The PTI should not use the old playbook
Amidst much enthusiasm, fervour and eagerness for change, the 2018 general election was contested. The voters and supporters of all the parties put their shoulders to the wheel in contesting the election. The PTI held aloft the banner of change. Its all-embracing and all-inclusive manifesto covered everything under the sun: holding out promises to the masses to eradicate corruption, to recover the plundered money parked in foreign accounts, to prop up the rupee against the dollar, to cajole the investors around the world into investing in Pakistan, to establish meritocracy, to give special importance to education and health, to lift the poor out of the quagmire of poverty, to bring down the prices of commodities, including gas, petrol, electricity, to break the begging bowl, to boost exports, to fix the battered and cash-strapped economy of the country, thereby setting it on the path to prosperity. This was a tall order, indeed. PTI chief Imran Khan made impressive speeches during the course of electioneering, invoking Quran and Hadith often, undertaking to model the state of Pakistan on the state of Medina. Almost always, he would mention the success stories of the Shaukat Khanum Hospital and 1992 Cricket World Cup. In their desperation, the people of Pakistan started believing him with their eyes shut, buying the narrative sold to them and dreaming about a fundamentally changed Pakistan. Apparently, consumed with revulsion towards two other mainstream parties and their supremos, they did not even bother about the fact that the turncoats were jumping on the bandwagon of the PTI, and they were being welcomed and greeted with open arms in its ranks. A debate ensued, drawing flak from its opponents. A robust defence was put up by the PTI’s proponents and loyalists, trying to explain it away. It was argued that it was unavoidable to win the elections. In other words, a necessary evil. To cut a long story short, thevPTI won the election.
Imran made his maiden speech as Prime Minister on 19 August 2018, setting out the 100-day plan, reiterating and rehashing the PTI’s election manifesto, and promising reforms and new projects. In a word, he presented the model of a welfare state. Praise flowed in from all quarters and from people of all walks of life. He made certain immediate decisions in pursuance of moderation and austerity drive: like not to reside in Prime Minister House, announcing to convert it into an international standard university.
Soon, the government announced to sell the buffaloes and cars of the PM’s House by conducting auctions. Apart from it, Imran formed a number of task forces and sub-task forces to translate the dream of Naya Pakistan into reality.
Imran made his maiden speech as Prime Minister on 19 August 2018, setting out the 100-day plan, reiterating and rehashing the PTI’s election manifesto, and promising reforms and new projects
People were in for a rude awakening when IK constituted the federal cabinet. Most of the cabinet members had served in previous cabinets. As if this were not enough, people were taken aback by the selection of Chief Minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar. They were reminded of a proverb “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. Again, the criticism started. Yet again, the PTI tried fully to come up with arguments to explain it away. People were requested to give the new government some time to settle. It was maintained that it was too early to judge a fledgling and nascent government. Once again, people took the ruling party at its words.
As 100 days went by, Islamabad witnessed a ceremony where the PTI beat its own drum, celebrating its self-proclaimed achievements. At that, analysts, anchorpersons and columnists took Imran and his party to task for failing to follow through on its promises, dismissing the celebrations as an abortive attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of people. Again, the PTI repeated its refrain, imploring the people to give it some time, so that it could make the promises materialize which it had made to the people. Once again, it was given time.
Now that seven months have passed away, is it not the appropriate time to judge the ruling party and the man in the saddle, Imran, on the touchstone of performance? The PTI has all along been brandishing its good intentions to wave aside the criticism levelled at it. However, are mere good intentions enough to wave away the economic woes of the people of this country? One may ask. It goes without saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
So far, the PTI has been long on promises and short on delivery. There is no gainsaying that Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability, has got the gift of the gab. Be that as it may, not a single dollar so far has been recovered from the money stashed abroad. When it comes to legislation, not a single bill has been introduced in the National Assembly, much less signed into law. The man in the street, who voted for the PTI, is ruing the day he did so and wringing his hands in despair. He feels as if he were fed on false hopes and dreams. A slew of new taxes has been introduced, wringing the money out of the downtrodden and underprivileged. The price of everything has gone up. Bills of electricity, gas, water, and telephone have shot up manifold in the short tenure of the ruling party, to say nothing of the price of petrol. Worst of all, the dollar stands at 141.18 rupees, at the time of writing. People shudder to think if this is the foretaste, what the future holds for them.
Bespectacled, wearing a broad smile on his face and with a dimple in his cheek, Finance Minister Asad Umar confuses an ordinary man with economic jargon in a vain attempt to make him understand that the economy is in dire straits, and as such he can’t help taking drastic steps. Additionally, he points an accusing finger at the past governments and says emphatically that the PTI has inherited a moribund economy, trotting out the same old argument that the state coffers are empty. At this juncture, one may pose a simple, albeit blunt question, how is the PTI expected to bring about a positive change, when it is copying the playbooks of previous governments? People have started experiencing déjà vu. One is reminded of a saying of Albert Einstein, which was often quoted by Imran: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
the PTI emerged as a new ray of hope on the political horizon. It should not dash the hopes of those who placed their confidence in it
This is indeed a sad commentary on the state of affairs. Last but not least, the PTI should not add to the woes, sufferings, and travails of those living below the poverty line. It goes without saying that the PTI emerged as a new ray of hope on the political horizon. It should not dash the hopes of those who placed their confidence in it and turn their dreams to dust, thereby bogging them down in hopelessness. The sooner it starts delivering on its promises, the better it would be. Let us keep our fingers crossed.