Post-election scenario

  • Exciting times

The people of Pakistan have rejected the status quo. Not just the parties they viewed as representing the status quo but also most of the “electables” Imran Khan proudly embraced within the fold of his party. People of Pakistan have also rejected the religious extremist candidates.

So far so good. What’s next?

First is the appointment of right candidates for the right seats. The knowledge of subject in a given area as well as the experience in a given field is crucial to delivering on the promises of the incoming dispensation. In particular the core ministries. The importance of correct selection cannot be emphasised enough. Among the core ministries are Interior, foreign affairs, law and parliamentary affairs, finance and minorities. Other appointments are speaker national assembly and chief minister Punjab if PTI manages to win enough numbers to form government in Punjab.

The finance ministry must be converted to ministry of economic affairs. The task of any ministry dealing with funding and must focus on developing robust economic policies for short, medium and long time. When we say ‘Finance Ministry’ it brings to mind a chartered accountant doing 2+2 and viewing the task through a tunnel vision. That’s not what this department is for. The real job is to develop the base, the policies to work on and determine related financial issues. It was clear pre-elections that Asad Umar will head this department should PTI win. He has come a long way from being the CEO of Engro Pakistan. Asad must have a pool of nationalist economists to draw policies from. Pakistan’s external debt rocketed to $91.8b in May 2018. This is an increase of over 50pc in past four years. The foreign reserves have fallen to the lowest in the last three years. According to an IMF Report, Pakistan’s debt challenge will rise to $103b by June 2019. “In its post-programme monitoring report, the IMF also forecast that due to additional borrowings, Pakistan’s external debt would jump to $103.4 billion by June 2019, up from this June’s projected level of $93.3 billion.” (March 16, 2018) When Asad Umar walks into his office, he does so at a most critical juncture of Pakistan’s economic history.

Foreign affairs ministry has been ignored under Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan did not have as he preferred to keep the portfolio with himself for a long time. At a time when Pakistan is being targeted, CPEC and with US blowing hot and cold on Pakistan, being placed on FATF gray list; a strong person knowing how relationships between nations work, represent Pakistan on international forums and developing policies that helps Pakistan engage with other nations on equal footing is needed. There are two candidates who can foot the bill. Dr Shireen Mazari who is competent to handle the job would be the best person. The second choice is Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Another crucial provincial seat (after 18th Anendment) is water and power ministry. Former Senator Mohsin Leghari, winning candidate PP 293 from Rajanpur(PTI), has been raising issues of the subject on senate floor and assembly

However Shah Mehmood Qureshi, our savvy and experienced politician, can do tops both at ministry of interior or chief minister Punjab should PTI want him there. One hears rumors of Pervez Khattak being awarded the Interior which if does happen will be a major blunder.

Any government must depend upon its people appointed to deliver. Favouring anyone not competent to handle the task will bring immense pressure on his government.

Minorities are a sensitive topic. Minorities have suffered hugely in Pakistan. On ground Pakistan needs to give them the rights promised in the Constitution. About time we appoint a member from minority to head this department. Dr Mukesh Kumar would be a good choice. Our lack of focus on minorities projects Pakistan negatively internationally as well.

Babar Awan will be a good choice for law and parliamentary affairs ministry. Shafqat Mehmood should do well as speaker national assembly.

On the provincial front, another battle looms large for PTI. Who will govern Punjab? PML-N with a greater number of seats too needs allies as does PTI to form a government. With government in center and Punjab out of the equation it can be a bumpy ride for Imran’s government. More so because in case of failing to trump up the required numbers, PTI falls short of its promise of creation of South Punjab province that requires two third majority to see it through.

Senator Chaudhry Sarwar, former governor Punjab, will be a good choice. Even with becoming the CM; it is a hot seat making life difficult for PTI with the PML-N doggedly creating obstacles. However should this not be on cards, the choice boils down to either Aleem Khan or Fawad Chaudhry. With Aleem Khan, the perception of a tainted past may make PTI lose the high moral ground. Fawad Chaudhry will be a better choice of the two. Dr Yasmeen Rashid (as her name is being rumored) coming probably on reserve seat may cause upset within the party with elected members if offered this post. Though yes, in both cases of either Senator Chaudhry Sarwar being appointed or Shah Mehmood Qureshi she may be appointed for interim period.

The million dollar question is that what do the independents and PML-Q demand for throwing their lot in with PTI? They know both PTI and PML-N need them at all costs to form government in Punjab.

Another crucial provincial seat (after 18th Anendment) is water and power ministry. Former Senator Mohsin Leghari, winning candidate PP 293 from Rajanpur(PTI), has been raising issues of the subject on senate floor and assembly. He has an in depth knowledge, research and clear thinking needed to handle this field. He has been MPA twice, now his third 3rd term with a senate term in between.

What will also be interesting to watch will be if Imran has the diplomacy not to alienate PPP. Should he persist on an ‘isolationist’ track, he will be opening too many fronts ultimately leading to less focus on governance and more on inter-parties duel. Isolating PPP will be pushing her in the arms of PML-N and will be more trouble than its worth.

The times to come certainly seem exciting.