LAHORE - PTI chief Imran Khan has been harboring the idea of change over a long period of time since his party’s inception in 1996. During this time he clung to the hope that one day he would get power to make it happen for the public good. Now, the circumstances have placed him in a position to fulfill his dreams and promises made with the electorate. 

In the first one month in power, the PTI government has apparently got off to a good start taking some major steps to set the tone for a real change though the critics insist they are just cosmetic measures aimed at befooling the people.

Believing that lavish living style of prime minister, the chief ministers and other government functionaries was a great burden on the national kitty, the new PTI government has taken some austerity measures to cut down the expenses though there are some deviations from the rule visible at certain levels.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s military secretary’ house is now prime minister’s house. Over 100 luxury cars of Prime Minister’s House are in the process of being auctioned as part of the austerity drive. It may save up to one billion rupees per annum, according to government’s estimates. 

It is, however, yet to be seen if the prime minister lives up to his commitment for the rest of his tenure and new vehicles are not purchased under any pretext during the period.

The governors and the chief ministers are also under instruction to cut down their expenses and they have announced not to live at their designated houses. Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar has announced to set up his official office at Chamba House Lahore. It will certainly require funds, a few million though, for renovation of the new office. And if governor’s principal secretary, his military secretary and the additional secretaries also sit in the new building, more funds will be needed to make it consummate to the new requirements.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar is also living at a House in GOR-I which is not designed to serve as Chief Minister’s House. It will certainly require alterations involving utilization of public funds. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan has also curtailed the number of employees working at the Prime Minister House, but they will still be getting salaries irrespective of whether or not they get new postings. Khan has also decided not to use the discretionary fund of prime minister which runs into billions.

Tree plantation drive is another step to stop the climatic change. It was implemented in KP during 2013 to 2018 under the slogan of “Billion Tree Tsunami” though it has also met criticism from the political opponents. Restrictions on the air travel in the first class, not staying at five-star hotels abroad, ban on health treatment abroad and abridgment of protocol are also expected to save millions.

In Punjab, a new local government system is being introduced with the under lying objective of de-centralization of power at the grass-roots level. It may be recalled here that when General Musharraf devolved financial and administrative power at the district and tehsil levels in 2001, the ensuing political governments in the provinces later reversed everything through amendments in the local government system. As the contours of the new system to be brought in by the PTI are not clear as yet, it would be interesting to see how much power is devolved at the local level.

The Punjab government has also promised to introduce police reforms to de-politicise the police on KP model, but a recent incident involving transfer of DPO Pakpattan tells a different story. The tall claims of ending political interference in the work of bureaucracy have also dashed to the ground after two deputy commissioners complained they had been subjected to political pressure.

The Punjab government has also plans to bring the under-developed areas at par with the developed ones and to improve the existing health delivery system. The practical steps, however, are awaited as yet. Currently, the ministers and advisers are struggling to implement the 100-day plan but they seem to be in total confusion and clueless on where to pick up the threads.

Though the PTI is well-entrenched politically not only in the centre but also in the three provinces, a number of challenges are staring it in the face both on the internal and external fronts. If it is facing the herculean task of putting the economy on the right track, it is finding it hard to bridle the bureaucracy which has the inherent tendency of maintaining the status quo in all respects. 

The steps so far taken by the government are set to remain mere cosmetic measures if they are not actualized by taking concrete measures in the days ahead. One hopes the present initiatives don’t turn out to be a 100-yard dash in the end.