Pakistan: Imran Khan’s 100 days in office

Elected on high hopes to battle corruption and fix Pakistan’s economic malaise, Prime Minister Imran Khan set a raft of ambitious targets for his first 100 days in office.

The South Asian nation has made progress on some pledges, but finances are dwindling and Islamabad is negotiating an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. The government has also been distracted by a right-wing religious backlash. Critics have also pointed to mixed messages, U-turns and a lack of coordination across Khan’s inexperienced administration.

“The government is still stuck on the economy, avoiding bold steps,” said Dawood Mamoon, the director of research at the Islamabad-based Policy Research Institute of Market Economy, or PRIME. “They are fire-fighting at the moment.”

Despite his rhetoric for change, Khan hasn’t made significant headway during the first hundred days, according to a review published last week by PRIME. His administration has completed 43 percent of its set tasks, almost half of those being the creation of task forces or staff appointments, according to the government’s tracking website.

The former cricket star and his top leadership are sincere about implementing structural reforms and eradicating deep-rooted corruption, according to Western diplomats and state officials. But the government is in disarray, with multiple ministries unable to execute decisions, they said, asking not to be identified to avoid fall out with Khan’s administration.

The ruling Movement for Justice party says it is delivering on its pledges and that opinion polls show Pakistanis support their efforts. Shehzad Arbab, an adviser to Khan, on Thursday told an audience in Islamabad that the government has completed 18 of 34 planned tasks in the first 100 days.

Khan in a speech said he made an offer to India for peace talks immediately after coming to power with the aim to end poverty in the country, an issue highlighted in his agenda. He said his administration has also made progress in curbing money laundering and corruption.

Here is the status of Khan’s 100-day pledges:

Pledge: $12 billion gap

  • Status: Not completed
  • The nation planned to get financing secured within the first 100 days as it becomes all “the more expensive” as time passes, Finance Minister Asad Umar told Bloomberg in August. Saudi Arabia deposited $1 billion this month of a total $3 billion it pledged to boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Talks with the IMF were extended this month after failing to agree on terms for a bailout.

Pledge: Temasek-style fund

  • Status: Not completed
  • Pakistan planned to create a fund like Singapore’s Temasek to move state-owned companies away from ministry and political intervention in the first 100 days. The new government has completed a study on the loss making state-owned units, but hasn’t completed the transfer that is aimed to turnaround the companies with new private sector management.

Pledge: Decrease gas price for industries

  • Status: In progress
  • To become regionally competitive and boost exports, the government announced that it will decrease gas prices for factories, but industrialists complained that the new price has not been reflected in the subsequent month bill.

Pledge: Decrease fuel prices by removing taxes

  • Status: Completed
  • Pakistan decreased tax by as much as half, reducing gasoline and diesel prices in September.

Pledge: Anti-corruption drive

  • Status: In progress
  • The government has started investigations into previous government contracts — from gas to housing. However, the leaders of opposition parties allege the anti-corruption drive is selective and targeting the ruling party’s opponents.

Pledge: Appointments by merit

  • Status: Failed
  • Pakistan’s government asked Atif Mian, a professor at Princeton University from a persecuted and minority Muslim sect, to step down from an economic adviser days after his appointment received criticism from a hard-line religious party. The appointment had raised hopes that former cricket star Khan would run a more tolerant government and push back against religious extremism. Khan also selected his friend Zulfi Bukh­ari as his special assistant on overseas Pak­is­tanis, an appointment that was widely criticised.
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