PTI’s 2019 challenges

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Challenges in 2019

THE new year begins on a note that is somewhere between hope and apprehension.

Nearly six months into its tenure, the PTI federal government is now surely as well prepared as it will be for the enormous governance challenges ahead.

The PTI’s stuttering start may have been undesirable, but worse would be to continue the policy indecision that has characterised much of the government’s term so far, especially in the economic arena.

The new year is on track to be one of the toughest economically and financially that the country has witnessed in recent times.

While politically, the PTI, PML-N and PPP can argue over their respective performances in office, what is undeniable is that the PTI now has full stewardship of the economy.

The decisions Prime Minister Imran Khan’s finance team led by Asad Umar makes will be enormously consequential — the margins between survival and disaster are small for great swathes of the population.

Decades of economic mismanagement should not obscure the fact that the PTI government has an enormous responsibility to the people of Pakistan.

On the accountability front, the PTI will to a greater degree be master of its own fate. With PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in prison, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in the custody of NAB and PPP boss Asif Zardari set to face intense scrutiny, the ongoing accountability drive seems likely to perpetuate political uncertainty.

But much of that uncertainty stems from a perception that the accountability exercise is selective and politically motivated.

In the new year, the PTI will have an opportunity to demonstrate that not only is accountability across the board but that the political opposition to the PTI is afforded a fair and transparent process.

If the PTI fails to deliver a more balanced accountability process, political turmoil will likely intensify.

Certainly, the allegations against Mr Zardari are serious and he will need to provide adequate explanations.

Similarly, the legal process against the Sharif brothers must continue as per the requirements of justice and due process. There ought to be no turning back from the exercise — but accountability for all and fair accountability ought to be ensured.

Finally, while much has been made of the PTI government and state institutions having managed to avoid the familiar civil-military and inter-institutional friction that has blighted the terms of previous governments, if all national institutions are to be on the same page that page must be a lawful, constitutional one.

With civil liberties under attack, a free media imperilled and the space for constitutionally protected and legitimate dissent eroded, there is a risk that the same-page mantra may lead to the destruction of democratic norms and a return to authoritarian tendencies in the state.

Pakistan must remain a constitutional democracy with the highest protection afforded to the fundamental rights of its people.

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