Rudderless?

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The assertion of Prime Minister Imran Khan came as a shock to people when he mentioned that he was not told about the interest rate hike carried out by the State Bank of Pakistan. To add to the confusion he had no compunction in admitting that he learnt about it from TV news! It is indeed a good sign that the central bank is autonomous but it is certainly not a state-within-a-state to take grave unilateral decisions such as raising interest rate and that too to its high in six years. Going by this dictum the PM would certainly have been unaware of the steep depreciation Pakistani rupee had to endure unnerving the entire capital trade.

By the same coin he desperately erred when he evinced lack of knowledge about the submission of JIT report to superior judiciary regarding misdemeanours of his ace cabinet minister.

These are serious lapses and cannot be simply condoned or brushed-off. The heightening uncertainty in the country is the direct offshoot of the smugness of the prime minister who has the temerity to make his inadequacy public without realising its dangerous consequences. It now appears quite obvious that the chief executive of the country is ringed by a cabal of overconfident operatives who prompt him to perform actions that expose his ineptness and strengthen his image of being a very fortunate novice catapulted to crucial national position due to non-availability of suitable candidates.

The issues facing the government are serious and worrying ranging from social to economic to religious and it does not have a clue about them. The top team has failed to learn from the reverses it faced when it tried to obtain financial succour simply because the foreign governments were aware that it has no blueprint for the future. The administrative mess it has put itself in is fully of its own making as it lacks even elementary knowledge about running public affairs. It tried to hoodwink people by austerity drive but it all boomeranged as is amply witnessed by the subdued conduct of the country’s president whose playing-to-the-gallery antics were swiftly exposed. Even the maverick minister of Railways guessed the onrush of media criticism and is consistently shying away from his favourite pastime of hogging media talk shows.

It certainly is the PM who, in typical tradition of the obdurate French kings, has neither forgotten anything nor learnt anything. He fails to understand that power dynamic carries in itself the weapons of self-destruction and it is the outside factor which becomes more effective when in power than the inside coterie of self-serving individuals. It is another matter to climb the greasy pole but to remain on top is the most stringent part of the entire exercise.

The moment when executive power is seen as floundering then nothing can stop it from being ridiculed and rendered ineffective. Such perception creates a seismic effect as was slightly betrayed by the cornered PM hinting at early elections as he appears convinced that his popular touch will bring him back but what about the ineptness that will remain tagged as it is now?

It may be conceded that the issues confronting the government are critical and very complex: how to optimise government revenue and simultaneously reduce expenditure, plug international trade gaps, optimise private consumption and reform every aspect of administrative machinery. The economic vision of the team put on ground by the prime minister is limited to slamming public transport projects, withdrawing subsidies and raising indirect taxes fueling unprecedented inflation, undermining private consumption by hampering disposable income and discouraging valuable savings that translate into domestic investment. The economic czar has actually cut down health, education and development expenditures to the tune of Rs.300 billion reversing the rhetoric employed by his PM about enhancing expenditure on these very sectors.

It is ultimately the do-good factor that matters but it is completely missing from the narrative. The disarming frankness of the PM is tested to its limits with clear signs emerging that it is primarily comprising affectations. The not-to-fool-everyone-all-the-time factor has come into play and it is increasingly visible that the veneer is coming off, and rather fast.

Contrary to the calculations of politicos, particularly the ones thriving on agitation, Pakistani polity is slowly coming out of the magical web weaved by them and the cutting-edge media is making life difficult for them. The PM was cautious in inviting journalists for his question-answer session but even the seemingly friendly crowd could not be stopped from bowling bouncers. It would benefit the PM team to pin him down to rigorous tutorial sessions so that he relies more on facts than simply making things up.

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