Attacks on Imran are doing Pakistan no good
The country grapples with several issues and the new government should be given time to implement its economic and political agenda
‘T he new government in Pakistan is not doing well.’
‘Prime Minister Imran Khan has failed to fulfil his promises to the nation.’
‘Performance of the federal and provincial governments under Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is below par.’
‘Following company [of employment] dismissal of so and so from this and that channel, it is evident that media is under tremendous pressure from the new government.’
‘Pakistan’s economy is in a nosedive with no rescue plan in sight.’ ‘Prime Minister Khan is making a U-turn after a U-turn, in clear repudiation of his electoral promises.’
‘Imran Khan’s government won’t last long.’
Every day newspapers, television screens, Facebook walls, WhatsApp (read: gossip portals disguised as intellectual chat) and Twitter timelines display premonitions, doomsday scenarios and ominous “analyses” of the two-month old government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Yes, you read it right. Two months, not years. Opinions based on personal and political biases are handed out like free, cheap candy at a charity drive; “expert” analyses are declared as the final word as if anything more is not even an option; and bleak settings are presented as if there is no tomorrow. Welcome to the optimistic, fact-based, realistic — and that forgotten word — truthful world of information and opinion in my country called Pakistan. This is the world where space for dissemination of verified information and unbiased and factual views has shrunk to size XXS from XXL.
A healthy and robust democracy functions on many aspects, including freedom of expression and the right to opinion. A new government’s primary functioning is marked with formulation of new plans, preparation of new policies, rejection of tried and tested ones, trial and error, course-correction, short and longterm workable strategies and inclusive leadership. Until a certain period has passed, policies and initiatives have begun to show primary results, and those results are proven to be satisfactory and progressive, or inadequate and non-reformist, the quick criticism is nothing short of a show of pointlessness and propaganda. What it creates: a sense of deep gloom among an already despondent people. Most of the propaganda originates from media cells of parties in opposition, mainly, Nawaz Sharifled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Asif Zardari-led Pakistan Peoples Party. From there it is transferred to TV anchors and analysts, and editors, columnists and bloggers of newspapers and online news portals.
Personal views are given as facts. Political agendas are pushed as broadcasting of verified information. A self-serving narrative is presented as service to journalism. Truth is elbowed into the background, and lies and deception march in as the new victors. The biggest aftermath of this business of selling lies: the nation accepts the wrong as the right, the untruth as veracity, and thus begins a new cycle of existence within a fantasy bubble. And despair. Be it the appointment of an unknown Usman Buzdar as the chief minister of Punjab, Zulfiqar Bokhari as the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis, use of helicopter in Islamabad, defeat of some PTI candidates in the October 14 by-elections, show of support for the Supreme Court Diamer-Basha and Mohmand Dam Fund, Prime Minister Khan has been criticised for any and everything he has done since his swearing-in on August 18, 2018. While I like most rational Pakistanis were rightly critical of his withdrawal of the appointment of the world-renowned economist Atif Mian on the basis of his faith, to see repetitive and gratuitous attacks on everyday governance of Khan’s government is not a service to either Pakistan or the idea of democracy.
The latest attack has been vis-a-vis Khan’s decision to approach IMF for a bailout, and while the announcement is contrary to the electoral avowal of Khan to not seek IMF assistance, it is important to see the difference. That Khan wouldn’t go to IMF was the idealism of a PM-aspirant who believes in the potential and promise of his country. And that as the prime minister he’d seek IMF aid is the acceptance of the reality that an ideal Pakistan will take time to be established. That to all of us sensible Pakistanis is not a U-turn but pragmatism.
Solid, people-friendly and future-focused governance is not done living in a utopian concept of an ideal world. It is about making tough choices, and at times, those that would seem harsh and unfair to the already-suffering nation. A good leader works for the well-being and progress of his people and country, and whereas it is not always possible to do that on a shortterm basis, the goal is always kept in focus, work and policies never losing sight of that. Pakistan presently grapples with issues huge and small, and to change the status quo of uncertainty and economic instability, there is no other alternative to formation of policies that are workable and sustainable. And Khan and his cabinet seem determined to make that happen.
Functioning of a government that delivers is a slow, steady and consistent dynamic, which is aided by constructive ideas and healthy criticism. What I see on my Twitter timeline and on TV screens and newspaper headlines is anything but that. The constant and counterproductive attacks on Prime Minister Khan are not beneficial to Pakistan. Not a bit.
■ Mehr Tarar is a writer, columnist and former op-ed editor of Daily Times, Pakistan. Twitter @MehrTarar