Cover Story: Change or continuity.


Byline: Arifa Noor

THE government may have been new in 2019, but the turmoil remained the same. After the general election in 2018, the PTI government had come in promising tabdeeli (change) in all walks of life - from politics to economics to the environment - but a year-and-a-half later, it seemed that it contended with much that had plagued its predecessors. And, as a result, despite its rhetoric, many of its responses were no different from what had come before.

Indeed, we saw a government struggling with economic issues, a hostile neighbourhood, a powerful judiciary and media which doesn't stop flexing its muscle, throwing endless stories of the establishment's growing discomfort with the government.

But there were signs of change, too; change that may not always count as progress and was a clear departure from some norms established in the post-2008 period.

It can safely be said that the main factor ensuring that the PTI government has not had an easy time is because of the economic situation, internally, and the challenges created by the FATF grey list. What added to this was the government's own inexperience, the self-created weight of its promises that were made in haste while in opposition, and the attacks from other political parties.

Indeed, the struggle with the economy was the most difficult for a party which hadn't done its homework. Hamlet like, it struggled with its IMF-or-no-IMF decision, which also ended up claiming Asad Umer as its first casualty. But a more tried and tested approach to the economy, in the shape of a new but experienced finance team, didn't put an end to the feverish criticism that it was just incompetence.

This was partly due to the government's own delay in approaching the IMF and partly because the post-2008 consensus among political forces was not extended to the PTI (and neither was the PTI interested in it). The opposition was not willing to see the ruling party as any more legitimate than the PTI was willing to view the opposition as anything but criminal. The constant barrage of criticism from the other parties, amplified by the media, has now allowed little deviation from the view that the PTI is inept. The opposition was obviously motivated by far more than a fair election. The aggressive and unfair accountability drive has left it with little option but to direct its guns and venom at Imran Khan and his government; the easier targets in sight because of ministers who are more comfortable in...

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