Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to redefine the image of his country with his dream of a ‘Naya Pakistan’, one which is corruption-free. Most importantly, he pledged to turn Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state, one based on the model of the State of Madina and on the guiding principles of the Prophet. With a battered economy, allies leaving his coalition government, internal disputes within the party and the fear of blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the balance sheet of the PTI government on the completion of its the second year in power, certainly does not look encouraging.
On the second anniversary of his government, Imran Khan made quite a few trips to television studios to rollout his achievements in the last two years. According to him, along with changing the image of Pakistan through his choices in foreign policy, exemplary management of the coronavirus pandemic; one of the top achievements of his government (according to Imran Khan) has been setting Pakistan on the path of an Islamic Welfare State, for which the country originally came into being. In an interview Imran said, he wants to make Pakistan an example for the Islamic world, just like Riyasat-e-Madina created by the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)”.
The Pakistan government has introduced the controversial Single National Curriculum Policy (SNCP) in an attempt to mainstream madrassas (seminaries). Under this policy, it is mandatory to teach dean-yaat (religious books on Islam) to students till class 5th and additionally, introduce a chapter on the life and history of the Prophet in the school syllabus of 8th, 9th and 10 standards so that the students can learn lessons from his life. For the critics of SNCP, this policy-change is more ideological than educational. It is argued that the policy has an overdose of religion that could lead to fear of indoctrination of children at a young stage. By this, mainstreaming of madrassas has been reversed, say educationists in Pakistan. The mainstream students could be heavily influenced by madrassas in the future. Also these days, Imran Khan speaks about the Islamic state in most of his media conversations.
Talking about the SNCP, prominent Pakistani educationist Pervez Hoodbhoy argues, this new curriculum will in no way bring equality among school children. He underlines that it is not an only overdose of religion for first to 5th standard students; but, they also have to learn the Quran, its translations and also duas (prayers). With such an overload of religion, where would be the place for other subjects? Questions Hoodbhoy. He noted that madrassas are meant to prepare for the afterlife and the schools are meant to prepare the young minds for this life, how these two can be combined? He also questioned the credibility of the 400 experts consulted for charting out the new curriculum. It also has to be noted that scores of books are enlisted to be banned, which do not comply with the new policy!
According to a survey on the performance of PTI government in the last two years, 54% Pakistanis feel that the current government has failed and performed badly in these two years. The five main indicators of this bad performance are: increased inflation, increased unemployment, bad cabinet selection, corruption and U-turns by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Mr. Khan had promised to bring new talent to build a ‘Naya’ Pakistan but are the new talents? Ask people within and outside Khan’s own party.
For many years the security establishment has been considered the determiner of national security and foreign policy in Pakistan, but that the role appears to have become more pronounced under the PTI government. Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa on many occasions has tried to save the face of the government from the impulsive decisions of Prime Minister Khan and his cabinet; the latest being his trip to Saudi Arabia to mend fences caused by Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement on OIC. Even to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the military came out with the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) that was deemed more successful than the National Coordination Committee (NCC) headed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
There are reports that discord is brewing within the cabinet of the PTI government, and many members are not on the same page when it comes to Imran’s mission of making an Islamic welfare state. With an uncompromising opposition, weak economy and sword of the FATF hanging, it will be interesting if Imran Khan can utilize the rest of his term in bringing in the Riyasat-e-Madina or would actually wake up to ground realities!
Script: Dr. Zainab Akhter, Analyst on Pakistan