Propaganda, no substitute for governance

Propaganda, no substitute for governance
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s strategy for survival is not based on good governance or performance. It is based on two Goebbelian propositions: first, if you lie about something time and again, the gullible masses will begin to treat it as the truth. Second, if you continuously hound your enemies to the wall, they will have no time to focus on your failures. Thus the tall claims made by Imran Khan and his cohorts about their own successes and the crimes of their political opponents.

Shahzad Akbar, the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability, is wont to making tall claims but has seldom much to show for them. Recently he outdid himself when he boasted that the PTI government had signed an Extradition Treaty with the British government whereby Ishaq Dar, the ex-PMLN Finance Minister, “hiding” in London would be repatriated to Pakistan, after being brought before a British magistrate, to face various corruption charges. But a day later, an intrepid reporter in London asked the British Home Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to clarify the situation. Pat came Mr Hunt’s response in the presence of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “There is no extradition treaty that the UK would ever sign that would allow for politically motivated extradition”, said Mr Hunt. Mr Qureshi could only muster one word in concurrence: “Correct”. It seems that Mr Dar hasn’t been sitting at home twiddling his thumbs. He had already met with officials of the Home Office to acquaint them with the facts of the political victimization of the PMLN’s leading stalwarts, including himself.

It seems that Mr Hafeez Sheikh, Pakistan’s finance minister appointed by the IMF to negotiate with the IMF, has also succumbed to this Tall Claims disease after rubbing shoulders with Imran Khan. He recently announced that the Asian Development Bank would chip in with over US$3.4 billion in aid to Pakistan. Stunned by the falsehood, the ADB had to pull out its spokesman from his weekend reverie and issue a swift denial.

Award for the Tallest Claim, however, goes to Imran Khan himself. Not so long ago, he announced a bonanza of oil and gas off the shores of Karachi that would transform Pakistan from a hell of poverty into a paradise of plenty. The ministry concerned and the American oil drilling company were not amused: they were shutting up shop and heading home after confirmed failure to discover anything when the prime minister was exhorting Pakistanis to offer “thanksgiving” prayers to the Almighty for showering them with his largesse. Mr Khan has now achieved legendary status as the Pied Piper of Pakistan. He claimed he would end corruption in 90 days. He claimed that he would attract hundreds of billions of dollars from expatriate Pakistanis for investment in Pakistan. He pledged to present 5 million houses to the poor. He vowed to plant 1 billion trees in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He also said he would commit suicide before begging the IMF for money (pity that he didn’t). The list is unending.

Not to be forgotten is the PTI Minister, Faisal Vawda who recently claimed that his government would provide 1 million jobs to Pakistanis in a matter of weeks.

Now the government has sourced a report that claims “India has responded positively to Pakistan’s offer of talks”. Delhi says no such thing has happened.

As if the NAB witch hunt against the PMLN and PPP isn’t enough to detract attention from the PTI government’s resounding failures on every front, the doer prime minister has now established a commission of inquiry to investigate why the national debt has ballooned in the last ten years. This commission is headed by a police officer in NAB. It comprises investigators from various government agencies and departments like a veritable JIT. This is remarkable, considering that economic policy rationale is the supposed subject of the inquiry, which an A-Level student of Economics can give us on the basis of facts and figures supplied by the State Bank of Pakistan and the Finance Ministry. Equally, Dr Hafeez Sheikh, the PTI’s finance minister who was part architect of some of those debt-driven economic policies in the Musharraf and Zardari governments, can brief the PM about the logic behind them. But no. The PM would rather treat this exercise as a criminal offense by the PPP and PMLN. Hence there is no attempt to even consider what happened under military governments.

That indefatigable warrior against corruption, Shahzad Akbar, has explained that this commission will probe, with the help of the Auditor General of Pakistan, all the economic projects of the PPP/PMLN governments that have shaped the debt profile of the country with a view to unearthing the corruptions that lined the pockets of PPP/PMLN politicians and their families. In other words, more of the same propaganda against the opposition.

This strategy is not a substitute for governance. Propaganda cannot provide employment, health, education or homes. It cannot put money into the pockets of the needy. This everyday truth will come to haunt the PTI in time to come.

Najam Aziz Sethi is a Pakistani journalist, businessman who is also the founder of The Friday Times and Vanguard Books. Previously, as an administrator, he served as Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board, caretaker Federal Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan.