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Vital question

September 23, 2018

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HE has the office of prime minister for at least a five-year term; he has the very crucial government in Punjab and the one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and his party seems to be catching up fast in staking a sizeable claim to support in Sindh.

Why then are many in the PTI ­— his party — active in the media and on social media unable to relax? They look like they have it all to build on and consolidate the good things that he is planning, and will be based on the extensive knowledge that he and his key team are acquiring via a series of briefings, for one.

Yes, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government may have faltered on some issues such as the case of the appointment of eminent economist Dr Atif Mian to the Econo­mic Advisory Council, and the withdrawal of his name, as he was said to belong to a faith that the majority is hostile to.

Many in PTI who are active on the media seem unable to relax.

However, such a faux pas, especially when it is the result of a well-meaning initial decision, can be forgiven, and, in the long term, the unnecessary dragging in the mud of the name of a man with some of the most impeccable credentials may fade away even from his own memory.

Then there was Asad Umar’s much-awaited mini-budget, which, to anybody expecting a revolutionary prescription from the person in the governing party who enjoys the reputation of extreme dynamism, turned out to be a damp squib.

But the three months or the 100 days (in my case, whichever comes later) have not elapsed, so even if Asad Umar seemed to reward the non-tax filer/-payer, one would say he’d have an absolutely brilliant explanation — though the explanation when it came appeared to be a bit of a non-starter.

In any case, this is not what I meant to discuss here. Frankly, I am happy to give the new government as much of a honeymoon period as it needs. And who am I? Powerful state institutions that see themselves as rivals to most elected executives seem happy to be on the same page with it.

There you go. Having become wary of the ‘civilian supremacy’ raga of the government that just lost power, they decided to throw in their lot with the challenger as he seemed to enjoy considerable electoral support.

What little he may have lacked was made up for by the others. Whether the challenger got to the finish line in fine shape or was carried to it, the final steps will remain a moot point and, in our scheme of things, won’t matter in the ultimate analysis.

He is home scot-free. He can only build and move ahead from here. If he is able to deliver on his key promises, such as five million homes for the poor and 10m jobs for the army of the jobless that we have, he would have blunted his opponents’ knives.

And if his (mostly) UK-based friends who have delivered so heartily for his cancer hospital and his university project can also deliver on attaining what appear to be tantalisingly ambitious goals of national importance with a huge social impact then, even if they do it for a bit of profit, it is fine.

They categorically say that they are not in it for profit. I, for one, have no reason not to believe them. Even then, the fact is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Here too, patience, I am sure, will be rewarded rather than doubting anyone’s intent.

Having said all this, I was appalled at the reaction of a large number of committed PTI folk on the media — and even more on social media — to what could only be temporary relief coming the way of the Sharif family.

Old photographs were distributed on social media via handles known to often represent the party’s views, mocking how Maryam Nawaz, who was grief-stricken over the weekend after her mother’s passing, appeared to be smiling and waving victory signs after her release from prison.

That the photo in question belonged to the election campaign and dated to July this year was obviously of little concern to the embittered propagandists as they went ahead with their manufactured truth.

This was not all, as then again social media came alive with all sorts of kite-flying regarding the two Islamabad High Court judges who suspended the rather poor (most legal eagles agree) judgement of the accountability court that imprisoned the former prime minister, his daughter and son-in-law.

Aspersions were cast, which were totally out of place in any halfway civilised discussion and debate. Who knows how the cards will fall for the Sharifs going forward, but it is clear to me that a far greater question awaits the PTI, ie whether or not to morph from an opposition entity to a party in power. The sooner it addresses this question, the better it will be for it. The manufactured anger will need to be exorcised if it is not to cause self-harm.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018