Imran Khan, Pakistan’s popular leader and former Prime Minister, recently lost a no-confidence vote in the country’s parliament. Much has been written and said about how his removal.
But leaving that aside, one has to sit back and take stock of what this former sports hero-turned politician had brought to the Pakistani landscape during his short tenure. Bear in mind two major factors. He was traversing through the minefields of the Covid-19 crisis that left most nations financially on the brink.
Through a series of moves aimed at reducing rampant corruption and bringing to task the output of several of Pakistan’s government-run enterprises, Khan has had some noticeable gains. He managed to raise exports to $38 billion in 3 years, surpassing the figure of $21 billion brought in the previous 10 years. First the time, mobile phones production started in Pakistan, with presently over 70% of mobiles produced in Pakistan.
Electric bikes factories and computer processors industries were also started. Khan’s government initiated the Kamyab Jawan programme, which focused on 3 Es: Education, Employment and Engagement with an aim to serve all youth and empower them with the necessary tools for carrying on their lives in a sustainable manner.
He also got the mining and copper project of the Reko Diq Mine started that had been stuck in litigations between the former governments and the Australian mining company BHP Billiton. There was a $11 billion penalty that had been attached by the courts. The fine was removed. The project then would see a $10bn investment and the creation of 8000 jobs.
The IT sector boomed with over $2 billion exports, a jump of over 100% from previous eras, and created over 500,000 new jobs. During this time, over 150,000 new companies were registered, some ten times the number in the past. The textile sector exports rose to $20 billion from the previous $9-11 billion. According to the CIA World Factbook 2021, Pakistan’s unemployment rate had dropped to a remarkable 4.1% and was the lowest in the region.
Imran Khan’s government also launched the Ehsaas programme in 2019 with the goal of uplifting the backward class, reducing inequality, investing in the masses, and lifting the lagging districts in the country. At the time, Khan called it ‘a key initiative towards a welfare state that PTI promised with people of Pakistan in their elections manifesto.’
By 2021 Ehsaas Programme evolved into two major pillars — one, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash (introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic) and the other, the Ehsaas Kafalat, the latter programme expanding its coverage from 7 million people to 10 million people in 2021. The programme earned praise from the World Bank which rated it the 4th best such social program in the entire world.
During Khan’s tenure, Pakistan led the global charge to restore ecosystems. Inger Andersen, Executive Director United Nations Environment Programme stated that “Pakistan has shown real leadership in efforts to restore the country’s forest. We are grateful for their commitment to host World Environment Day 2021 ...”
“Large scale restoration initiatives such as the ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project’ are central to Pakistan’s efforts to support the UN Decade and to increase ecosystem restoration,” added Dechen Tsering, UNEP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
And there is more, much more. The man delivered on many of his promises to free Pakistan from the clutches of yesteryear and turn it into a Naya Pakistan. Khan’s success could be measured in some of the laws passed during his tenure, such as the increased protection of women and their rights, and the fight against state corruption.
Shunned pomp and glory
He navigated his country tactfully between the superpowers, being cordially received in the US just as he was warmly greeted in China and Russia. During his tenure, he shunned pomp and glory, for he was a personality which had lacked none. Neither was he ever accused of padding his pockets with ill-earned money.
While no man is without faults, and Imran was no exception, his popularity was defined recently in a mass gathering in the port city of Karachi, a Jalsa, the likes that had never been witnessed anywhere before.
It is now for the present government to continue on some of the stable frameworks that Khan had laid out for his country and to ensure that nepotism and large-scale corruption does not return.
Pakistan is at a crucial phase in its journey and as a member of the nuclear club, the present government bears extra responsibility in ensuring that the path forward will be peaceful, uniting, and a just one.
We wish the present government well and hope that Pakistan will continue to rise among the ranks of nations.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena