WATCH YOUR FLANKS KAPTAAN

I landed in Pakistan early October. I was pumped up. After a struggle spanning quarter century PTI was in power. Imran Khan was the Prime Minister. Change had set in. I had spent a month prior to my travels meeting stalwarts, thinking minds, well wishers amongst Overseas Pakistanis of how we could contribute and act as enablers towards progress in Pakistan. I had put together a proposal based on these efforts. After all I am diehard PTI. I am one of the originals duly acknowledged by Kaptaan. I was welcomed by Party faithful. But once I settled down and started interacting I quickly realized that Government may have changed but Pakistani mindset had not! Especially amongst “kushamdis”, the politicos. For a little bit of respect/recognition you have to swallow a lot of self respect. A price I am not willing to pay at this stage in life. I presented my proposal to Naeem Ul Haq, my friend from PTI founding days, Dr. Arif Alvi, President, Arshad Dad the new PTI Secretary General, Tahir Khan of Inter flow fame who I believe is in charge of PM’s special projects and few other friends who have the Prime Minister’s ear. Prime Minister was heavily involved in matters of State and I was advised to meet up with Zulfiqar (Zulfi) Bokhari, Special Advisor to PM. I gave it a pass.

I went onto follow up on another passion I had nursed for a while. Setting up Punjab University Alumni Association and then continued on with my travel plans that included Indonesia. Upon return to Pakistan late
November I got involved in Alumni launch which was Alhamdollilah done on 8th
December. Being bitten by a political bug for nearly five decades and having
paid my dues to PTI, I chose to observe and comment rather than getting tangled
in a no win rat race. My friends Hassan Nisar, Afzal Ghauri and Haider Mehdis’ input
really helped. I write this piece in icy cold in Toronto but in the warmth of family
and home. It has given me a chance to reflect on what I saw, I heard, what I
experienced during my stay.

Pakistan is faced by serious challenges. It has been aggressively scavenged by misrule
of PPP and PML. Upon assuming power it clearly dawned on PTI that they have
taken over a very creaky, rusty ship in which every joint is broken. The system
is stalled, inefficient and corrupt. Civil institutions are depleted and non
functional. The coffers are empty. We are on life support economically and painful
decisions had to be made. The extent of damage is still being quantified.

I believe PM Imran Khan is up to the challenges. Having worked with him I have
seen his infinite capacity to face and deal with them. But there is a huge
difference between leading the opposition and running the Government. He has
made bold moves in reaching out to Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, Malaysia, Turkey
and Qatar to stabilize the economy and gain breathing space. From what I saw
and heard he is working at a feverish pitch like a man possessed. May Allah
bless his efforts. But being totally absorbed by mega challenges, I believe
Kaptaan has let his guards down and exposed his flanks that can be lethal
unless immediate corrective measure are taken. I will highlight two areas in
this piece.

Firstly PTI’s messaging is haemorrhaging heavily its goodwill because of poor messaging based on:

  • On having a Federal
    Spokesperson who is forever seeking
    confrontation and
    comes across less as Party’s face and more like a
    street fighter. The
    Punjab guy seems to have the calibre of a
    barbershop gossiper.
  • Different spokespersons
    come out with different versions taking
    contradictory
    positions causing confusion.
  •  Office holders having responsibilities in one
    area comment on
    unrelated areas.
    Remember Dollar exchange rate fiasco!
  •  Insufficient crisis handling capabilities.
    Remember Swati disaster that
    took the lime light
    away from a successful overseas tour!

The handlers have failed to present and enumerate clear headed PTI policies and convey the efforts and progress of the Government in key areas to manage national expectations. Petrified of being accused as wimps they come lashing out and keep raising the temperature. This is totally counter-productive to the calm and sanity required in these trying times. They are playing into the hands of crazed and deprived wolves in Opposition and their lackeys in media who are always ready to tear apart the Government fearing the truth of their plunderings being exposed and being convicted for their crimes

PTI Government has taken many commendable and bold initiatives that auger well for Pakistan. Issues left untouched for 70 years are being dealt with head on. Plans continue to be announced in areas that touch the lives of the common man and their legislative preparations are front and center. These are major undertakings that are being appreciated in international press. They will take time to give results. But the national perception that hat is taking root is that the Government is stalled, clueless and directionless.

Secondly
I want to point out the debacle in Punjab. This Province dominates the national
scene. Its leadership has been handed over to a lack-lustre politician who has
no presence. Prime Minister came out in his support using the argument that he
is honest and from a backward area that induces compassion for the weak.
Slippery slope Mr. Prime Minister. This Province has a population that is greater
than many countries. It needs a competent, strong forceful leader who can
implement your agenda for change. He should not be this bumbling, fumbling,
apologetic leader who comes across as always second guessing himself. Can he
face up to the blood thirsty, deprived PML leadership that has roots going back
35 years at all levels of Government?

To
prove his mettle and PM’s faith in him, Mr. Usman Buzdar should either be
challenged to deliver on some tasks or he should create his own challenges and
fulfils them to disprove the perception about him. For a Party symbolizing
change he comes across as representing status quo. Here are some suggestions
that do not have a price tag but touch the lives of everyone. It would be
utilizing the existing resources.

  • Let him straighten out traffic in four
    largest cities in Punjab.
  • Appoint competent and honest officers to
    implement the law without fear or favour.
  • Confiscate vehicles of violators for a week
    to a month. Let them walk home or hitch a ride.
  • Visit emergency wards in hospitals across the
    Province without announcing the plan. Take to task the violators.
  • Head raids against profiteers fleecing the
    public with Magistrates and police force to haul up the miscreants.
  • Participate in efforts against thieves of
    electricity and gas. You will be surprised how many you will find just around
    Lahore. Check for unauthorized steel furnace connections!
  • Give relief to public by setting up help
    lines to prevent abuse by Public Servants.

Try
it out Mr. Buzdar. See how you rise in esteem instead of yes to Basant, no to Basant!

What are the options for the Prime Minister? Now that benchmarks have been established and announced, a direction set, PTI should carry out an internal self assessment, listing its strengths and weaknesses. PM must put together a strategic and advisory group of competent, independent, reliable persons who provide ongoing advice, ideas and strategy keeping short, medium and long term objectives and Government pronouncements. There is a need for clarity and uniformity in messaging focussing on results with an air of positivity, veering away from unnecessary confrontations. PM needs people around him who can say NO.

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