Why PTI failed to implement reform agenda in first two years?

Incremental adjustments instead of real reforms introduced by PTI government

 Many people are asking this question. Despite having good intentions, why the PTI government led by Prime minister Imran Khan has so far failed to introduce the promised reforms. PTI leadership including PM Imran Khan considers good intentions and personal honesty enough to bring change in the system. The leadership believed that good intentions would solve many problems without realising the basic fact that good intension must be backed with concrete policies, strategy and measures.

PTI came with very strong promises of reform. It promised fundamental reforms in governance, provision of justice, equity and law and order and eradication of corruption. The PTI had promised major investments in human development, especially health, education and skill provision, housing and employment generation/creation.

The biggest disappointment about PTI government is that it failed to introduce promised reforms in police, judiciary, administration, criminal justice system and tax system. There is hardly any improvement in governance.

In the first two years of its government, the PTI failed to implement the promised reforms in the governance structure, the judicial system, the economy, the civil service and the police.

So far, the PTI government has opted for incremental adjustments in the political, economic and administrative systems instead of bringing about any real reforms to create Naya Pakistan. The only visible change in the last 100 days is that new faces now occupy the highest political offices.

Artificial measures, empty promises, U-turns, mere slogans and rhetoric have been the hallmark of the PTI government’s two years  in power. This has exposed the party’s incompetence, ill-preparedness, and confusion in policy matters.

The PTI came into power with slogans of change. Before the general elections were held on July 25, the party announced its political, governance and economic reforms agenda that it would implement in the first 100 days in office. The PTI clearly stated that its action plan would fix longstanding structural issues that continue to plague governance, the federation and the economy, besides strengthening security.

Then the deadline extended to six months. After six months, the government started to say that it will take longer than it initially thought to implement the reform agenda. Now after two years, the PTI government is saying let’s wait till the completion of its tenure in 2023. In first two years, none of the major reforms have been introduced.     

Not a single concrete step was taken in the first two years to reform the police system and do away with the Thana culture. Right-wing reforms always strengthen the status quo and the domination of ruling class. As a right-wing populist party, the PTI will adopt similar reforms to strengthen the forces of the status quo. Therefore, the PTI government is following policies that benefit the ruling class and the elite. There is hardly any difference between the policies of the PTI government and those introduced during the PML-N and PPP governments.

Civil service, police and judicial reforms are essentially about decolonising the colonial state structure and introducing drastic changes in socioeconomic structures. Reforms can never transform or replace the existing system. They only make repressive and exploitative systems more acceptable for the working class.

To undertake such radical reforms, the government requires political will and determination to attack the interests of powerful groups and all the beneficiaries of the status quo.

The ruling classes undertake serious reforms under two conditions. First, when they are convinced that these reforms will inevitably improve their own system and make it more efficient. Second, the ruling classes are facing immense pressure from the working class and the middle class to accept their demands and make necessary changes in the system.  Mass movements organised by the working class and the middle class can impose enough pressure on the ruling class and the government to initiate radical reforms and drastic changes in the system. The radical reforms introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s were the result of the mass mobilisation of the working class, and sections of radicalised the middle class, students and peasants.

Unfortunately, both conditions don’t exist in Pakistan at present to initiate drastic measures to change socioeconomic policies and reform the system. The PTI government is not in a position to go against the political, economic and social interests of feudal lords, tribal chiefs, the state bureaucracy and the capitalist class to initiate land reforms, progressive tax reforms, and decolonise the state structure.

The people want the government to concentrate on issues related to poverty; unemployment; educational and health woes; judicial, civil service and police reforms; social justice; inequality; and exploitation. They want to see a new direction in terms of policies.


I criticised the policies of the PTI government in an earlier article, titled ‘A disappointing start’ published in these pages on September 7. Some readers criticised me for prematurely giving my verdict on the performance of a government that was just two weeks old.

“Imran Khan’s right-wing populist government has done little on the economic front,” I wrote. “…There will be no major change in terms of economic policies because the economic team consists of reliable economists who subscribe to the IMF/World Bank school of thought and believe in the free market and neoliberal economic policies.

“Although the PTI government’s economic managers and advisers may be seasoned professionals who have served in both national and international institutions, and have the best intentions, the fault lies with the ideas and policies that they represent. They aren’t prepared to learn from the experiences and results of the neoliberal onslaught and the failure of the free-market policies over the last three decades. The right-wing PTI government wants to continue with its old economic policies, but expects different results”.

It seems that the PTI has no concrete plan or policy to enhance productive capacity and boost agricultural and industrial production. Industrialisation is still a distant dream, and land reforms and the modernisation of agriculture are necessary to reduce rural poverty. The desire to reduce poverty and unemployment cannot be realised without investing in efforts to increase the productive capacity of the industrial and agricultural sectors.

PTI government came into power on high hopes of change and reforms. The PTI leaders made tall claims of ‘Naya Pakistan’ and ‘Tabdeeli’. None of the major election promises and manifesto pledges so far been fulfilled by PTI government.

PTI leadership is not ready to accept the fact that it raised the hopes of the people unrealistically without realising the ground realities. It made unrealistic promises and pledges. Radical rhetoric was used without any concrete strategy and homework. It made promises that were not possible to fulfill in a declining economy.

                                                           Khalid Bhatti  


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