The opposition exists to make noise. Their very foundation is built upon finding flaws in the reigning political party’s moves. Each misplaced decision by the incumbent government provides an opportunity for their narrative to grow stronger. With the dollar hike, Asad Umar’s departure and the cabinet reshuffle, even the common man who voted with high hopes for change under Imran Khan has begun to question PTI’s competence. The stock market fluctuations indicate a lack economic stability. Petrol prices were raised just before Eid. Commodity prices are expected to rise further. Is PTI headed from the politics of U-turns to a downturn? And who is to blame?
As a public figure Imran Khan has faced a vast range of criticism directed at both his personal life and political beliefs. However, the label of corrupt still evades him. At a young age Imran Khan attained what most men spend their whole life chasing- wealth and fame. Yet, in 1994, at the age of 42 Imran Khan built a charitable cancer hospital in the memory of his mother. Two years later he founded his own party. And for the next two decades he pursued this dream. PTI gained significant mileage during the 2013 elections. The sit-ins gave them further recognition. It is hard to forget the image of shalwaars hanging before the grand Supreme Court building.
During the 2018 general elections PTI’s popularity peaked. Imran Khan had put before the people something as effective as it is dangerous: hope. He offered hope of change. It was the hope of transitioning Pakistan into a new era of justice and prosperity for every citizen. PTI’s entire election campaign was built around this ideology: a new Pakistan for all. There were songs, slogans and speeches all reiterating the same message. But while elections are won by popularity, governments are not run by it. Maneuvering a country fast sinking into troubled waters is no easy feat. No amount of rallies, social media posts or television appearances can bring about change.
Running an entire nation with moderate levels of economic and social stability is a skill. Running an entire nation that has been eaten away from the inside by years of corruption is a monumental challenge. It is a task one exceptional man with good intentions cannot accomplish alone. Effective governance requires three key measures: 1) Short term and long term strategic planning that clearly sets out realistic goals. 2) Diplomatic prowess at both national and global levels, for rubbing bureaucrats the wrong way will create further obstacles and a country in the midst of an economic crunch needs allies- not enemies. 3) Effective communication: the progress must be made public, scandals should be minimized or handled tactfully if and when they arise.
Opposition members often sarcastically remind PTI that they are no longer standing on containers. I think it is rather a case of continuing to function in the election mode. Actions symbolizing the party’s values, like opening the governor house to public or reducing the President’s protocol, are simply cosmetic and will no longer suffice in the face untimely decisions which impact the everyday matters concerning a common man’s life.
Despite the noise, Prime Minister Imran Khan has remained resolute in his pursuit to change Pakistan’s fate. Determined on making selections on the basis of performance, he has hinted at yet another reshuffle in the cabinet and it may come anytime soon. Speaking to a crowd in Orakzai he said: ‘I want to tell all my ministers that whoever is not useful for my country, I will change them and bring that minister who is useful for my country.” A game of thrones may have begun but the players are very limited.
As per laws governing our bi-caramel parliamentary system the Cabinet comprises of Ministers with the Prime Minister at its head. Article 92 of the Constitution of Pakistan states: ‘the President shall appoint Federal Ministers and Ministers of State from amongst the members of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) on the advice of the Prime Minister’. These Federal Ministers can also be members of the Senate ‘provided that the number of Federal Ministers and Ministers of State who are members of the Senate shall not at any time exceed one-fourth of the number of Federal Ministers.’ From 324 seats in the National Assembly PTI currently holds 157. From a 104 seats in the Senate PTI holds only 17 seats. Thus the numbers are not in PTI’s favor.
There are a limited number of competent people the Prime Minister can rely on to get the job done. The consequence of this: Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhry switched to the post of Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi switched to the post of Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan switched to the post of Minister of Aviation. The team essentially remained the same. Simultaneously there existed a need to placate its coalition partners. So Farogh Naseem retained the Ministry of Law and Justice. And the show went on.
In this new era of digital media the political engagement of citizens has risen. Ordinary people are asking questions-not just journalists-when they have to pay more for the same amount of electricity consumed. As the pressure builds PTI must take technocrats on board. Shabbar Zaidi’s appointment as FBR Chairman was a step in the right direction. But then came Shabnam Gul with an incomplete PhD, allegations of plagiarism and a reference letter from her Minister sister. Although PTI has withdrawn her appointment as Director of NACTA, the mistake should not have been made in the first place. Due diligence before decisions is the need of the hour, alongside the reliance on technocrats.
PTI must bring competent and highly qualified experts into their fold. Politicians are great speakers. But this is no indicator of their competence. Votes do not translate into effective policies. There is a vast difference in winning seats and running ministries. PTI has the potential to govern effectively even via the current crew, as long as they are assisted by technocrats with the PM keeping a watchful eye. Where there is a will there is a way.