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Out of my head

October 10, 2018

Polishing the ball


October 10, 2018

Atif Mian is in the Economic Advisory Council one day. He’s out the next. Aamir Liaquat is in one day. Out the next. And back in again. We are going to the IMF today for a bailout. No, we are not. Yes, we are. No, we are not. Oh, okay, yes, we are (and we’ll forget that the Captain had said that he would rather commit suicide than take loans).

Saudi Arabia is part of CPEC. No, it is not. Well, it is, kinda. Tax non-filers can buy property and luxury cars (widening the tax net be damned). No, wait a sec. They can’t. They really can’t.

Twenty years or so ago when Imran Khan first officially entered politics and was going drawing room to drawing room preaching his gospel he sang pretty much the same tune that he’s singing now. The same song that’s been number one on his personal charts for the past two decades, with a few lyric remixes thrown in from time to time in line with prevalent current events. “A tsunami is going to come, corrupt politicians will be held accountable and their ill-gotten gains will be recovered, the country will become a paradise, yadda yadda yadda.”

At one of those drawing room affairs I asked some questions at the end of his speech. I said his grand vision sounded great but could I have some specifics. What exactly were his policies – economic, environmental, educational, health, etc? If he didn’t have them now did he have a ‘shadow cabinet’ working on these fronts? The Captain’s reply was disconcerting, to say the least.

In essence, what he said was that when the tsunami came it would wipe the slate clean and things would take care of themselves. And if he appointed shadow ministers now when (not if) the PTI came to power those shadow ministers would expect to be named ministers and who knew what the situation would be then and those same individuals might resent not becoming part of the cabinet.

In hindsight, he probably had the electables in mind already. But what worried me most then – and continues to worry me now – is this lack of clarity, details and long-term planning. The Captain is a big picture guy, I get it. But could he at least have a team of specialists who had thought things through and weren’t willing to shoot themselves in the foot every chance they got. Not that the PPP and the PML-N are necessarily any better but that’s exactly the impression we are getting right now. And if the PTI is the flag-bearer of change then it has to be better than that.

Sure, we have a mini-crisis on our hands and the ball is reversing big time and not every contingency can be planned for but you still have to have a plan whether to be aggressive or defensive, whether to play on the front foot or back, whether to drive or to hook (since the Captain loves cricketing metaphors, might as well speak the language he speaks).

If only the Captain had spent the last five years of running the show in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa polishing the ball and attending the National Assembly. Instead, he was busy forming murky alliances, intent on uprooting the match pitch itself. The dharna was nothing but an attempt at a short-cut to power (an attempted derailment of the democratic process itself). Sometimes, to win a match on a difficult pitch you have to dig in and play the full five days; you can’t turn it into a one-day match just because you feel like it.

If the Captain had concentrated solely on KP’s governance and on developing long-term, well thought-out policies (instead of some woolly ideas of recovering the looted wealth of the country within 90 days to solve all our economic issues) he might actually have had more seats in the assemblies than he does now. He would also have hit the ground running rather than appearing a bit clueless, and then compensating by throwing out such fantabulous notions as issuing orders to petrol pumps and CNG stations to keep their toilets clean, failure to do so resulting in them being reported via special complaint numbers.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz

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