Business as usual?

Byline: Shakaib Qureshi

COMPARED to other political leaders on the Pakistani circuit, Imran Khan has some things going for him. He is the first elected politician from the urban middle class. To achieve top ranking as a professional, even if one is a sports professional, requires leadership, a work ethic, exceptional dedication, and the ability to recognise skills in people. These are traits that most of his competitors will never develop. No wonder he has chosen a good economic team. However, economic teams need political thought to guide their approach and Imran does not appear to have one.

The tried and tested Mr Hafeez Sheikh is trusted by the establishment which remains Pakistan's biggest stakeholder. A reformer, he is not. We really don't know and will probably never know his economic view about the practicalities of the PTI's manifesto which promises to finance a major public-sector investment of building five million houses and how that spending sits within our economic space.

We are also yet to hear Mr Sheikh's view on the PTI's promise of removing state-owned enterprises like PIA and Pakistan Railways from political control. His past record would indicate that he will find it difficult to sign up on his own and his constituency's behalf to even the less revolutionary PTI promises, namely, that PIA should be removed from the defence ministry's control and that the Railways be placed under professional control (which would effectively mean firing Sheikh Rashid).

What is Imran Khan's new economic team missing?

Mr Shabbar Zaidi is probably the best private-sector choice available in the country for FBR. He was the excise and taxation minister when I was the finance minister in the 2013 caretaker cabinet of Sindh. He had also earlier advised the Sindh Revenue Board informally when I was its chairman. His grasp on Pakistan's tax structure and taxation matters is supreme.

Technically, he is one of the best people to have on a leadership team. However, to make a success out of him, Imran must openly discuss with him not only the issue of raising revenue, but the politics around it. Currently, everything coming out of FBR (including the amnesty) appears to be motivated by big business interests. That might be palatable if Pakistan's big business was independent.

Unfortunately, from Malik Riaz to Jahangir Tareen, there is not a single tycoon in Pakistan that has developed business independent of government interaction. The model of big...

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