It will be unable to deliver without building bridges
Imran Khan has been sworn in as Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister. Spanning over two decades his consistent struggle finally bearing fruit. Even in normal times, it’s not a bed of roses governing a difficult country like Pakistan.
But as the new prime minister himself realizes that these are extraordinarily difficult times. And the new PTI government does not have a magic wand to fix things in the short term.
The state of governance, the economy, foreign and security policy are in a big mess. Despite tall claims that terrorists are on the run, rampant terrorism, especially in the smaller provinces continues unabated.
The much-touted CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) has come under severe criticism for its lack of transparency. Some critics have even questioned economic efficacy of some of the projects. The PTI government should make full disclosure on this count.
All this is now squarely on the Khan’s plate. He no longer has the luxury of blaming corrupt and effete governments of the past for the mess. He is the government now.
Thankfully he realizes the gravity of the situation. That is why probably fixing the economy should be his top priority.
Even before the new government took oath an economic team of sorts was put in place. Apart from Asad Umar Abdul Razak Dawood has been inducted from the private sector. Probably some more will follow.
There is no dearth of competent economists in the country. Some are already giving unsolicited advice to the new government through different channels including through their newspaper columns.
The biggest loser in the bargain is Sharif as prime ministerial candidate as he was deprived of the PPP vote
Although there is no rocket science involved in how to fix the economy. The real problem however is having the political will to implement policies.
Unfortunately, our clergy belonging to different schools of thought do not agree on the modicum of basics even amongst themselves. In the same vein our so-called economic experts competing with each other do not see eye to eye on the fundamentals of the economy. Hence it will be in the fitness of things if the new government asked a committee of experts drawn from academia as well as from business and industry to come up with a plan within a given time frame.
The biggest drawback of the Sharif government was appointing its favorites to top slots of the bureaucracy. This played havoc with governance especially of the financial institutions.
Now it is to be seen the PTI that criticized the previous government while in the opposition for destroying institutions by politicizing them. How does it do things differently while in government? The initial euphoria of first 100 days gives it some space to fix things.
But a large opposition in the National Assembly, the Senate and the Punjab Assembly will try to pay the PTI in the same coin that it did while itself in the opposition. And if Imran Khan’s reactionary outburst reminiscent of his container style rhetoric in his first speech as leader of the house in the National Assembly is any indication the new PM is still stuck in opposition mode.
In fact, it was Bilawal Bhutto’s nuanced, balanced and conciliatory speech that stole the show. Perhaps the treasury benches will take cue from him starting with the PM himself.
Hopefully the new ruling party will seriously pursue a consensus building exercise within the parliament and respective provincial assemblies.
Luckily for the Khan the opposition is in disarray, for the time being at least. The PML-N has been simply unable to chart out a cogent strategy.
Shahbaz Sharif leading the PML-N charge within and outside the parliament has proved to be quite inept in timely decision making. Instead of common sense his bloated ego is guiding his action, it seems.
As the joint candidate of the opposition for prime minister he failed to muster support of the party’s allies within the opposition. Perhaps he reckoned that it was beneath his status to even reach out to Zardari and Bilawal within the parliament to ask for their support prior to the PM election in parliament.
Within the PPP there was already great resentment against Shahbaz for the flowery language that he had been consistently using aginst its leadership. Imran Khan did no less in castigating Zardari. But nonetheless he had the common sense (and common courtesy) to reach out to both the PPP co- chairperson and his son.
The biggest loser in the bargain is Sharif as prime ministerial candidate as he was deprived of the PPP vote. On voting day, he made a last ditch effort to win the support of the PPP spending a few minutes trying to convince Bilawal for his party’s votes but to no avail. Too little too late!
Nonetheless the PPP demonstrated its solidarity with the opposition by abstaining rather than voting for Imran Khan.
Sharif needs to step down from his white horse and take off his knight armour. The quicker he realizes that he is no longer ‘Khadim Aala’ the better for him and his party.
The PML-N leadership should conduct a post mortem of the speaker’s election debacle. Chaudhry Pervez Elahi managed to bag at least 15 PML-N MPAs votes in his favour.
Hopefully the new ruling party will seriously pursue a consensus building exercise within the parliament and respective provincial assemblies
The leader of the opposition Hamza Shahbaz might be Sharif’s heir apparent, but he is not a patch on the wily Chaudhry. If the incarcerated Nawaz Sharif is bailed out by Islamabad high court in the next few days perhaps the party will be in a better position to strategize.
The PML-N was slightly ahead in the numbers game in Punjab assembly. But like a headless chicken it simply failed to drive the advantage home.
Conversely the Khan’s point man Jahangir Tareen was quick on the take by bagging independents and small parties in favour of the PTI. Admittedly by virtue of luring legislators to join the King’s party, JKT had a relatively easier job.
But the demoralized PML-N did not give its best shot in Punjab. It did not even try. Now bitterly complaining that Tareen a disqualified person was using a plane to contact MNAs and MPAs and independents from all over the country.
Instead of complaining about horse-trading, the Sharifs should have invested their not so inconsiderable wealth and time on the same venture. As for JKT being ineligible to play politics because the apex court disqualified him, the same criteria would apply to Nawaz Sharif when he was stomping all over the country addressing rallies to present his case.
The Punjab assembly is going to be problematic both for the ruling party and the opposition. Within the House Chaudhry Pervez Elahi has already demonstrated that he is not just an honest broker as speaker. He will be hyper active in wheeling and dealing to further hemorrhage the PML-N led opposition.
Khan’s pick for CM Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar is quite surprising and confusing. Hailing from one of the most underdeveloped constituencies in the province Khan believes he understands the plight of the common man. That is all well and good but for him to understand the complexities of the province will be quite difficult. He is simply not cut out for the job.
What this appointment does achieve though is a temporary calm in the party where senior members were all eyeing the top job in Punjab. Relatively unknown and inexperienced he will have a tough time asserting himself.
Choudhry Mohammad Sarwar as governor will not simply warm his seat. As a master strategist he will also make concerted attempts to erode the PML-N’s support base within and outside the House.
In this context the incumbent chief minister between the devil and the deep sea will not be as powerful and omnipotent as his predecessor. The PML-N could find a window of opportunity in this context.
But unfortunately in its present state of disarray it is in no position to hold its own, leave alone making any inroads within the ruling party.