STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Our generation has seen more changes than any that preceded us. We have transitioned from steam engines to supersonic jets in a life time. During our exuberant youthful days the height of enjoyment was a merry-go-round or “jhulla” all propelled by human hands. Those care free days have been replaced by a struggle to seek balance; it seems all in the blink of an eye. Here is another fact that many in our age bracket can relate to. As you grow older the years get shorter. We have to accept these realities gracefully.

Now we live in the age of science and technology. It has tremendously improved our quality of life; yet it has introduced increased levels of anxiety, competiveness and extreme exposure to all things evil 24/7 on social media. Following Pakistani politics is a perfect example. It is truly a roller coaster ride. Those of us who have been on these rides know the feeling. After every trough there is peak and a sharp fall that that scares the daylights out of you; followed by a temporary respite then more of the same. By the time you get off your legs are wobbly and you feel out of balance!

Our political scene is no different. Every morning we hear the end game has started. Crying wolf all the time soon loses its impact. It becomes a clear and present danger when the wolf actually emerges. Politics is a vicious sport; in Pakistan we take no prisoners. A huge controversy has erupted over reported negotiations with TTP. TTP and their ilk have inflicted unbelievable wounds on our national psyche. Brutalized innocent citizens, taken a huge toll on our defenders, disrupted life and caused immense damage to our economy. Their sins are unforgivable.

Highlighting the Peshawar school tragedy in Supreme Court has brought these tragic memories back. There are clearly two schools of thoughts emerging. On the one hand there is the desire for vengeance and on the other is to avoid future recurrence of such brutality. It is a tight rope. However political discourse cannot be solely based on revenge. We have to safeguard our present and look to the future. There are no painless options here. The route to defang a vicious enemy may have some merits. This issue needs to be debated in the parliament provided that a sensible discourse is possible on this forum.

The joint sitting of the Parliament has been postponed. The allies of the Government have refused to endorse the proposed agenda. At some stage PTI leadership has to stop taking them for granted. Their reluctance is justified; they were not taken into confidence nor given adequate time to get it approved by their respective CEC’s. PM IK can’t be expected to do everything himself. It was the responsibility of his political team to do the groundwork. They failed. Unfortunately PTI’s leadership has too many “Hassan Alis” in their team. They all like their cushy jobs with all the bells and whistles that go with it. However they have miserably failed to create avenues for negotiations to resolve such matters.

Political problems are brewing in Punjab. It has become the citadel of incompetence for PTI. I wonder when PM IK will wake up to these realities and realize how his foundations are being eroded from within by those pretending to be loyal. It may already be too late; however a dramatic course correction may save the day. The local bodies’ elections have been announced in KP. One expects positive results there. Punjab election may follow soon. At the present level of preparation, the writing on the wall spells disaster.

The recently announced relief package for the needy is a bold step forward. Inflation is eating the guts out of the common man. The execution and delivery has to be closely monitored to ensure its success. Fuel and energy based on fossil fuels are another story. The recent burst in global consumption has triggered a steep rise in the price of oil. Post-COVID surge in demand has choked the supply chains. Oil prices and production fell dramatically with the onset of the pandemic. Reviving previous levels of production is a long way off. USA is experiencing the highest fuel prices ever.
The spread of COVID seems finally under control; the time to reckon its damage has come. The demand for services, travel, and hospitality has taken a nosedive. The general public is spending more on hard goods. They mostly require technology chips which are in short supply. Thus their prices are shooting up.
The challenges of a post pandemic world are being faced by governments around the globe. The developed economies have the depth to face these trying times and survive. On the other hand the developing economies like Pakistan are fragile and have to navigate this pool of alligators with great caution. In our fractured society we need to come together rather than seek blood. It definitely is not a place for the faint hearted.

PM IK needs some serious house cleaning, improve his communications with his allies, and stay focused. He has to reign in his pit bulls who are forever seeking confrontation. There is a severe need to refurbish his political team that has the sagacity and depth to create consensus to move ahead with his agenda. It will be tested in less than two years.

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