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Midterm Blues

Barrister Iftikhar Ahmed

11th Jan, 2022. 11:29 am

Like anywhere else in the world, our elected government is also susceptible to what one might call ‘the midterm blues’. Halfway through the term of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s PTI government, the opposition feels that Pakistan has had enough of the ruling party; the reasons are usually a dime-a-dozen – shortage of gas, high prices, expensive petrol, power outage, and so on.

Our political history is replete with examples of dissolution of governments, assemblies and even the chopping of the Senate through the invoking of constitutional presidential power, then exiting in the constitution. The erstwhile Article 58(2)(B) of the constitution was once used like a sword at the whim of the President, truncating the term of elected governments almost halfway through their mandated terms.

In the past, when such dissolution was challenged, the courts were not exactly honest umpires. They would act on their whims and interests, rather on principles of justice. We have had some bad judgments and equally some bad judges staining the pages of Pakistan’s history books.

So now, Imran Khan’s government is also going through its own midterm blues moment. The feeling is that the incumbent government’s steam is beginning to run out halfway through the tabdeeli, with functionaries beginning to look lax and sound complacent around their duties and responsibilities. This leads to an amplification in the cribbing and shouting we are hearing from the opposition these days. The irony is that though volume levels increase around this time, the ammunition is rather weak and issues raised are neither substantive nor groundbreaking in any way.

As we have come to understand, Imran Khan’s style of government inevitably mirrors his captain- cy of the Pakistani cricket team that won the World Cup. His philanthropic achievements also add weight to Imran’s pre-existing confidence in running state affairs.

Things, however, are quite a bit different when it comes to cricket or charity, compared to leadership styles in the office of the Prime Minister. Leading cricket players of a world class standard in a cricket match is relatively straight-forward – set the right batting order, pass the ball to a different bowler, build confidence and trust that your player will deliver because he’s world class. Now replace that cricket team with an average federal or provincial minister, and the outcomes don’t look quite as sensational.

Imran’s cabinet does not include a single person who might be considered world class, regardless of the role he or she may be given. Far from it, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that incompetence is a common feature in this team.

Regrettably, a reliance on the “electable” to bring home victory at the hustings remains the only real aim of our parliamentary democracy. It is equally the case that ideological, hard-working, and educated political workers have no future, even in so-called progressive and liberal parties. A true meritocracy is what brings trophies in the sporting and political arena, not the ‘how much money have you got to win the election’ mindset.
Imran Khan hatches a plan of action and passes on the directive and execution of his idea to people who lack the will, ability or dedication to turn that idea into implementation. There is also no consistent oversight or accountability for the lack of outcomes. This leaves us with a Prime Minister who has good ideas that operate like helium balloons being launched into the atmosphere, only to float and disappear out of our view.

Such strategic weaknesses have become evident quite recently in the KP elections, the outcomes of which have caused the captain a fair bit of heart-burn. This is the classic midterm slump, freely exploited by naysayers and opposition vultures.

The real pity is that the opponents are also drifting pedestrians who lack vision or credibility. The JUI, after winning the first round in KP has shown little jubilation as it knows the voters will now expect them to reduce electricity bills, enhance flickering gas flames, and more importantly, bring the prices of groceries down. Failure in these urgent issues is worth dreading over by the JUI, as the next general elections are where people will target them and, likely, incur some wrath upon the mullahs, rather than on PTI.

So, how should Imran Khan deal with his midterm blues? Although we have come to accept that cricket analogies will never go away, in this case, Imran should gain more confidence from a different kind of sporting comparison – there is always the saying that football is ‘a game of two halves.’

It is half-time for the PTI and they are in the dressing room. The first half hasn’t gone entirely to plan, but there have been some positives to build upon. It is for Imran to attack the second half of this match in a manner that turns the game on its head and delivers a resounding victory when the final whistle is blown (at the next ballot). If the current XI are not up to the task, he must implement a change to the gameplay and bring on talent with fresh legs and a hunger to succeed on the pitch. There needs to be stamina, pace and intensity as two hundred million people are watching and praying for the great goals that may follow.



The writer is a practicing lawyer

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