The philosophy he represented and the mission he worked for remained largely mocked and unacknowledged for decades; nevertheless, he stood undeterred for his dream.
In 1997, the charismatic cricket star turned philanthropist, Imran Khan stepped into the complex realm of Pakistan’s politics by forming a political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — the Movement for Justice. Contrary to what his celebrity status may have indicated,he failed to put an impression and did not manage to secure a place in the National Assembly. Many thought this was the end of his game; they thought, “Imran can’t”.
The philosophy he represented and the mission he worked for remained largely mocked and unacknowledged for decades; nevertheless, he stood undeterred for his dream — a Naya Pakistan, as we call it.The name sounds wrapped in idealism with hints of fantasy. But is it really just that? The Naya, better, Pakistan that Khan had painted for us is a promise of equality and justice. It is a promise embedded in humanity — a promise of a social welfare society.
The foundation of this dream is based on three broad principles. Firstly, strong national institutions and the supremacy of law. Secondly, facilitation and socio-economic empowerment of the poor and marginalised communities. Thirdly, creating a level playing field for all by investing in human development (Pakistan is currently ranked 147th on the Human Development Index).
Pakistan has been in desperate need for a realisation of this transformation. On the economic front, the GDP growth rate stands at just above 5 percent, compared to India’s 7.3 percent and Bangladesh’s 7 percent. Pakistan’s external debt has also sky-rocketed to $ 91.8 Billion, with the inflation rate at 5.21 percent and the Rupee devaluing to 130 against the US Dollar.
Do you know what’s worse? Pakistan’s worrisome ranking on international social indexes. Recently Pakistan has been placed among the most dangerous countries in the world for women, journalist and tourists. On the Gender Parity Index, Pakistan ranks 143rd out of 144 countries, only ahead of Yemen. And it ranks 119 out of 128 on the Global Innovation Index, which measures innovation for different domains including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication. The number of out of school children in Pakistan at the primary level is the second highest in the world, only after Nigeria.
Sixty percent of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30. In the next 8-10 years, this group would be running the state of affairs. But an alarming 24 million children are out of school in Pakistan. 24 million individuals, instead of being drivers of the economy will become a burden. Are we then knowingly compromising on our future?
Compare this to the tenure of the PTI-led Government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Two words that describe the last five years of Khan’s leadership are undoubtedly ‘reform’ and ‘good governance’. Three sectors: health, education and the police system have been revamped. A thousand schools have been rebuilt and constructed, 7000 teachers inducted on merit with the highest school enrolment rate. In the health sector, hospital facilities have been upgraded, 9000 doctors recruited, and a health insurance system, Insaf Sehat Cards launched. The policy system stands as a completely non-political and autonomous institution. Additionally, to overcome the challenge of power generation, 300 small powerhouses have been developed in Chashma. These are small yet significant steps which speak volumes of his willingness to help give shape to a better Pakistan.
The public mandate handed over to Khan led PTI and the trust shown towards its manifesto clearly speaks of the desire for change in the common man. A struggle of over two decades has now culminated into a movement for social and economic justice.
How then are we, as citizens, responsible to implement the change we have collectively endorsed?
Firstly, through accountability. The role of the state is ensuring the supremacy of law and strengthening of institutions. However, on a local level, individuals are responsible to maintain a conscious check on their own actions. Accountability, then, starts from one’s own self. Keep asking yourself if you have done something that is even slightly against the law, beginning from an action as basic as waiting at traffic signals.
Pakistan’s external debt has also sky-rocketed to $91.8 billion, with the inflation rate at 5.21 percent and the Rupee devaluing to 130 against the US Dollar.
Secondly, problem solving. This begins by sensitization towards social and economic problems. The state will have policies in place, both at the federal and provincial levels, supported by reform and policy monitoring units. But the success of policies aimed at reformation are critically dependent on how it is translated into implementation and willingness of stakeholders — officers and beneficiaries alike. Hence, “we” need to bring about a positive change in our collective attitude — a shift is required to bring pro-active change makers.
Let us take unemployment for example — as mentioned above, 60 percent of Pakistan’s total population is under the age of 30; every year, two million individuals are added to the workforce. However, new employment opportunities haven’t been created at the same rate leading to an unemployment rate of 6 percent. The statistics point towards an intense need to promote entrepreneurship on a state level. To completely benefit from this, we need to develop a risk-taking attitude, coming out of our comfort zones to experiment. Yes, it’s okay to fail — in fact, that’s when the learning graph takes off.
Finally, respect. Our society is marked by infighting between religious sects and groups, baraadarisand provincialism.
To eradicate hatred from our society, it is essential that we start analyzing the biases of our pre-conceived notions. When you are self-confident and sure about your own capabilities, one overcomes fears and complexes. Therefore, you are open-minded and in a better position to listen to others’ points of view while showing respect. Be it political, religious or social differences, start inspiring from your actions.Respect women, rights of minorities, the marginalised and poor, and decisions of others, even the younger ones, and then a progressive, more peaceful Pakistan is certain.
We have an inspiring hero and a natural leader in Imran Khan. A statesman who has absolute clarity of vision and the courage to focus on his dream; a dream that millions who voted for his political party now share — a dream of a Naya Pakistan, hence proving that “Imran Can”; It is now time to rise above and walk with Khan to prove that “We Can too”.
This article was published in Daily Times on 6th of August, 2018 [After the General Election 2018 and before the Oath Taking of Prime Minister, Imran Khan]