By Imtiaz Gul
Dear Prime Minister Imran Khan!
For you, too much is at stake in the present day Pakistan. You rode into power on the promise of anti-corruption and development. Your own charisma, personal integrity and clarity in foreign affairs has rehabilitated Pakistan as an important regional interlocutor.
This has also brightened the chances of foreign investments in this country by some friendly countries. China has already stuck its neck out with the grand China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), providing a much-needed lifeline for an economy that had hit rock-bottom.
Initial irresponsible talk by some ministers did create bad blood between Islamabad and Beijing and threatened to bring the CPEC train to a halt. Though behind-the-scenes diplomacy did help in controlling the damage done by your ministers, yet the displeasure among the Chinese is still
Now with potential incoming investments worth billions of dollars – on the back of CPEC-related projects – similar threats loom for the government, in fact for Pakistan as a whole. The reason is simple; Pakistan’s governance structure lacks the vision and the capacity to speedily deal with billions of dollars in the pipeline. Even the initial CPEC planning was done by the Chinese after Pakistani ministers and bureaucracy frustrated them for months. The promise of potential foreign investment may turn sour if your team – manipulated as usual by the DMG baboos – continued to dither, procrastinate and applied the dated planning regime to projects that require swift and smart action.
What to expect of the bureaucracy that, for example, failed in responding to a proposed cooperation agreement by a friendly country. For weeks, counterparts abroad waited for the Pakistani feedback but the baboos – who hardly ever touch their computers – never displayed the urgency to respond to a document that will be key to fresh investments in this cash-strapped country.
Mr Prime Minister, you are not the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro. Nor is Pakistan the communist Cuba that reeled from decades-long one-party dictatorial rule.
You are not Xi Jinping – the man whose meticulous rise through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party began when he was just 15. Nor does Pakistan resemble China under Xi Jinping.
You are not a far-right Shiv Sainak as is Narendra Modi next door. Nor is Pakistan divided along the abhorable caste system that defines India socially.
You are not politically as unchallenged as Recep Tayyip Erdogan as of now. Nor is Pakistan politically as disenfranchised today as is Turkey.
But you certainly have the personal integrity and zeal to reform and develop Pakistan.
That is why, Mr. Prime Minister, You need to carve out a niche for yourself in a country where the forces of status quo and their long-term allies in bureaucracy are exploiting PTI’s inexperience, intra-party rivalries, your fixation with corruption and the relentless opposition-mode governance.
Not only do you need to stop the “rant” on corruption and focus on governance and immaculate planning, but you also need to enlist technocrats and experts who can:
a) Facilitate in quick turn-around of projects,
b) Guide the government for a national skills development programme on a war-footing. This will be key for cashing on the flow of anticipated funds, and
c) Building government capacities in planning and management.
Rulers in the Gulf States transformed their deserts into an “economic oasis” with the support of foreign experts and advisors. You can also emulate those Gulf rulers, of course taking guidance from friends like China.
Incentivize Pakistani diaspora abroad, many of whom are holding key positions in their respective fields. If given a chance and protected against bureaucratic shenanigans, this diaspora could hopefully help in turning Pakistan around.
The author is executive director CRSS