STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Things are not going well within the power structure in Pakistan. It seems Prime Minister Imran Khan is not being able to cope with the vultures surrounding him. He is in power yet he comes across as powerless! He is not being obstructed by the men in uniform, it is his own team that is bringing him down.

PTI came to power after 22 years of unrelenting struggle. No other political party can claim that. PML(N) was born in the lap of an Army dictator. PPP’s struggle was less than 3 years, from Tashkent to fall of Ayub Khan. Imran Khan uprooted the deeply entrenched two party system that had a firm grip on power. Breaking their stranglehold was unthinkable two years ago. His determination and steadfastness shall elevate him into the company of world leaders who changed the fate of their own countries.I remember he drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela and Mahathir Muhammad.

But you can’t live on past laurels. Where do we stand today? He had a great start. All  pillars of the State of Pakistan were ready to participate in a change bringing in reforms enunciated in PTI’s program and serve justice onto corrupt, criminal political leaders.

PTI’s platform sought a society based on merit, justice, accountability, welfare of poor and underprivileged.Voters’expectations were extremely high.

PTI in power emerged as a different entity. Pre-elections it was vibrant, full of hope, assertive. Pakistanis within the country and globally,were buoyant. In power it seems hesitant and unsure. In my post of August 17th titled “a bumpy year in review” I captured the essence of the efforts undertaken in the 1st year. A clear action plan to be implemented through a merit based team is not visible. A clear vision for a better future has not emerged beyond promises.

Everyone made allowances for a learning curve. But some erroneous decision making is affecting PTI’s credibility. Pakistanis toiling under the back breaking inflation, will not be that forgiving. It is true that crisis in Kashmir is soaking up a lot of energy. But life goes on.

A perception of lack of effective and strong governance is emerging fast.

It has lot to do with poor selection of PTI’s ruling team. I believe and advocated for the need to bring in subject matter experts. Talent performs well around the world. Inductions were made. But the recruitment process was incomplete and faulty. Expertise is a major considerations, but it has to be accompanied a total background check, verification about conflict of interest, and above all completing a SMELL TEST to ensure integrity.

All the resources are available when in Government. Why was there an oversight when  Nadeem Babar was appointed Energy Advisor? He is deeply involved in the energy sector as an owner of a power plant. Tackling Rs 416 billion recovery of Cess money collected by the energy sector by writing off 50% was bound to be suspect. It put a huge shooting target on PTI’s back for the critics. Issuance and then withdrawal of Ordinance was a huge embarrassment.

I am aware that write offs are given in Canada and USA. But they are mainly given to tax payers who cannot, or do not have the ability to pay. Further, writing off debt does not relieve the debtors of their obligation to pay. It means no legal action will be taken till the debtor’s situation improves.

In this case debtors are fat cats who have collected from the common man!

They have shielded themselves behind stay orders issued by “accommodating” judges!! It was a scam started under Zardari and continued under Sharif. I believe the whole exercise was malafide to grease the squeaky wheels of corrupt mafia. Giving relief to these fat cats is tainting our image. Having worked closely with IK for many years, I know for a fact IK is incorruptible, courageous, despite what detractors say, he is extremely smart and a fast learner, and he is decisive. Then what happened??

Nadeem Babar has fallen from grace. He has not been fired yet. I wonder how long he will last! I hope he does not become another Buzdar!!

That brings me to the next appointment that IK has guarded jealously. Chief Minister  Punjab. For the life of me I can’t understand the rationale behind IK persevering with Mr. Buzdar. Punjab is 2/3 Pakistan. Most of the reforms in PTI’s agenda are provincial subjects. With a PTI Government in power in Punjab, this was a perfect opportunity to showcase “Change” and win hearts and minds of the public. Is it possible under this CM? He comes across as incompetent, incoherent, unimpressive and a non-performer. For a party that came in promising change, he is the worst poster boy you can think of! He symbolizes and exudes status quo!!

PTI is squandering opportunities of a life time. As if Wada was not enough as pistol wielding cowboy, a perfectly sensible Ali Zaidi went charging into the “Karachi Katchra” issue! Promising the impossible, a clean up in two weeks!

He has nothing to show for it except a red face! What’s gone wrong here? I feel IK is losing sound advice by sincere well wishers, and getting surrounded by sycophants going on wild goose chases only to impress the PM. It is hurting the Government.

I believe all is not lost yet. PTI has an inherent advantage. The alternatives suck. There is an imminent need for the Prime Minister Imran Khan to reboot and come up to speed with the need of the hour. To implement his reform agenda through a well selected, competent, professional team before it is too late. Time is running out fast. He needs to breakdown the humungous challenges facing Pakistan into smaller segments and deal with them in a systematic manner. Starting with police reforms in Punjab would be a good place to start!!

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