Editors’ note: [Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi is not happy with Imran Khan ‘s performance as the head of the government. We are giving space to difference voices. Please watch this video by Hasaan Khawar for a different opinion].
On August 18th, Imran Khan government completed its first year in office. A year is sufficient time to set direction even if we argue that it is a short time to achieve actual results. It is fair to review whether the government has made progress on transforming foreign, economic, social, and security policies as per its election promises.
At the start of the tenure of the current government and throughout the year, I have been writing that Imran Khan is not capable enough ruler and there are shades of fascism in his style of governance. I had also been saying that the involvement of military generals in politics is a security risk, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi is not the right choice for a foreign minister. After making these assessments, I was hoping and praying that these will be proven wrong. But now the results are in front of us all.
Economic performance has been terrible with rising inflation, slowing growth, growing debt burden, stagnant exports, depreciating rupee, rising interest rates, no new job creation, and low levels of foreign direct investment. The only silver lining is declining imports which are probably due to low growth and serious efforts to expand the tax net. This will help in both reducing current account deficit and grow revenue respectively. I fully support and endorse efforts of FBR Chairman Shabbir Zaidi to expand the number of tax filers and documentation of the economy. I opposed the traders strike against documentation but do suggest that the procedure should be simpler and financial cost of compliance should be as nominal as possible.In terms of social development, we regressed in a year. Conflicts are rising between government and opposition have deepened due to the politicization of the accountability process. This has resulted in political instability.
Parliament has been reduced to a fish market where personal attacks are lodged against each other while a meaningful debate on policy and legislation have been missing. It seems this is by design so that civilian democratic institutions remain weak to allow the establishment to control all decision making.
Freedom of expression is a lynchpin of a vibrant democracy. Imran Khan has actively sought to punish all those voices that criticize his government. Many popular opinion-makers and TV anchors have lost their jobs. Media frequently complain about receiving whatsapp instructions not to provide coverage to certain events. Social media trolls that support Imran Khan actively send threats to dissenting voices and FIA cybercrime is only focusing on prosecuting those that criticize the government. Intolerance is on the rise and fake nationalism is used to call people traitors. All these are manifestations of creeping fascism.
During the election campaign, Imran Khan presented himself as a liberal politician with a promise to transform society into a social welfare state. He has turned out to be a shallow person filled with a vendetta, too eager for self-promotion, and with little ability to govern or introduce reforms. Middle class of the country is now thoroughly disappointed with their choice of saviour.
When generals are dragged into politics it’s not good for the security of the country. It was the responsibility of the security apparatus to remain informed about fundamentalist Indian PM Modi threats to annex Kashmir. Forces should have been moved to Kashmir border and diplomatic efforts made to inform the world that any change in the status quo will be unacceptable.
Now the pro-military commentators are trying to promote the narrative that war is bad and Kashmir issue can be resolved through peoples movement. It is an acceptance of defeat and an exhibition of weakness. In last one year, we have had many failures in foreign policy. OIC Summit communique did not include Kashmir and they invited Indian FM as a chief guest. We failed to proactively prevent Indian aggressive action in occupied Kashmir. Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement a few days ago that we do not have diplomatic support and no one is standing with us was realistic. With that declaration, he accepted this shortcomings as a foreign minister. It is the same person who was telling us that Pakistan is now progressing with leaps and bounds in improving its relations around the world. I always thought that he was better suited to be an interior minister.Government is presenting Kashmir situation as a human rights crisis rather than a geopolitical and South Asian regional crisis which is what it is. People of Pakistan will always stand with Kashmir but it is the responsibility of the government to protect our national interest in which they have grossly failed. Modi sarkar is now offering to hold bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. It is unacceptable until India reverses its annexation of Kashmir. If Imran Khan accepts this offer then it will further give credence to the perception that Kashmir was sold out for narrow self-interest.
The first year of Imran Khan government is nothing but an embarrassment, broken promises, shattering of the dream, and further erosion of the institutions. He was presented as the last hope but I always considered it as a last attempt to prove that the current republic can deliver. After completion of a miserable first year, it is quite clear no one can fix the current republic and we have to now work on building a second republic. That can only happen through collective work rather than by a self-styled saviour.