September issue 2018

By | Editor's Note | Published 2 months ago

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Or is it?

Only two weeks into office and the PTI government was making waves for all the wrong reasons.

First there was the ugly incident of a PTI legislator from Karachi, accompanied by gun-toting guards, repeatedly slapping a man whose car had hit his car bumper in a traffic jam. Next was the huge controversy over the costs incurred to the treasury by the Prime Minister’s use of a helicopter to travel from his official residence to his house in Bani Gala, followed by that of the Punjab Chief Minister and his family’s helicopter “joyride” to his ancestral village. Also making headlines were PTI’s Railways Minister, for using abusive language against a senior railways official, and PTI’s Minister for Information and Culture whose credentials for the post came into question when he passed highly offensive remarks against two theatre actors.

PTI constituents were already questioning Imran Khan’s choice of people for key posts. And then there were complaints of political interference in the transfer of a policeman for alleged misconduct, followed by more allegations of interference in the transfers and postings of local bureaucrats by PTI legislators.

The media had a field day at PTI’s expense. And it went into overdrive when the PM’s office itself made two diplomatic gaffes by misquoting the text of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s conversation with the Prime Minister and the contents of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s congratulatory letter. A party that has held rival political parties and politicians to high professional and moral standards cannot afford such conduct.

Fortunately for the PTI, the opposition itself is presently in disarray, as was evident during the elections to the post of President and Prime Minister. The PML-N accuses the PPP of betrayal and vice versa. There are, of course, murmurings of PPP caving in under the pressure of the money laundering cases against the PPP chairman and his sister that are currently being investigated.

While the opposition continues with its blame game, the PTI cannot afford to waste any more time. It has to move swiftly on its domestic reforms agenda, most importantly vis-à-vis the economy. It has already announced the formation of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), comprising some of the leading experts in the field.

The inclusion of Dr. Atif Mian, a highly reputed professor at Princeton listed among “the 25 brightest young economists at the IMF,” who is an Ahmedi by faith, has been been made unnecessarily controversial. Shockingly, it was Shehla Raza, a PPP legislator, who targeted him in a tweet, which she subsequently disowned. This was followed by a petition signed by 16 Senators, calling attention to his inclusion in the EAC. The signatories included members of mainstream, and largely secular and liberal parties, such as the PML-N, the National Party, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the Awami National Party. The second notice, submitted by MNAs of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, did not come as a surprise.

However, what did come as a pleasant surprise was the PTI’s befitting response to all the naysayers. “Dr. Atif Mian has been appointed to the Economic Advisory Council, not the Council of Islamic Ideology,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. Should all the country’s religious minorities be thrown into the Arabian Sea, he asked angrily. He ended by referring to all those opposing the professor’s appointment as “extremists.”

Stop press: The extremists have won. Dr Atif Mian has been removed from the EAC.

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

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