THE exit of Asad Umar as finance minister continues to draw all kinds of explanations. The mystery remains despite the PTI’s attempts to clear the air.
In a report in this paper yesterday, one explanation for why the portfolio was taken away from the finance minister by Prime Minister Imran Khan identifies factors other than Pakistan’s engagement with the IMF.
Some powerful interest groups, apparently unhappy with Mr Umar, were responsible for his ouster at a time when the deal with the IMF was all but concluded, while, in the same report, a government spokesman has denied the alleged input of these groups in the prime minister’s decision.
Thanks to the absence of logical explanations from the PTI itself, much after Mr Umar’s removal and the cabinet reshuffle, the real reasons remain vague. What is abundantly clear though is that a party which had taken up the reins of power with such fanfare last August and had promised a quick overhaul of the system is now struggling to set long-term direction for the country.
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Its approach to many of the concerns it has pledged to address — and this is not restricted to economic governance alone — has been more political than a policy-oriented exercise, with frequent U-turns that have been justifiably criticised.
Fortunately, for the PTI, there is still time. Having been in power for only eight months, the party can turn things around if it draws lessons from its errors. In this regard, two aspects are especially worth focusing on: transparency in its political decisions, and engaging with, and not constantly fighting, the opposition.
As former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani recently pointed out, the fact that many ministries — including key portfolios — are in the hands of unelected advisers and special assistants to the prime minister is of particular concern. To appoint individuals who are under no oath of office to vital government posts is a far cry from the party platform promised by the PTI during the general election — accountability, reform and transparency — and a threat to electoral and legislative processes.
With regard to economic governance, few if any questions regarding investments made by China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have yet been answered. Now, with portfolios under the control of individuals who have no role in parliament, decision-making seems more opaque than ever and relations with the opposition more tense.
The PTI’s challenges are coming thick and fast as the economic situation worsens and a general sense of paralysis grips the country. Definitive policymaking and measured actions, along with a genuine attempt to make democratic governance as representative as possible, can be part of the solution that it is looking for.