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PM Imran Khan surprised the nation by announcing the induction of a layer of competent meritocracy in the management of state affairs by replacing his economic team with experts from outside, namely, the Federal Finance Minister, Chairman FBR and Governor State Bank of Pakistan - the trio which put together can make or break the economy of the country and with that the destiny of the 200 million people of the nation.

The decision had a great element of surprise in it, so much so that even PM Imran Khan's closest member of the inner circle, namely, the then Finance Minister Asad Umar, was still clueless when the PM conveyed to him his decision about a change in economic team leadership.

Soon after, speculations claimed that the change was influenced by the IMF, establishment or politics from within his close circles. But anyone who knows Imran Khan a bit deeper will understand that it was his call.

With years of struggle in the field of cricket and politics, he has well burnished his inbuilt sense and skills to recognise a red flag and therefore act accordingly.

After eight months of tireless struggle to put the country's economy on track, PM Imran Khan finally concluded that his government has been checkmated. It was now or never for him and his government as the opposition was rolling its sleeves up to pounce on him, the public had reached its limits of despondency and the other pillars of state were beginning to seriously doubt his government's competence in managing state affairs. The stakes were too high to be further ignored.

The appointment of the new Finance Minister, the Governor State Bank and Chairman FBR are merit-based appointments and for the first time true meritocracy has been injected into the state governance. It has given new hope to the nation.

The change in the economic team attracted a slew of criticism from the opposition benches both in the parliament and the senate, the media and the opinion makers. The conspiracy theories prevailed over rational reasoning.

Many argued that the change was influenced by some hidden agenda of IMF to subjugate Pakistan to its dictates and is a threat to the sovereignty of the country.

The IMF is like any other lender which gives loan against quantified collateral and upon confirmation that the borrower has in place reliable systems and processes of check and balances and above all has the ability to pay back and the probability of default is limited.

The biggest threat to the nation's sovereignty is from within; it's not external. The threat to sovereignty is the rampant corruption, poor governance, failing institutions, tax evasion, more and more people sliding below the poverty line - all which culminates into systematic failing of democracy one regime after another. This is where all the political parties should focus on in case they are sincere to the electorate who positioned them as legislators in both the houses of parliament.

A simple analytical mind, free from vested interest can reason out that democracy without a defined layer of meritocracy embedded in state governance is a sure recipe for disaster - especially when it comes to state economic governance. All the nations that have excelled in economy and provided better life to their people are the ones where meritocracy prevailed. The nations that have failed in economy and in providing better life to their people are the ones whose leadership exploited democracy for their own good and replaced meritocracy with cronyism, nepotism and vested interest-driven state governance.

In the beginning, the PTI government largely ignored meritocracy. This omission could not hold back the avalanche of economic meltdown in all business segments - exports, foreign direct investment, retail, real estate, industry and commerce. There were calls for a change - some loud and some subdued.

Also, the appointment of new FBR chairman from private sector attracted an unprecedented protest by the bureaucracy. But what was more surprising was the protest from the ranks of PTI stalwarts against the induction of technocrats at key positions for state governance although it was meant to save them and the party at the end of the day.

It is heartening to note that PM Khan coolly stood steadfast against the discord and let the merit prevail in the best national interest and once again kindled hope of a better tomorrow.

The situation underscores the need for both treasury and the opposition to play a meaningful role towards sustaining the system of democracy installed through great sacrifices. Economy of the nation alone can be the game changer.

(The writer is the former President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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