In his first address to the nation, Prime minister Imran Khan spoke on a number of issues. It’s very pleasant to see someone speaking about the issues which were barely addressed before, as, climate change, tourism, agriculture research, new provinces, health insurance, physically challenged people, kids on the streets, merit, child abuse, civil service reforms, developing beaches, building new resorts, Pakistanis in foreign jails, bringing down the expenditure of PM house, CM houses, governor houses, and education. I welcome those parts of the address. Looks like he needs at least three terms to make this happen.
Controlled democracy – Not a good going
Now let’s talk about the No-go areas, or the issues he didn’t address or barely addressed. Terrorism is the number one issue faced by people living in Pashtun and Baluch majority areas of the country. In more than an hour-long speech, he gave only a few seconds to the issue and said the National Action Plan (NAP) is the solution.
After terrorism, extremism, intolerance towards different political, religious views, and radicalization is the second most important issue of the whole country. He didn’t utter a single word about how his administration is going to protect the religious minorities in Pakistan and how he’s going to tackle the radicalized society and bring back the culture of tolerance towards different views. Every now and then we hear about reports of mob lynching of Christians, Shias, Ahmadis, forced conversions of Hindus, and abduction and forced marriages of Hindu girls. Freedom of speech, freedom of practicing or not practicing religion and freedom of expression never made it to the list of PM Imran Khan’s priorities.
Missing persons’ issue is another missing link from the address of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Thousands of Pashtuns and Balochs are either in the illegal custody of the security agencies or are dead. Pakistanis whose dear ones are missing for years, would’ve been looking at their television sets hoping he would break the status-quo and do something. But, again no word on that too.
Another major issue Pakistan is facing is the decades-long war between the pro and anti-democracy forces in Pakistan. Mr. Khan failed to shed light on how he’s going to ensure civilian supremacy in Pakistan. Political engineering, pre, and post-poll rigging, complaints of rigging in the latest elections, making the security agencies work under an elected leader are the issues that can ensure transparency, ending corruption, bringing back the missing people, ensuring no more people will go missing, none will be killed extra-judicially, no terrorist will be protected, no terrorist organization will be harbored and a lot more that is not possible because of the lack of civilian supremacy in Pakistan.
No elected prime minister in Pakistan in the recent history has ever been successful in fostering friendly relations with key countries like India, Afghanistan, and the United States on his/her own. No elected government has ever controlled foreign policy in its true spirit. Again, Imran Khan spoke for a few seconds about this critical issue saying, he wants friendly relations with all the countries-which is not enough and reflects the newly-elected government will have very less to formulate and control on that front as well.
No democracy is ever complete without ensuring civilian supremacy and freedom of the press. No one in Pakistan is unaware of the growing media censorship in Pakistan for the last few months. A very few credible journalists are raising their voice against the worst media censorship in the history of Pakistan. The situation could be gauged by looking at how helpless even the majority of journalists feel. No journalist, in general, speaks about the chained press in the country. Talat Hussain, a senior journalist, while addressing a gathering last week in Islamabad revealed, that a retired colonel controls the news channels’ content from WhatsApp. He termed the situation even worse than that of during the Musharraf era. The PM of Pakistan didn’t feel the need to talk about one of the most important pillars on which a state stands.
The issues Imran Khan focused on are all those issues which can be handled on provincial levels or mostly on the very local level by Nazims and councilors. No doubt that patronage and check and balance from the top would be key which Imran Khan is expected to do well on it. The issue still remains the same, that the status-quo and change the democrats in Pakistan have been looking for decades will not seemingly be seen even in the government brought into power in the name of change.
By Mujeeb Rehman:
The writer is a Washington based Pashtun journalist and political analyst.