Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf bagged majority of seats in the hotly contested 2018 general elections and is poised to form a government in the centre. In Punjab Assembly polls it is three seats behind the PML-N. If the party leadership succeeds in luring the 30 plus independents to the party fold PTI can also form a stable government in the province of Punjab as well and can prevent a re-staging the drama of hostility and confrontation, Nawaz Sharif versus Benazir Bhutto in the decade of 1990s.
The poll results marks a watershed in the political history of Pakistan. It is a reflection of the peoples’ verdict against bad governance and financial corruption by the ruling elites which has badly tarnished the image of the country abroad. Money laundering to stash away ill gotten money in the offshore accounts by political elite was one of the major factors for putting Pakistan back on grey list by Financial Action Task Force.
The next Prime Minister Imran Khan is a strong leader which Pakistan needed to counter the hegemonic designs of India in the region. Former Prime Minster Nawaz played a second fiddle role before the ruling BJP leadership in the regional affairs. The omission of very mention of Kashmir dispute in the joint comminuqe released after Nawaz-Modi meeting in the Russian city of Ufa in July 2015 bears testimony to this fact. Earlier on 26h May, 2015, he preferred silence on the charge sheet delivered to him by his Indian counterpart in one-on-one meeting in New Delhi after the oath taking ceremony of the Prime Minster Narendra Modi. He even did not direct either foreign office or Pakistan’s ambassador in India to issue a rejoinder to the Indian allegations of harbouring and exporting terrorism which were read out by the then foreign secretary Ms. Sujata Singh and articulated before print and electronic media. Again Nawaz Sharif’s statement on Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attacks a few months ago was an attempt to give credence to Indian narrative against Pakistan. Hence the hype created by Indian media against Imran Khan indicates the frustration of the ruling BJP leadership.
The emerging realignment is changing the global scenario. The role of Russia and China in world affairs is on the rise. In the changing scenario new opportunities are being created for Pakistan and next government can take advantage of this situation. The conflict in Afghanistan and the turmoil in the Middle East will require a proactive diplomacy. In his first speech after the winning the election, Imran Khan spelt out the broad parameters of his government foreign policy. He emphasised further strengthening relation with China; focusing more on restoring peace in Afghanistan; establishing mutually beneficial relations with the United States; normalizing relations with India and resolution of Kashmir and other disputes through dialogue; warm and cordial relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia; and mediation role to defuse the tension in the Middle East by observing the principles of neutrality.
The next government will face challenges on the economic front and internal security. It would need an intelligent team to take corrective measures to overcome the macro economic imbalances including almost unsustainable public debt, current account and budget deficits. Giving his vision of economy Imran Khan said that a transparent tax culture will be encouraged and promoted to motivate the people for honestly paying their taxes; cost of doing business will be reduced and ease of doing business index will be enhanced to encourage Pakistani Diaspora to invest in Pakistan; poverty alleviation programme will be implemented by studying Chinese model ; human resource development will be a first priority; and absolute austerity in government expenditure will be the cardinal principle of his government.
The menace of terrorism has not been fully eradicated and a comprehensive internal security policy has to be formulated and implemented. Hopefully the next elected government will work out a compressive policy for combating terrorism with strong determination.
PML-N president Shabaz Sharif has not accepted the election results, while addressing a hurried called press conference and JUI (F) central Amir Maulana Fazal-u- Rehan has hinted at convening All Parties Conference. The politics of confrontation will impact the stability of the government. Imran Khan has offered an olive branch to the opposition parties by saying that there will be no political victimization in his government. It is now for the PML-N and other opposition parties to positively respond to his call of mutual coexistence. Let us hope the PTI led government will be able to amicably meet the challenges that will come in its way.