Two Years of Naya Pakistan: Utopia or Dystopia?

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By: Areeba Arbab

731 days ago, a new Prime Minister emerged as a beacon of hope from a matrix of doldrums, a new prime minister with the promise of change, a prime minister swimming in slogans of tabdeeli — Imran Khan was sworn in. True to his words, our long overdue change arrived, but little did we know change can come in various shapes and sizes, not necessarily the change we expect.
Within months, formerly an efficiently-run (albeit corrupt) country was mutated to musical chairs of ministries and a live, perpetual ‘amateur hour’ of PTI officials. A glaring example of this was the notorious Pervez Khattak who ill-conceived the perpetually leeching BRT project that saw the daylight of completion after its eight missed deadlines despite more than a whopping ₨71 billion. Eminent ministries were found to be run ineptly like Fawad Chaudhary’s Ministry of Information, Asad Umar’s Ministry of Finance, Fayaz Chohan’s
Ministry of Information, Hisham Inamullah’s Ministry of Health, etc. And what poppycock promise was of eradicating illiteracy when Mr Khan appointed a KP Education Minister who has not studied beyond matric. Curing governance by changing ministries is like
curing Coronavirus by taking Strepsils. Moreover, two FBR Chairmen; Shabbar Zaidi and Nausheen Amjad departed within 3 months of each other and Special Advisers to the Prime Minister; Tania Aidrus and Dr Zafar Mirza resigned within an hour of each other.
PTI fed us a fairytale and painted a utopia for us in their election campaign where all will live happily ever after, Pakistanis will be more than happy to pay their due taxes, the Sharif family will be locked in jail, uniform education system will be introduced and billions of dollars of looted money will be brought back from abroad. It had also promised to build 5 million new homes, provide 10 million new jobs and not go to the IMF for any loans.
However, the headlines everyday in the newspapers said otherwise. The only thing PTI government maintained during this turmoil was an equal balance of rising and sinking. Gas prices and electricity prices rose to 140% and 20% respectively, polio cases doubled, inflation rate of 14.6% in January was at an all time high that increased the costs of imported raw materials including medicines and essential
commodities and the government, after an IMF bailout programme, failed to maintain an efficient food supply chain as the food price spike pushed inflation to a 9 year high. On the other hand, stocks sank, FBR was headed towards a massive Rs 750billion revenue
shortfall and agricultural growth sank to less 0.8% compared to the previous government’s 3.94%. Ladies and gentlemen, this was all when the COVID-19 cases in Pakistan were still in one digit. This proves to show that Covid, as destructive as it is, is most certainly not the sole malady that is plaguing the government of Pakistan from performing well. Something else is amiss, something more deep-rooted. Many call it ‘inexperience’, some, ‘unprofessional’ and others, ‘unorganised’. Right off the bat, the nation was subject to deleterious effects of ‘U-turns’, ‘incompetent’ ministers and now, the virus and lockdown are the cherry on cake. Nobody knew the economy could get any worse, until the advent of COVID -19 arrived. Sales of furnace oil dropped 21% to 0.30 million tons in July 2020 compared to the same month of previous year. Sales of petrol and diesel surged 9% and 16% to 0.66 million tons and 0.58 million tons respectively. And Pakistan, being the 6th largest exporter of mangoes in the world had its mangoes exports decreased by 40% compared to last year, according to Waheed Ahmed, head of a produce association in Pakistan. Now, Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said the economy has started improving after the virus. That is, if the increase of sugar price by almost 15%, a 30% layoff in the formal sector, circular debt of Rs 2 trillion in power sector, unemployment rate predicted to surge to 28%, 10% decline in GDP and a prediction of economy to shrink by $15 billion as a result of the pandemic according to investment banker and risk analyst Khurram Schehzad, is considered “improvement” in Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s dictionary. Keep in mind that we still have not escaped entirely from the clutches of the virus.
The concerned government, when questioned about the economy’s state, played the blame game by attributing it to previous governments whereas when Khan came to power in 2018, Pakistan’s GDP growth was around 5.8% compared to the present 0.98% with a high probability of further decline. Thus, such excuses are rendered absolutely false. The clock is ticking, each passing second, minute and hour bringing us closer towards the end of the cursed PTI tenure. The clock is ticking, Mr Imran Khan, you have 3 years to metamorphosize the cocoon of a struggling Pakistan into a beautiful, flourishing butterfly that you make us dream of in your rhetoric.