Hopes and Realities | Political economics


he government of Imran Khan, which is about to emerge, can be described as one that has achieved the opposite of what it promised. It promised an end to corruption, the recovery of stolen money to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of ordinary citizens, a resolution of long-standing problems that ravage the lives of ordinary citizens, such as homelessness. , the lack of adequate housing and the scourge of massive unemployment by creating millions of jobs in the public sector.

Much has been written about the vast discrepancy between the promises made by Khan during his famous “22 years of political struggle” speech and what his government has managed to accomplish during its three and a half years in power. Imagine a stranger unfamiliar with the promises who has to guess the priorities of the PTI. He cannot be blamed for thinking that justice should be at the center of the PTI philosophy given that the word “Insaf” appears in the name of the party.

One might therefore think that radical reforms of the judicial system would be the central axis of his government’s policy. Prompt justice is not just an economic imperative; it also improves law and order. The adverse consequences of a denial of justice (or a delay in the administration of justice) or a miscarriage of justice are no secret.

However, the way national institutions were used to selectively account for political opponents of the government while ignoring the financial misconduct of some other influential people spoke of witch hunts rather than justice.

Last year, the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published an exposé on “a shadow financial system that benefits the world’s richest and most powerful.” The names of about 700 people from Pakistan were on the list.

While the findings of the Panama Papers investigations had been manipulated to destabilize an elected government and put the then prime minister behind bars, with few exceptions, everyone mentioned in the newspapers remained unscathed. As there were no visible signs of prosecuting the individuals mentioned in the Pandora Papers, the sincerity of Imran Khan’s government in prosecuting the corrupt was questioned. Selective justice is not considered better than injustice and does not inspire trust.

Justice and truth are closely related ideas. The Khan regime has made a name for itself by muzzling the truth and spreading lies. A sustained policy of media intimidation under the PTI government has used a variety of slingshots and arrows: attacks on the media, withholding of government advertising royalties, massive downsizing, forcible termination of employment contracts of journalists known to their criticism of the government and the initiation of criminal charges against journalists for their private social media posts under the controversial cybercrime law.

The PTI projected a narrative through its media teams that only the PTI government had the courage and strength of faith to adapt a principled foreign policy based on self-respect..

Disturbing claims of billions of rupees being stolen by the leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz regimes have never been substantiated by facts. The PTI government has never tired of pretending to be on the same page with other national institutions, including accountability institutions. Yet no significant progress has been made in proving the corruption charges, much less in recovering stolen wealth and channeling it into the welfare of ordinary people.

The government’s initiative to bring back stolen money supposedly parked in some foreign banks has received a bloody nose. Kaveh Moussavi, the CEO of asset recovery company Broadsheet, who was hired many years ago by General Musharraf to investigate political opponents, including the Sharifs, has issued an apology to the PML supreme leader -N because he was able to discover that “not a single rupee was linked to Mr. Nawaz Sharif or any member of his family. He blamed the National Accountability Bureau for the ‘witch hunt’.

The duality or multiplicity of norms goes against the fundamental principles of justice. Justice requires a consistent application of moral standards in various situations. It may also require transcending personal affiliations and standing on the right side, even if it means acquitting opponents or hurting friends.

Over the past few decades, and more specifically over the past three and a half years, national politics has been reduced to binaries. It is reminiscent of the ominous war cry of former United States President George W Bush, who said, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” On several occasions, government-sponsored laws, including one that was to grant an extension to the current army chief and guarantee the autonomy of the State Bank, have been passed with the help of votes from the ‘opposition.

So when some opposition members went against the party line and voted for government-sponsored bills, it was considered kosher. In fact, he was hailed as transcending narrow party interests and keeping national interests paramount. However, when some parliamentarians from the Treasury benches joined the ranks of the opposition, Khan called it a betrayal. He also accused the opposition of promoting the “foreign agenda” by trying to overthrow his government.

Although not the first time in Pakistan’s history, the Khan regime is notable for its excessive use of religious symbolism. He vowed to turn Pakistan into a Riyasat-i-Madina. It cannot be overstated that Islam clearly warns against the use of religion for personal gain.

Regarding the (mis)use of religious and nationalist sentiments, when IK went against the opposition for playing into the hands of a foreign power (read the United States) to overthrow his government because Khan wanted an independent foreign policy and a self-sufficient Pakistan to deal with foreign powers based on the principles of mutual respect and shared benefit. The PTI government media crews then projected him as a messiah who rested his trust in God and was unwilling to follow a foreign policy agenda for paltry material gain.

The PTI narrative said that only the PTI government had the courage and strength of faith to adapt a principled foreign policy based on self-respect. The PTI media team contrasted their government’s position with that of previous governments to argue that they could never have a truly independent foreign policy.

The facts, however, run counter to this narrative. In the end, the government could not keep its promise with Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan on the issue of the expulsion of the French envoy. It was then implied that the expulsion of the French envoy would harm Pakistan economically and diplomatically. The duality of logic in both cases suggests that Khan’s recent effort to gain political ground has come at the expense of Pakistan’s economic and diplomatic interests. Foreign policy paradigms cannot be changed in the heat of the moment. It requires careful planning and a lot of preparatory work. Absent any tangible effort to put the nation on a radically different diplomatic trajectory, recent claims only point to realpolitik.

Disregard, indeed contempt, for the rule of law is another attribute that characterizes the PTI regime. Some of his younger supporters may not have a clear understanding of the constitution’s centrality to national integration. The repeal of the 1956 constitution and after flames given to military dictator Ayub Khan paved the way for the disintegration of Pakistan.

The PTI government was also at the forefront of developing a political culture where dialogue was replaced by a free exchange of expletives. The regularity with which some senior PTI leaders have used abusive language on air indicates the erosion of democratic values ​​and norms. Unfortunately, we are more divided and more entrenched than ever before. This represents a loss for democracy and legality.

The author is Associate Professor in Department of Economics, COMSATS University Islamabad, Lahore Campus

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