Moeen Qureshi

Moeen Qureshi

During his three-month tenure as caretaker prime minister, Moeen Qureshi initiated a substantial number of strong reform measures. He devalued the currency and cut farm subsidies, while raising the prices of wheat, electricity, and gasoline--strategies to reduce Pakistan's huge budget deficit-- 7.5 percent of the gross national product (GNP). Qureshi also cut public-sector expenditures by instituting austerity measures, including closing down ten embassies and abolishing fifteen ministries. Qureshi's most daring innovation, however, was a temporary levy on agricultural output--a measure resisted by powerful zamindari interests.

Qureshi next proceeded to single out those politicians who had outstanding loans obtained from state banks and institutions--loans received under easy terms in return for past political favors--a total estimated at US$2 billion. In a move calculated to shame these individuals, Qureshi added their names to a published list of 5,000 individuals who had not fulfilled their loan obligations. Approximately 15 percent of the individuals on the list had planned to run for office in the coming elections. These candidates included Benazir, Benazir s husband, and Nawaz Sharif's brother. Most candidates quickly repaid their loans; those who did not were barred from contesting the October 1993 elections. Drug-trafficking barons, however, a small but powerful group including some members of the parliament--were permanently barred from running in the elections. Anticipating a further crackdown, several of the drug barons fled the country.

In his three months in power, Qureshi exhibited an admirable degree of technocratic efficiency tempered by dogged determination. Yet it remained to be seen whether his achievements would be accepted without reversal by the subsequent administration. Indeed, the Qureshi caretaker government, some argue, because of its temporary nature, was not much constrained by the realpolitik of Pakistani society that the succeeding government would have to face. The Qureshi government had, nonetheless, set a standard--one with which past governments and the succeeding government of Benazir would no doubt be compared.

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