Aug 28, 2018 Dr. Niaz Murtaza Comments Off on Measuring tabdeeli
Dr. Niaz Murtaza
The PTI promises a new Pakistan. But can one measure change easily? Its manifesto, 100-days plan and Imran’s TV speech contain so many promises it’s tough to even list them cogently. But the five broad areas of basic needs, institutional reform, economy, domestic politics and foreign policy capture them all well.
Basic needs include income, food, health, education, housing, sanitation, water, energy, human rights, security (from terrorism and crime) and transport. We have massive needs in all these areas. Population, climate change and environment link closely with them. The prime focus must be on those marginalized by ethnicity, gender, faith, etc. Since the state must meet many basic needs directly, PTI must reform institutions: Parliament, the justice system (accountability bodies, lower courts and police), taxation and local bodies and loss-making state entities. Creating a dynamic economy that helps meet basic needs is crucial too. That produces many sub-aims: immediately rebuilding foreign reserves; CPEC issues; cutting fiscal and eternal deficits and debt by increasing tax and dollar revenues; helping industry and agriculture increase jobs and exports; cutting inflation, interest and unemployment rates; and increasing savings and investment. Each of these subsumes many sub-issues.
But PTI’s focus on these three could be diverted by domestic politics and foreign affairs. Domestic politics will involve deftly handling: i) party and coalition fissures; ii) the big opposition and its credible rigging charges; and iii) civil-military and, more broadly now, elected-non-elected institutional fissures. The key foreign policy issues are regional peace, Gulf politics, US tensions; and FATF issues.
All five are linked. Basic needs are the basic aim but the economy, domestic politics and foreign policy may consume most time. One must measure outcomes on all five, despite poor data and the many outcomes. But outcomes emerge slowly from state action, i.e., legislation, policies and projects. Other factors affect them too. So, one must analyze outcomes, quality of actions and role of other factors. Since such analysis will challenge voters and even individual experts, Parliament or civil society must establish a neutral and competent body to track change and present findings lucidly to voters. This will help educate them to focus on issues, and not catchy slogans and dodgy reports by TV and social media.
Outcomes will depend on the quality of PTI actions, and that on the quality of its team. It’s too early to judge outcomes or actions but not the team. There, one sees problems. The PTI co-opted many electables to win and looks as stale as PML and PPP now. A recent Dawn report shows it has more billionaires and people with on-going criminal cases than all other parties put together in NA. Then there are the cabinet (dis)appointments, with mostly old faces taken on political grounds and not merit. How will old faces produce new Pakistan? Fans say Khan is the difference. How do we know he has such huge abilities? Fans point to his cricket heroics. But running a complex state is much tougher than running its cricket team. And even in cricket did he win with a weak team selected on political grounds? Ignoring pressure, he selected the best team. He had this magic to spot hidden talent, e.g., the Ws and Inzi. We don’t see that magic in selecting his cabinet. How will he deliver with a weak team in politics if he couldn’t in cricket?
One can also judge early populist orders to cut costs, all in areas where managerial orders alone move mountains. But unluckily the complex issues listed above don’t budge much before managerial orders. Such populism will save some money. It is thus a minor plus but not a substitute or even predictive of real change soon, which requires long effort and very different skills. There’s much moralizing happening too. So he will live in a modest state house. Good. But cynics tired of moralizing demand the same in his private life to set an example in a place where most live in huts.
One must also judge the growing recent violence of PTI supporters, e.g., on people by a minister in Pindi and an MPA in Karachi; on opponents and anchors on TV by a leader; and on their own offices, TV vans and even a donkey by workers. For a party saying it is different from others, this is bad. Will PTI become like BJP, with an honest and populist top leader who ignores rank violence and even sleaze?
So dashing many hopes, I predict slow change (as before) as a social scientist and surely no new Pakistan. Hope is good but not wild hope. What if I am wrong? Well, I will just tweak my prediction models a bit and continue predicting merrily. What if I am right? Even if he fails wild hope may live on for those seeing a Messiah in Imran given his cricket heroics. Our best ex-captain is actually Misbah and not Imran. So, wild hope may soon turn to him. Messiah Misbah—it even rhymes better!
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