Imran Khan did some plainspeaking on Sunday in his first address to the nation after taking oath as prime minister, sharing his vision of creating a new Pakistan. He admitted Pakistan was sitting on a `28 trillion debt volcano with loans now being sought just to service the debt. Yet the ruling elite were rolling in luxury, he said, noting that the prime minister’s house has a jaw-dropping 524 servants and 80 cars, 33 of them bulletproof.
Harping on austerity, he claimed he would not live in the sprawling PM house but in an adjacent military secretary’s three-bedroom pad in Islamabad with just two domestic helps. As for the fleet of cars, he will retain two bulletproof ones and auction the rest. Also, to cut wasteful expenditure across the country, Imran announced the formation of a panel under noted banker and economist Dr Ishrat Husain. That perhaps was the kind of message lenders like the IMF would have wanted to hear if they were to agree to help pull Pakistan’s economy out of the pits.
The IMF has already bailed Pakistan out 14 times since 1980.
Imran pushed all the right buttons, making a pitch for widening the tax net, announcing plans to crackdown on money laundering and creating jobs. He also spoke about transforming Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state. Much like PM Narendra Modi in 2014 who spoke about Achhe Din, Imran sold the dream of ushering in a new era in the run-up to the polls and has raised people’s expectations sky high. And his pitch on keeping the nation clean, criticising the filth in Lahore and elsewhere, reminded one of Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Modi has absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, yet his progressive legislations like the one on triple talaq stumble at the Rajya Sabha where he does not have the numbers.
How then would Imran, who has been forced to align with smaller parties to cobble together a razor-thin majority—and with the opposition controlling the Senate—pilot legislations successfully in Parliament without making major compromises? His test has just begun.