After a difficult two-year run for the PTI government, the opposition parties' statements have listed a number of failures of the ruling set-up. The scorecard is a mixed one at best, despite the tall claims made by cabinet ministers and assorted spokespeople. Leaders of opposition parties such as Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari have issued statements listing a number of failures of the government, while some polls have shown ambivalent responses that belie the extremes pointed out by both the government and the opposition.
It may be unfair to judge a government at the two-year mark of its five-year mandate, but it does provide an opportunity to look at some recurring patterns and trends that have marked the performance of Prime Minister Imran Khan's administration.
The PTI hobbled into power carrying the heavy burden of its own lofty rhetoric and expansive promises. That burden did not mix well with the inexperience of wielding power. The first year was therefore marked less by decisive and bold action and more by shaky governance bruised by ill-thoughtout decision-making and frequent policy reversals. The handling of the economy - touted as the strongest point of the PTI - was soon judged adversely and the team replaced midstream. The PTI government struggled to define a broad vision that could be sculpted into actionable policy through clarity of ideas and direction.
While trying to do everything - from the mundane to the sublime - the government ended up with a vague agenda that promised a lot but was unable to deliver specifics. The Balakot incident and Pakistan's calibrated and mature response to Indian aggression was perhaps Prime Minister Imran Khan's finest hour. This was a pattern that has manifested itself in stable and balanced foreign policy and handling of external issues.
However, on the domestic front, the trend has been the opposite: lack of consistency in policy leading to governance problems like sharp price hikes; a politically drenched approach to accountability that has dented the credibility of the process; and a haphazard focus on issues resulting in the neglect of critical structural reform that was supposed to reflect the PTI's manifesto. Such weaknesses have been most visible in Punjab, which is ironical because the country's largest province was expected to be the PTI's crown jewel.
Media space has also shrunk under the PTI's watch. This continues to be a disturbing trend, but the government's approach amounts to a denial of the problem. On two fronts, however, the PTI government can claim due credit: the successful handling of Covid-19 that has brought the pandemic under control; and the Ehsaas programme that has strengthened the social safety network originally conceived by the PPP through the Benazir Income Support Programme. The NCOC has been a success story, and it managed the Covid19 crisis with clarity and efficiency. If such efficiency can be replicated in other areas of governance, the PTI could certainly improve its performance in its third year.