Tea without biscuits | Pakistan Today

Tea without biscuits

  • Naya Pakistan in the making

Shabana Mahfooz

First day at work in a jogging attire, oath taking ceremony in reportedly record low budget, first address to nation comprising an array of expected and unexpected topics delivered extempore, first cabinet meeting served tea only without biscuits – these are some of the highlights of Imran Khan’s moves as the prime minister of Pakistan which are making quite a few waves across the nation.

The waves he claimed to have made with a Tsunami of change in the last elections and ebbing the flow with a dub of tabdeeli this time seem to have come in full motion. Imran Khan, with a full toss has hit the deck and is now all geared up to captain the nation in a ‘five year test match’. It’s a test of the extent to which he can fulfil his promises and eradicate the ills with a clean sweep. And it’s a match between him and the opposition, which now cornered, is waiting to make some sort of a comeback with a reverse swing.

But for now, it’s Imran Khan. With quite a few references to the number 22 (22-year old political career, 22-run victory in cricket World Cup, 22nd prime minister of the 22 crore nation) and July termed as his lucky month, his emergence has been almost labelled auspicious for the nation. His supporters, swelling in number, chanting the upbeat, hip swinging tabdeeli track of his party, are rest assured that a change has indeed come and more will be witnessed in the days to come. That the days of glory for Pakistan are here and the founder of nation is fondly watching over Khan from somewhere beyond the grave. The story has gone too far, and this is only one end of the polarisation Pakistan is witnessing.

Moderation is not our middle name. We either hate voraciously or love unflinchingly. On the other polarised end, thanks to modern photoshop technologies, Imran Khan has been depicted as having some sort of satanic links. And the haters were, probably still are, sure that he supports Zionism! Apart from routine criticisms on policies and practices and defences against them, we tend to go to extremes, on each end. This does not show only our incredibly intense emotional side; it also shows our narrow mindedness, fragile egos, impatience and lack of knowledge, to say the least.

Imran Khan has come with a hefty mandate. He has huge support and much larger expectations. It is, but quite natural that some may throw doubt, some may question his ability to deliver

But criticism, if justified, is necessary for democracy to grow unhindered. When the nation went gaga over Imran Khan’s casual jog to work on Sunday, there’s not much to criticise. However, an in-depth and analytical approach to judge his first address to nation does reveal issues which remain unanswered to the fiercest critics. Talking about human development, health, education, climate change and austerity, among the other more expected issues of foreign affairs, economy and corruption, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address was indeed impressive. But many question his choice of not talking about extremism and the country’s security policy. They are still vague about him terming some militant groups as ‘misunderstood’. They still want to know why his last provincial government funded a madrassa known to have links with the Taliban. Maybe these issues would be addressed on another occasion, but for now, the critics were left asking for more.

His staunch adherence to the Finality of Prophethood clause in the blasphemy law may be unavoidable, especially when seeking power in the country, but many consider his declaration on the issue as a card to secure votes from the religious lot.

His chosen cabinet of 21 ministers is termed by quite a few as nothing naya, with many old faces coming from Musharraf’s term to repeat their vows and responsibilities. While most praise his decision for himself and his ministers to work for longer hours which could even require forgetting about family matters, some doubt how practical this resolution would be in the longer term. On a personal note, the bureaucratic culture of enjoying lavish facilities, lesser hours at office and putting off important matters behind at the cost of tax payers’ money should end, genuinely increased efforts would only bring some better to the nation. If individuals can work at high posts in the private sector for late hours, why not for the government?

Others are observing how he attempts to build his relation with India. Will it be an independent, diplomatic effort or will it retain the security interests as expected by the military, is the highlight of their wait and watch approach.

These are all valid points raised and indeed deserve a response. But the irony comes when die hard supporters lash out their anger with a ‘how dare you’ attitude. The problem in Pakistan is that sadly we find ourselves unable to hold a healthy debate. We, as journalists, may express our opinions to some extent, if accepted, in such op-ed sections, but a face to face dialogue may only be possible among like-minded people, in private settings. Otherwise, it’s just an uproar of loud voices or a fear of bearing the brunt for speaking truth.

Imran Khan has come with a hefty mandate. He has huge support and much larger expectations. It is, but quite natural that some may throw doubt, some may question his ability to deliver. He has made many bold decisions which are indeed praiseworthy, but where commitments are not made, there is always room for queries. It is this gap which we, the nation, have to help meet. Baseless and emotional defences will not give answers and sniggering will not give solutions. If there is genuine criticism, it should be met with openness. But promoting false stories just to spice up a conversation can serve personal goals, not national.

One of the decisions taken by Imran Khan as prime minister which I personally find much appreciable is to practice austerity – not only in his own life but among other government officers. Just like his cabinet members drank tea without any assortments, we should judge Imran Khan and his government the same way – without showing compulsive behaviour of emotions. In Naya Pakistan, praise when deserved, criticise when wronged, answer when questioned, practise moderation not polarisation.

The writer is a broadcast journalist and freelance writer. She has keen interest in issues concerning women, religion and foreign affairs.