by Dr Sohail Mahmood
Pakistan faces complex challenges, both external and internal, that needs bold actions by the new PTI government. Determined leadership and resolve by the new government can set the direction for the next five years. It is very important to get it right the first time around. Much is expected from the PTI by the people of Pakistan. It is crucial that some early success is achieved for setting the direction of the government. This list is not exhaustive by any means but can become a good beginning for the new government. Therefore, the new PTI government must take the following actions immediately:
1. Pakistan’s economy suffers from a serious budget deficit situation compounded by a balance of payments crisis. Apparently, an IMF bailout is necessary. But the IMF is notorious for its stringent conditionalities which can cause public reaction. Pakistan has no choice to revamp the FBR on a priority basis. Also, improve governance issues to increase the pitiable exports. Distressed economic conditions require bold actions from the new PTI government. The new PTI govt must focus on stabilizing the economy on a priority basis. End corrupt practices in the economic sector. For example, Benaami property like done recently in India. Attach these properties with the state authorities.
2. Name change of Benazir Income Support Program to National Income Support Program or Abdul Sattar Edhi Income Support Program. Double the budget of the Benazir Income Support Program as it is successful effort to end poverty. Expand the services immediately and ensure timely delivery to the poorest of the poor.
3. Reduction of national holidays
4. Standardization of weights, measures, and the like. For example, stop using Arubs, crores and lakhs and use only millions, billions, and discard use of maunds only kgs allowed
5. A detailed Plan of Action to be prepared within a month to strengthen key institutions like State bank, FBR, AGP, NACTA, IB, FIA, NAB, FPSC, etc.
6. Initiate social, cultural and educational activities like done by the BJP’s Sangh Parivar group in India. Some activities can be arranged in collaboration with effective NGOs working in the field already. For example, a Razakar Force for young men and women trained in martial arts; monsoon tree plantation campaigns in collaboration with agriculture departments, adult literacy centers, libraries, urban clean up campaigns using volunteers, etc.
7. Desire to have friendly relations with all countries, especially neighbors. Reemphasize Declare a new dawn in Pakistan’s relations with the world. Reiteration of Pakistan’s desire to normalize relations with all, including India, US, and Afghanistan.
8. Pakistan to become a better member of the global community by increasing participation in United Nations activities. Pakistan will participate more in international regimes under the United nations umbrella which are aimed at eradicating global crime networks of various types, like global money laundering, smuggling, global financial crime networks for tax evasion purposes, human smuggling, global drug and narcotic smugglings etc.
9. Pakistan to emphasize strengthening of relations within the frameworks of ECO, SCO, SAARC, and OIC as a priority
10. Formation of a think tank to conduct research and guide the PTI utilizing the Next Steps approach and acting as a consultancy (see separate page for details)
11. Forming a steering committee of experienced professionals in various areas to guide the PTI government on various issues. These groups will be responsible for the actualization of PTI policy in various areas.
12. Give the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis. Thereby the diaspora will be better connected with the motherland A few seats be given in the National Assembly for which the entire overseas community be considered as a single electoral constituency and vote be given on Party List basis.
13. End paper mills in the private higher education sector where rampant corrupt practices exist. Higher education may not be employed to make quick and easy money anymore.
14. The Modernization Unit to be established in the office of the prime minister, as given in the PTI manifesto, be tasked to formulate Key Performance Indicators and metrics for all public sector agencies and departments. A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a quantifiable value that determines how effectively an organization is attaining key goals. The KPIs are employed by organizations to calculate their success at achieving the established targets.
15. The federal government be consolidated into a smaller and more effective administration. Some public agencies are bloated and need to be cut. Some departments may need to be merged or even dismantled. A review be held for the purpose.
16. A Task Force be established to restructure vital public enterprises like WAPDA, PIA, Steel Mills, NHA, Railways. A restructuring exercise be carried out to improve efficiency in collaboration with the Modernization Unit in the Prime Minister office.
17. Technical schools be established on the pattern of Germany, preferably with the help of the German government. The purpose is to impart skills to youth not able to get regular college education.
18. Free quality public education, along with free health services, as envisaged in the concept of an Islamic welfare state. Free education like free health services will be a costly endeavor. Therefore, allocate 5% of GNP to the education sector, as recommended by UNESCO.
19. Mainstreaming of erstwhile jihadist elements be carried out on a priority basis in collaboration with the military. A special task force be established for the purpose.
20. The merger of erstwhile FATA into KP be carried out on a priority basis. A Steering Committee be established for the purpose. The committee be headed by a federal minister and governor KP. It must also have CM KP and all PTI MNAs as members.
21. Revival of the Musharraf era Local Government System, as it showed promise. Despite shortcomings, some important developments did take place in this area and there were some success stories at the local level.
22. National crusade against “qabza” mafia and encroaches must be carried out. This is an endemic problem in Pakistan and has apparently grown in the last decade. While not just private space but also public space is threatened. That is most unfortunate. Public space is a sacred trust.
23. A national curriculum be devised with input from all stakeholders. It must be flexible though to incorporate regional diversity. A framework would be formulated with a common core for the entire nation (1/3) and then a regional section to be the responsibility of the provinces (2/3). The purpose is to create national unity and cohesion. The framework will establish the teaching units in terms of syllabi, timetables, modules for class instruction, total study period, and testing.
24. There was a mushrooming growth of housing societies in the past decade or so. Most of these are scams and people have lost billions of hard earned savings. The State must come to the rescue of the public and take these swindlers to task. It must then simply nationalize these societies and give them under the control of various state authorities. The nationalization would be considered as the last resort since it would require an act of parliament.
25. A National Health Service on the pattern of the UK. The founding principle shall be that the service be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. However, patients would be required to pay prescription charges with a range of exemptions for the poorest of the poor. This is a costly endeavor and will require immense allocations of budgeted money. This measure, along with health, is one of the fundamental objectives of the Islamic welfare system. Therefore, allocate 5% of GNP to the health services sector.
26. The South Punjab promise be carried out immediately. A Task Force be established for the purpose Later, Pakistan must be divided into at least 10 provinces. Punjab into three: central, north and south. Sindh into two: north and south, and so on.
27. Privatization of Public Sector Enterprises be postponed for at least a year. Focus on improving performance of these enterprises instead. Giving of enough autonomy and removal of needless political interventions is the key to the success of this effort.
28. Merge all department and services housing authorities like Police, Parliament, Defense, into a single Federal Employees Housing Authority. Announce entitlement of all employees for housing as a priority.
29. Focus of performance of police services. Depoliticize them immediately, especially in Punjab and Sindh. Employ technology to improve police efficiency. Detailed plan needed to revamp the police services and stop political interference immediately. The public has a low opinion of the police service with exception of KP. Establish a Task force for Improving Police Services with input from capable retired police officials and foreign experts.
30. The parliament’s performance is poor and needs to be improved. The oversight function of the parliament is inadequate, at best. There is nothing more political than passing the budget as it deals with allocation of scarce resources. Therefore, present the budget at least three months in advance of its passage date. The budget be discussed on the floor of the National Assembly in the first reading and then sent to Select Committees to be debated in detail with department heads, and outside experts and witnesses. The budget be agreed within these committees along with recommendations. The budget then be again debated on the floor of the house and eventually passed. Establish a separate television Parliament Channel within PTV to broadcast live the working of the parliament. The purpose is to improve the quality of deliberations in the legislature.
31. Revamp civil services as a priority. Give tenure protection of postings for at least three years. Stop the shuffle dupe of endless postings as it causes service inefficiency and disruption
32. Increase the retirement age of the employees to 65.
33. Give life tenure to the higher judiciary so that the judges can concentrate on their jobs.
34. Focusing on employing technology in governance (electronic governance measures) can greatly improve effectiveness of not all public services but also Legislature and Judiciary.
35. Good suggestion to give the PM house to Foreign Ministry of Pakistan.