Monday Aug 20 2018
Web Desk

Reading between the lines

Web Desk
Pakistan´s Prime Minister Imran Khan, speaks to the nation in his first televised address in Islamabad, Pakistan August 19, 2018 - Photo: PID 

Prime Minister Imran Khan delivered his first televised address to the nation on August 19. Reading from hand-written notes, the prime minister highlighted his government’s policy priorities. These included malnutrition, water crisis, corruption, police and civil service reforms, the creation of a new province, amongst others.

Below, journalists and politicians weigh in on what the new government’s agenda could look like and what was missing:

Nafisa Shah

(Member National Assembly of the Pakistan Peoples Party)

The newly-elected prime minister needs a lesson on the constitution. He needs to be informed about the mandate of the provincial and the federal government. In his first address, one would have expected him to touch upon foreign policy, national security and defence, which are his domain. Also, what about the marginalized communities? Does he have nothing to say to the women in the country?

Terrorism was another topic missing from his inaugural speech.

In my opinion, it was a typical populist address that played to the galleries of the angry Pakistanis who believe that all the ills of the country are due to the lavish lifestyles of the elite. Khan spoke at length about austerity measures and to bring back money to Pakistan. But how will he do it with the amnesty scheme in place? He opened his speech criticizing previous governments for taking out loans. He forgets that he too will have to take a loan.

The prime minister’s house is an institution. It is an office, which is why it is a little strange for a man who himself lives in a 300 kanal house, in an upscale suburb of the country, to not want to live in the PM House.

Overall, his speech was disappointing. Imran Khan tried to cleverly deflect the issues that will soon stare him in the face.

Dr Musadik Malik

(Senator of the Pakistan Muslim League–N)

There were some positives to the speech, such as the fact that he touched upon health, maternity issues, education and the water crisis. But after the 18th amendment, these are now the domain of the provincial government. Imran Khan is not new to politics. His party has ruled the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for five years. If he is sincere about these reforms, then did the maternity rate go down in the province? Did they build new hospitals, schools and clinics there? While, I can tell you exactly how many schools the Punjab government built, the number of children brought back to schools, the health reforms initiated.

The difference between a politician and a statesman is that people trust the word of the statesman. He spoke much about corruption, but the cabinet he has selected for his government goes against his own narrative.

Lastly, how could he leave out any mention of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor? CPEC is important both for Pakistan’s foreign and economic policy. For which we need to build better ties with Iran and Afghanistan. If you ask me, he sounded more like a district council chairman rather than the prime minister.

Asad Rahim Khan

(Barrister and talk-show host)

The new prime minister chose to address issues that have been underreported, including child abuse and malnutrition. Previous prime ministers did not talk about reforming the civil service or about delays in legal cases. Therefore, his speech exceeded expectations, especially in light of the speech that he had made in the parliament a few days earlier. But moving on, clarity was needed on militancy and the National Action Plan (NAP). To not address such an existential threat to the country was a major omission.

Nevertheless, it was good to see the prime minister set an agenda for the country’s future rather than account for his assets.

Reema Omer

(Lawyer and political analyst)

The first address was along the lines of what we have come to expect of Imran Khan over the years: it was high on rhetoric and symbolism, but low on strategy and concrete action. This explains why it left many people “feeling good”, but on closer introspection, that feeling could very well be illusory.

While the prime minister covered a whole range of issues from climate change to malnutrition (commendably so), it was striking that he left out pressing questions related to foreign policy and defence, areas that - constitutionally, at least - squarely fall within the domain of the federal government that he is leading (as opposed to the provincial subjects much of the speech focused on).

The silence on key human rights issues was also concerning, particularly freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, religious intolerance, women’s human rights.