The two-year record

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

It has been the coun­try's first ex­per­i­ment with what many have de­scribed as hy­brid rule. The past two years have been unique for many rea­sons. Im­ran Khan fi­nally got the job he had cov­eted for so long. His jour­ney from the con­tainer to the cor­ri­dors of power was seen as pre­de­ter­mined. The project was to de­liver a ' naya' Pak­istan, an ef­fi­cient ad­min­is­tra­tion and a cor­rup­tion-free so­ci­ety.

Im­ran Khan was pro­jected as the last best hope. After all, he had won for the coun­try the Cricket World Cup and so could also lead us to the Promised Land, or so the logic went. A coali­tion of dis­parate groups was built to pro­vide his party enough sup­port in par­lia­ment to form the govern­ment.

Next came the real test for him to prove his met­tle as a leader. He floun­dered. It was not only about his in­ex­pe­ri­ence but also the team of novices that he fielded. A lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of state­craft was ob­vi­ous. So, it ap­peared, that some prop­ping up was needed. The project could not be aban­doned. It's not sur­pris­ing that the govern­ment has sur­vived de­spite a very thin ma­jor­ity that hinges on the sup­port of a few dis­parate po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

This sit­u­a­tion was seen to re­in­force hy­brid rule. Many saw the im­print of the estab­lish­ment all over. That may have given the govern­ment some sem­blance of sta­bil­ity. Yet the du­al­ity of power has its per­ils too. There is no one fully in charge. It causes more con­fu­sion and af­fects gov­er­nance. That is what has hap­pened over the past two years of PTI rule.

There is no sign yet of the govern­ment's ca­pa­bil­ity to take ra­tio­nal de­ci­sions on crit­i­cal is­sues. The bal­ance sheet of the Im­ran Khan govern­ment on the com­ple­tion of its se­cond year in power has cer­tainly not been en­cour­ag­ing. Gov­er­nance re­mains the ma­jor prob­lem area. The prime min­is­ter had promised to bring new tal­ent to build a 'naya' Pak­istan, but a bloated cabi­net is com­pletely op­po­site to the prom­ise of de­liv­er­ing a smart govern­ment. Many in the prime min­is­ter's col­lec­tion of 'tal­ents' only pro­vide comic re­lief in times of cri­sis. The much-touted re­form agenda is lost some­where in the chaos.

Two years on, there is no sign yet of the PTI govern­ment hav­ing de­vel­oped the ca­pa­bil­ity to take ra­tio­nal de­ci­sions on crit­i­cal do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy is­sues. The govern­ment's in­creas­ing de­pen­dence on the se­cu­rity estab­lish­ment for sur­vival has fur­ther un­der­mined its abil­ity to im­prove and course cor­rect. Con­se­quently, the estab­lish­ment's ex­tend­ing shadow can be dis­cerned in all di­men­sions of the state. It seems that the per­pet­ual state of con­fronta­tion among po­lit­i­cal forces has al­lowed the estab­lish­ment to play ar­biter of po­lit­i­cal power in the coun­try.

With the prime min­is­ter re­luc­tant to meet op­po­si­tion lead­ers in or­der to cre­ate unity on key na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy is­sues, the re­spon­si­bil­ity in this re­gard is of­ten seen to be taken by the se­cu­rity agen­cies. One lat­est ex­am­ple is to get the op­po­si­tion sup­port for FATF-re­lated leg­is­la­tion. In a sim­i­lar con­text, it was not the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship that brought to­gether the po­lit­i­cal forces dur­ing the In­dian in­tru­sion in Fe­bru­ary last year.

It is an open se­cret that for many years the se­cu­rity estab­lish­ment has been con­sid­ered the de­ter­miner of na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy in Pak­istan but that role ap­pears to have be­come more pro­nounced un­der the PTI govern­ment. It was ap­par­ently for the first time in the coun­try's his­tory that the army chief ac­com­pa­nied the prime min­is­ter to a meet­ing with the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent at the White House last year.

On var­i­ous oc­ca­sions, the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship has been in­volved in sorting out prob­lems with other coun­tries aris­ing from some impulsive de­ci­sions taken by the prime min­is­ter or state­ments made by his cabi­net min­is­ters. Gen Ba­jwa flew to China to con­trol the dam­age caused by a fed­eral min­is­ter's me­dia state­ment only months into the PTI govern­ment. The most re­cent ex­am­ple is his rush­ing to Saudi Ara­bia after the for­eign min­is­ter's state­ment on the role of the OIC.

Cu­ri­ously, now there seem to be closer re­la­tions be­tween the estab­lish­ment and the op­po­si­tion par­ties too. It's not sur­pris­ing that the PML-N lead­ers have re­stricted their at­tacks to the PTI govern­ment and the prime min­is­ter, spar­ing the agen­cies. The PTI lead­er­ship may have delu­sions about the prime min­is­ter's in­dis­pens­abil­ity to the estab­lish­ment, but it is all a game of thrones in the end.

The fail­ure of the lead­er­ship was badly ex­posed dur­ing Pak­istan's bat­tle against the Covid-19 pan­demic. The prime min­is­ter had ini­tially down­played the se­ri­ous­ness of the in­fec­tion declar­ing it a form of flu.

The mixed mes­sag­ing and re­jec­tion of com­plete lock­down in the crit­i­cal ini­tial pe­riod of the in­fec­tion harmed ef­forts to con­tain the virus.

That may have given the

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