IS CHANGE POSSIBLE?

STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

A lot of confusion prevails on the dynamics of Nawaz Sharif’s journey from jail to London.

The answer is simple. Either his ailment is terminal or he has paid up. The tone of PTI spokespersons indicates the former. I wish him an early recovery.

Coming back to today’s topic, let me share some glimpses of my journey with PTI. At the launch of PTI in 1996 we were all fired up. We wanted to change a corrupt and degenerated system of governance. I vividly recollect the discussions in Zaman Park, sitting in Imran Khan’s living room at his residence. We were no bright eyed youngsters seeking a revolutionary change, most of us were in our forties, fifties, some even older.

Late Ahsan Rashid, Mehmood Awan, Dr. Nausherwan Burki, Dr.Pervez Hassan, Hamid Khan, Dr. Arif Alvi, Najeeb Haroon, Firdous Naqvi, Naeem Ul Haq and few others including myself all had diverse backgrounds with varied experiences. We all had a common belief, we were living in an unjust society. It was unacceptable and required to be changed. We were all convinced the best person to lead this effort was Imran Khan.

After detailed discussions everyone agreed to name the nascent party Tehrik e Insaaf. We all sought fairness and justice. To come across as different from other political parties we decided to name it “Tehrik” to be perceived as a grass root movement. It required a powerful message that conveyed our intent. Who could do it better than my buddy Hassan Nisar? IK requested him to craft the founding documents. He agreed. “Iqtedar main awam” “Insaaf sare aam”. People in power and justice for all were the opening sentences of PTI’s platform, a historic platform put together by Hassan.

Imran Khan launched into this effort with all the energy, vigor and perseverance that I had not experienced anywhere despite my global exposure. I hear protestations that the original team has disappeared. A short answer; it was a 22 year long journey where a lot of folks came on board and left. Honestly IK’s commitment, endurance and single minded struggle are a hard act to follow or keep up with.

A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. Finally PTI’s message got through and the voters spoke. PTI was elected. Expectations are high. In this long journey IK made many commitments. I believe they were all with the best intentions. But this all happened before coming into power when the Pandora’s box opened. As a political worker I believe Prime Minister Imran Khan was not fully aware of the level of degeneration in all pillars of governance when he took over.

If we look beyond the shattered economy tethering on the edge of bankruptcy that he inherited, how would you define the state of governance in Pakistan?
• Bureaucracy, barring some honorable exceptions, is incompetent and corrupt.
• Procedures and rules of governance are cumbersome and archaic, disrupting progress.
• Interaction between general public and officials is marred with bribery and nepotism at all levels of government.
• Judicial system is broken. The prevalent laws, created over a century ago, are mutilated by inefficiency, corruption, poor work ethic and immorality.
• A simple civil dispute, once in court, can take more than generation to adjudicate.
• Population growth is running amok with no visible efforts to diffuse this time bomb.
• Agricultural production is a fraction of yields when compared to neighboring India which has similar soil and water resources.
• All public services are non-existent. Whatever is offered is bogged down by inefficiencies, executed without ethics or fairness. They are available only to the highest bidder benefitting the degenerate elite.
• The social divide between the elite and the general public is getting worse by the day.
• The public education and health systems are totally broken.
• Police is corrupt, poorly trained and without adequate resources to provide security, services or uphold the rule of law.
• Merit has no place in recruitment or promotions. It is connections or greased palms that yield results.
• Religion is openly exploited for personal or political gains.

In such a malaise and impasse what can be done?

The more acute the infection or disease, the higher the level of expertise of the doctor required.

Apart from the scenario given above I am sure PTI Government faces many more challenges. How can they give results without radical changes to the systems of governance?

• The vampires who sucked the blood of the nation cannot be punished in a leaky, faulty porous adjudication system.
• Grave situations require bold and courageous corrective measures. The toothless dispensation of justice has to be changed. It requires speedy legislation like the one seen in National Assembly the other day.
• Implementation of reforms requires an efficient team with total commitment, dedication and expertise. Not in sight yet.
• Islamic anarchists like Maulana require an iron fist. Is it doable under the present system?

Despite such overwhelming odds the fragile PTI government is trying.
The economy is improving at a macro level. Kartarpur corridor is a major breakthrough. Schemes for housing, safety net like “Ihsas” for deprived classes are being implemented. But much more needs to be done.

In my view the present British parliamentary system is unworkable and incapable of handling the challenges facing Pakistan. You can have elections every year; it will always churn out the same incompetent, self centered boneless peacocks who have no appetite for change. The elite is without belief or a value system.

It all revolves around Imran Khan. Knowing him for as long as I have, I don’t doubt his resolve. He is a fighter who will not give up. However a deep soul searching is required to realistically evaluate the possibility of overcoming odds in such a damaged, uneven playing field. A change in the system of governance is immediately required to arrest our downward spiral.

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