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

Gulf News - - The Views - By Mehr Tarar

‘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.

Prag­ma­tism

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

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