STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

December 2020 was a tumultuous month in Pakistani politics. It started with thunder, threatening a severe storm but ended in a whimper despite intense rumblings. PML(N)’s de-facto leader Maryam loudly proclaimed a “now or never” agenda for PDM leaders. Lahore’s public meeting on December 13th would unravel PTI’s Government with unprecedented turnout. It was decent, but nothing to match the PDM leaders’ bluster.

PDM’s leaders were saved from the embarrassment of a flop show by the presence of Maulana Fazal’s paratroopers and some out-of-town PML(N) parliamentarians. They made up a large chunk of the crowd. All the speakers were vying to outdo each other at being the most obnoxious. No one could compete with Maryam in shrillness, although Bilawal’s sing song delivery came to a close second. The crowd started to thin as the evening wore on and Maulana spoke to his own foot soldiers or empty chairs. The event failed to motivate the masses or provide any wind behind the sails for the ambitious PDM agenda.

Nawaz Sharif was the choreographer from London orchestrating every move. He has the most at stake. As previously expressed by me, the bonding between PDM’s motley crowd is weak and the concoction is untenable. Motivation of all the three main players is different. It is survival for Nawaz as a political force preventing his dispatch to the waste bin of history. Maulana Fazal’s entire efforts are focused on staying politically relevant. Young Bilawal has the most to lose despite his desire to emulate Grandpa Bhutto.

As a true faithful, Maryam displays a burning desire to bring down the PTI Government every time she opens her mouth. It is fast becoming counter-productive so aptly described by the Urdu verse “is ghar ko aag lag gaye ghar ke chiragh se”. Translates “this house got burnt by its own lamp.” Like a true Scorpio she is totally consumed and blinded to make things right for Dad and install him for the fourth time, that she has taken leave from realities that surround her.

PML(N) is a coalition cobbled together by God Father Zia Ul Haq to bring PPP to its heels. It is a collection of pragmatists who prefer to stay on the right side of the Establishment. On three previous occasions, the Sharif brothers were booted out. Each time they managed and manipulated the system to crawl back through a newer guard that had replaced the previous one. They had created a coterie of faithful who returned with them each time using every opportunity in power for self-enrichment. Their gaping mouths became bigger each time.

This time around there was a new spice added to the mix – Prime Minister Imran Khan. He does not digest easily. The recipe required a slow cooking technique which does not fit with the Sharif plan. Their flag bearer Maryam’s overconfidence and dream world existence is dictated by one word “Chaiti”, which translates to “hurry”. It is bound to give a tongue burn. She just got a taste of it through the recent PPP CEC meeting.

President Zardari is a lead poker player on Pakistan’s political scene. He has just as much stake in de-fanging PM IK due to his own outrageous looting of the national wealth. But he understands saving his political domain is more important than conserving his physical wealth. He has enough tucked away that his family will never be wanting for worldly needs. However, if he stays on board PML(N)’s runaway train, it could spell disaster politically. Immediate resignations are out of the door and PPP will continue to hang onto their Government in Sindh. They will re-elect their Senators and stay relevant on the national scene.

The immediate threat to PM IK is diffused despite all the sabre rattling by PDM. It is a God given opportunity for PTI to make some bold moves to forward its agenda. For the first time since the heydays of Ayub Khan the economy is headed in the right direction without any props like an Afghan War or manipulated book-keeping. There is no artificial demand generation through stimulating consumer spending or unsupportable imports to act as triggers. It is a genuine turnaround based on industrial growth, improved exports and sound policymaking. The previous road blocks triggered by selfish motives or bureaucratic inertia have been replaced by proactive leveling of the playing field.

One example is the recent induction of locally built JF Thunder Phase 3 planes into the Pakistan Air Force. Pakistan’s defense production growth will be a boon for the nation similar to one seen in USA, China and other growth economies raking in serious dollars. Progress being made in CEPAC projects and development of trade routes through the beltway auger well for the future. The recent focus on runaway food inflation hurting the common man is beginning to show positive results.

It is time for PM IK to focus on the accountability process. Efforts have to be made urgently to strengthen the weak links in the chain that can deliver and conclude lingering cases. This nation is hungry for results. Pakistani nation had bought into PTI’s reform agenda. They want to see the fruits of their commitment to a leadership. PM IK needs to stay the course, bulldozing the looters and plunderers of this nations’ wealth.

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