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Out of my head

October 20, 2018

The 90-day bug


October 20, 2018

At least our leaders don’t promise they’ll fix everything in six days (and then rest on Sunday). No, they’re humble enough to know they aren’t deities so they need all of 90 – count ’em – days to fix everything.

Zia promised us elections in 90 days. Eleven years or so down the line, we were still waiting. For the real thing, that is – not the sham he had had conducted in 1985. Sure, to be fair to him, I suppose he didn’t quite clarify exactly when the countdown would start.

The Sharifs promised us electricity in 90 days. We’re still waiting. Though, to their credit, they did bring in an energy-saving measure: they shut the light off at the end of the tunnel. Then, of course, Pandora intervened and opened the box called the Panama Papers. And all hell broke loose.

The new PM – the Kaptaan – has taken this fixation with 90 days to the next level – nay, the next 10 levels. He’s going to fix everything – absolutely everything – within 90 days. He’s even got a website and all to monitor his performance. Okay, sure, he’s asked for an extra 10 days. But since he’s going to fix everything – everything, I say (not including cricket matches or elections, naturally) – these extra days are justified, I guess.

To paraphrase the Donald, we are going to fix so much that we’re going to get tired of fixing. But the Kaptaan did say he’s going to fix corruption in 90 days and bring all the country’s looted wealth back. That’ll solve all the country’s economic woes. And the IMF and the World Bank can just deal with it. Now it looks as if we’re the ones who are going to be dealing with it. By sucking up.

Even the country’s constitution caught the 90-day bug. The 18th Amendment got a lot of things right, but confirming the need for an interim setup to oversee elections just reaffirms the thinking that us silly civilians just aren’t mature enough or honest enough to conduct free and fair elections and transfer power peacefully, if need be.

Empowering the Election Commission was the way to go, not making somebody prime minister or dozens of somebodies ministers and showering them with perks and privileges while they sit around twiddling their thumbs and the whole country comes to a complete standstill for three months. In any case, more on the constitution and the 18th Amendment in a subsequent column.

Sure, election promises are made. That’s par for the course. But don’t guarantee us the world, the universe and everything in 90 days. Not saying you need to be like AZ’s PPP and not aim for anything (AZ figured out that lowering expectations so much that you start digging below the ground made his life so much easier), but be realistic. Be measured. Be prepared. Make sure you can deliver. And let me repeat – be prepared so that you don’t look like fools or liars (or both) in front of the public, the media, investors, industry leaders, and international observers. Both you and the country will be better off for it.

Or maybe the whole 90 days is akin to what an ex-colleague was told when he was interviewed for his start in banking. To cut a long story short, he was informed that the really tough years in tedious, dreary and mind-numbing banking were the first two. Encouraged, he asked, “Then it gets better after that?” “No,” came the reply. “Then you just get used to it.”

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz

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