For PTI, the time for action is now!
The current government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) appears to walk from one crisis to another. Recently, a video emerged showing PTI’s coalition partners in Punjab complaining to Jahangir Tareen about growing infighting within the government in the province. Moreover, the government has been under pressure due to the growing criticism of political opposition parties and its inability to effectively implement its first 100-day agenda. Compounding all these issues is the question of growing influence and foothold of religious hardliners in the country. As it appears, PTI’s first year in power looks like the outgoing government last year in power: Inaccessible, being under pressure from religious and political groups, divided internally and economically damaged.
The current government appears to have caged itself in its own rhetoric of accountability and the inspiring example of good governance. On the other hand, opposition and independent watchers believe that nothing has changed under the current government. Rather, even day to day affairs of governance needs serious attention as politicking explodes among the party leadership ranks and the bureaucracy seems under pressure to deliver without a clear vision or clear leadership.
First, Imran Khan needs to control and rein in political ambitions of his own party’s leaders. The party is more divided internally than it was in the past. Various powerbrokers are vying to control the bureaucracy and as a result are competing with each other and that has only affected the government’s overall performance. Arguably, the first 100 days of the government should have been the ideal time to implement or give a clear vision to Khan’s political agenda. Rather, Khan’s cabinet has been doing everything except to help the former in implementing his vision. In a country like Pakistan where implementing policies on the ground is an altogether different challenge, the rhetoric of implementing a reform agenda doesn’t help in offering a boost to any government’s credibility.
Every day’s debates in the Parliament are an indication of how the government is failing to internalize that it’s not in opposition anymore
All Imran Khan needs to do is to become a better reformer than the outgoing government of the PML-N. One can agree or disagree with the politics of the PML-N but one cannot deny the pace and ability of the outgoing government when it was about reining in bureaucracy or ambitions of the party’s leaders at provincial or national level. Moreover, Shahbaz Sharif’s performance in Punjab was something which could have been matched by a smart and able politician. There is one thing which is being noticed and talked about for the past two months in Punjab: the province appears to have come to standstill after the recent elections as the current leadership of the PTI is doing everything in the province except building on what the previous government did. For instance, the appointment of the current chief minister was done mainly for two reasons: One, to sell his standing as a leader who belongs to the province’s most undeveloped region and second to appease all major political stakeholders in the province including coalition partners that disagreed on any and every capable name which was actually capable of delivering. Hence, with a dysfunctional CM in Punjab, space is wide open for all political heavyweights in the province to build their own politics in the province at the cost of good governance.
Moreover, at the national level, political opposition has become more emboldened due to the government’s minister’s poor performance at the very beginning of the tenure. For instance, one thing which has been very poorly managed under the current government is Public Relations (PR). This is an area, which for every government, offers a backbone to its narrative of good governance and service delivery. Every day, the political opposition in Pakistan sees a government who’s poorly handled and in-cohesive PR machine is exposing itself. For many, it’s the government which looks to be part of the opposition rather than the opposition itself. Every day’s debates in the Parliament are an indication of how the government is failing to internalize that it’s not in opposition anymore.
It’s high time for Khan’s government that they start focusing on their actual governance agenda as defeating the opposition by doing more opposition while in government is only going to hurt the PTI. Moreover, Khan has to make it clear to his political aids and party leadership that if within three months the party’s loyal and committed workers have started to ask questions related to the PTI’s ability to govern, some changes should be made and some actions should be taken. Recent protests of various Islamist groups have already brought down Khan’s popularity level as a reformer, and with concerning debates of a divided government which is nothing different than the outgoing government; PTI is going to lose its support base which it built over the last two decades.