October Issue 2018

By | Newsbeat National | Published 1 week ago

It was too good to last. Just when the world was beginning to laud PTI’s staunch defence of its appointment of Atif Mian, a renowned economist who happens to be an Ahmadi, to the Economic Advisory Council, the latter was asked to step down. Threats from militant groups to launch a protest movement, along with opposition from members of some mainstream parties, led to the debacle. In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Imran Khan had spoken of a Pakistan for all Pakistanis, irrespective of colour, caste and creed. But at the first signs of resistance, the PM caved in. That aside, the dithering and backtracking one has seen in the first few weeks of the new government does not bode well for the future. One would have expected a party that has waited in the wings for the past 22 years to have done its homework.

On a trip to Karachi, the Prime Minister expressed his intent to give Bangladeshis and Afghan refugees citizenship status but took a U-turn when KP, Sindh and Balochistan expressed their disapproval. Knowing the sensitivities of the provinces on the issue, the PTI should have consulted with Parliament before making any such announcement.

Likewise, the Minister for Information laid out his plans for the massively bleeding Radio Pakistan, but retracted following threats of strikes from workers. 

The rambunctious Minister needs to put a brake on his fantastical plans – and also his language. In a recent parliamentary session, he referred to the opposition as “chor” and “daku,” drawing the wrath of the members, who demanded his resignation. He apologised, and then proceeded to repeat the same derogatory words at a press conference a few hours later. Incidentally, his laudatory speeches on PTI’s austerity drive are beginning to fly in the face of reality. On President Arif Alvi’s recent trip to Karachi, his entourage comprised a fleet of 22 cars. The PM’s 55 rupee-per-km helicopter trips to Bani Gala are still the butt of jokes. The PTI is fast becoming a victim of its own rhetoric – and silly acts. The sale of buffaloes reared by former PM Nawaz Sharif, alongside bulletproof cars and other luxury vehicles, elicited more chuckles than kudos, making a mockery of the whole exercise. The party’s political grandstanding and public relations exercise must stop. It must now get down to the business of fulfilling its pledges vis-a-vis health, education, civil service reforms, etc. And of course, the five million homes and 10 million jobs.

But first things first – the battered economy must be fixed. The PTI’s mini-budget came in for a lot of flak – for slashing the Public Sector Development Funds, taxing the overtaxed and overturning the ban on the non-filers’ purchase of new vehicles and property -— a decision that finally had to be reversed.

Surprisingly, the PML-N, that is blamed for Pakistan’s present economic ills, is making the most noise, while the prime culprit, PML-N’s Dar-ling is cooling his heels in London, as an arrest warrant awaits him back home. His boss, former PM Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, awaits the verdict on a myriad corruption cases.

PTI’s anti-corruption drive appears to be on track. The ‘benami’ accounts case, involving Asif Zardari, his sister and the Omni group, is being fast-tracked as more fake accounts – 77 at last count – come to the fore.

The latest beneficiary of this largesse is a poor ice-cream vendor in a Karachi neighbourhood, who, to his utter amazement, was informed by FIA men that he was richer by Rs. 2.5 billion that had been transferred to his bank account. But before the poor man could pull out even a penny, the account had been frozen.

The hunt is on for his billionaire benefactor.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.