Blaming the Team

Imran’s greatest blunder is that he made false promises to the people, writes Farhatullah Babar

Blaming the Team
As he prepares to enter the third year in office as prime minister, Imran Khan has asked his ministers to pull their socks. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, he reportedly warned them that things could go out of control if they failed to show progress in six months.

Traditionally the third year of any government has indeed been critical. Before the 18th Amendment hardly any elected government survived its third year in office. After the 18th Amendment, completing a full five-year term has not been easy. Both the PPP and PML-N may have completed their terms but not without losing their respective prime ministers in the middle.

The rattling usually witnessed in the third year in office is already to be seen. Akhtar Mengal has announced to take his faction of BNP out of the coalition. Angry over the cut in federal PSDP, Blochistan chief minister Jam Kamal has said that “so far” an announcement has not been made by his party BAP to quit the collation at the centre. Emerging from retirement, Tahirul Qadri has taken to task the prime minister for failing to provide justice to the victims of the June 2014 Model Town Lahore massacre. Ministers are talking openly about the rifts in the party. At the last cabinet meeting, the prime minister had to intervene to stop the squabbling ministers.

TV anchors known to be wired to powerful quarters and who until recently praise Imran Khan, seem to have suddenly turned against him.

The prime minister may be right in warning that matters may go from bad to worse if there is no progress. But can the ministers deliver in six months what has not been delivered in the last two years?

Imran had started with huge political capital: unqualified support of all state institutions and a people more than willing to give chance to someone who was new, untested, largely untainted and had made the right noises in his two decades in politics. None else but he himself squandered this capital.

He self-righteously assumed that just one leader at the top mattered to put things right and gave the example of the 1992 World Cup. Just the right captain to lead and the World Cup had to come its way, he believed. History for him began and ended with the 1992 World Cup.

His greatest folly is not, as some of his own ministers now suggest, that he relied too heavily on electables at the cost of his own ideological party workers.

His greatest folly was that, contrary to general expectation, he had done no homework for governance for which he had waged a struggle for two decades. Political observers were shocked when in his first address to the nation, called by an English daily “astounding first address to the nation,” he rambled about almost everything except hard core polices and how these will be implemented.

Acknowledging that politics was not his profession, he said his mission was to “save Pakistan and mould it into an Islamic welfare state as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam,” but there was no concrete action plan. He talked of mounting debt no doubt. But his recipe was to sell the cars of the prime minister’s house. A grave national issue could not have been more trivialised.

Imran’s second mistake was to revert to do exactly the previous political governments were accused of: doing politics of power instead of principles.

He had promised to be different from all of them. But once in office, he was prepared to pay any price for staying in power. He inducted turn coats from other political parties, bent over backwards to appease an overbearing security establishment whom he had been faulting in the past for political instability, turned a blind eye to corruption in his own ranks and went back one by one on his promises.

The apologists for Imran now offer different excuses such as the rivalry between Jehangir Tareen, Asad Umar and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the ‘incompetent team’ around him and the “corrupt opposition.” Imran himself blames the opposition and is distrustful of the parliament where the majority “corrupt politicians” have joined hands to frustrate his noble designs.

Trivialisation of serious national issues continues.

The coronavirus is no more than just flu, he had said. “Don’t worry, let the summer heat set it and it will disappear. Doctors demanding lock downs are politicians rather than medical professionals.” He has also proudly recalled that we were the only Muslim country that did not even close the mosques.

Taking this cue, a minister said that more people died in road accidents but the traffic flow is not stopped. Another one said that impressed with Imran’s policies, even the New York governor had decided to copy him. When things appeared to go haywire, another minister said that the people were responsible because they are ‘jahil’ (illiterate) and not serious.

Imran’s greatest blunder, however, is that he made false promises to the people.

He failed to realise the impossibility of fulfilling too tall promises. He promised to bring back from foreign banks the 200 billion dollars of ‘looted wealth’ in a month, build five million houses and give 10 million jobs. In the Naya Pakistan, shaped on the pattern of Madina, state foreigners from Europe and all nationalities will queue up for jobs in Pakistan, he claimed.

People cannot be faulted if in his third year in office they begin to lose faith in politics, the parliament and democratic institutions.

Seeing the structure crumbling, Imran Khan now asks his ministers to pull up and save it from demolition. But how can the ministers save a structure that is not there except in Khan’s imagination? Khan alone is responsible for the mess.

The writer is a former senator