiatives to implement the PTI agenda for the betterment of the masses. The launch of Pakistan Citizens Portal indicates an open and collaborative approach towards a more participatory form of democracy. Increased accessibility to address their concerns/complaints against various government departments would definitely enhance a sense of participation among the public in the democratic process.
An excellent initiative by the government to have Open Government through e-governance would open the vistas of open innovation concepts by citizens of Pakistan. In the past about four decades, this common perception has firmly grown in the minds of the masses that general population is only there to cast their votes for the rulers every five years in partially fair elections. Therefore, public trust in the democratic process had started to fade.
The launch of the citizens’ portal has allowed the masses to have their say through an easily accessible media, the mobile phone. This will also increase the level of public trust in government. The level of acceptance of this e-governance system and the arising legitimacy issues will have to be seen in the coming weeks and years. This, though, is an established fact that online platforms, social media and use of mobile applications certainly enhance dialogue between a government and its citizens.
The strings of variant knowledge and suggestions provide quality input for the government to formulate its policies in a befitting way. A varied variety of opinions and recommendations will not only change the political but also the social process as to how Pakistan tackles its various challenges in the future. Transparency in governance is yet another major factor which would come into play by having a constant check on various ministries down to the district level.
Achieving the desired agenda goals, though, appear to be an uphill battle given the noisy political arena and the economic situation.
It will not only transform the government for the good but will also reduce political involvement at various levels in matters related to local governments. The main challenge to the success of this initiative is the capacity of the monitoring teams. Pakistan still lags behind when it comes to having a 100 per cent IT-based environment in various government departments. The technical capacity of the teams managing the bulk of complaints received through the portal is important to the success of this excellent initiative.
If this initiative succeeds problems of the masses will get resolved. This will resultantly change the political and bureaucratic culture of the country. The PM’s citizens’ portal has so far received about 0.3 million complaints of diverse nature. The ratio of settled/resolved complaints has been more than 90 per cent. Thereby the efficiency of this tool may be rated as above average. The other major issue related to improving governance is of finances. The huge burden of fiscal deficit was a major challenge for the PTI government.
Though, it has been resolved to an extent with the help of China, the UAE, Turkey, Saudi, Qatar, and Malaysia. Cash inflow from friendly countries has helped stabilise the State Bank of Pakistan reserves. Assistance has also been received in the form of deferred payments on oil products’ import. The pledges made by these countries would also boost foreign investment in Pakistan. Pakistan would be able to overcome unemployment if these investments are tapped properly. Finance bill of January 2019 also brought many incentives for the business community.
Many steps were taken to retain the confidence of small and medium entrepreneurs to enhance business activity. All the steps taken at the domestic and at the international front for improving the national economy and well-being of the citizens by the current government have been very well received by the masses. A fragile domestic front though remains a challenge for PTI government, incidents such as the Sahiwal killings overshadowed many of the right steps taken by the government.
Transparency in governance is yet another major factor which would come into play by having a constant check on various ministries down to the district level.
Slow progress by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in various cases is yet another cause of concern for a government that came into power on the slogan of accountability. More so, the daily press briefings by government ministers in favour of superior courts/NAB reflects an opinion as if the government is behind all this process proving it counterproductive. The opposition leadership is fighting corruption charges in courts. The opposition leaders have used the parliament as a forum to air their take on the cases.
Though the opposition has failed to cooperate with the government in the parliament but is quick to blame it for slow pace of legislative work. On the diplomatic front, Afghan peace talks can be rated as the biggest achievement of the current government to date. The US administration that was urging Pakistan to “do more” just a year ago has been forced to take a U-turn. The US administration sought Pakistan’s help in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan after consulting its friendly/brotherly countries decided in favour of facilitating the talks process.
The talks have been moving on a positive trajectory. The peace dialogue will have far-reaching consequences not only for Afghanistan but for the entire region. Pakistan has been at the receiving end due to the destabilization in the region. The timeframe for a pullout of US forces would matter a lot. The handing over of five US bases of operation, a huge amount of military hardware present there and the role of Afghan security forces would be major issues.
The international front for improving the national economy and well-being of the citizens by the current government have been very well received by the masses.
Pakistan must cater to the situation in Balochistan due to the role of BLA sponsored by RAW/NDS. Pakistan must gain the benefit of capping this BLA menace in return of all this in order to have peaceful minerals rich Baluchistan which are also a gateway of CPEC because of Gwadar Port.
The US should avoid the mistake it made of abandoning the region as happened in the early 1990s. By end of 2019, Pakistan would be in much better state after erecting a fence along 2,100 Km of its border with Afghanistan thus controlling the movement of Afghans through Pakistan borders. A peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict will bring dividends to the entire region. If peace returns to the region the PTI government will likely benefit from it politically in the years to come.
Dr Kalsoom Sumra is an assistant professor at the Centre for Policy Studies COMSATS University, Islamabad. She can be reached at Kalsoom.firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.