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Cabinet shake-up

April 20, 2019

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IT seems that, eight months into power, Prime Minister Imran Khan is all set to begin anew. Mr Khan’s first attempt at setting up an effective government at the federal level has been disastrous. His latest action has seen ministers reshuffled, stepping down or being let go of. New ones have been inducted at a time when the lack of direction at the top has raised serious questions about the ability of the first set of ministers that Mr Khan had installed with the promise that they would usher in change. Indeed, it is not only about bad governance; it is clear that his latest attempt to set things right must extend to his party too. The difference between his first and most recent attempt at forming an efficient and capable government is that, apart from dealing with the problems sown by preceding administrations, he must now also contend with issues that have cropped up because of the PTI’s own misrule since August 2018. Needless to say, his team has been generous with its contribution under this head.

A considerable period seems to have elapsed between the time Mr Khan took charge and now. High hopes have been replaced with a sense of trepidation. The original choices, which included prominent PTI names, have been dispensed with. The prime minister is now stuck with a second-choice ministerial panel assigned the unenviable job of pulling the country, and those at its helm, out of the current mess. The impression that he has to work with an even more compromised cabinet will hold unless he specifies, directly to the people or through parliament, the reason why he believed that the reshuffle was necessary and how the change in portfolios and new appointments will yield positive results. Public morale must be lifted and the people taken into confidence.

Mr Khan has been dared by his opponents as well as supporters to deliver on the promises he made during the poll campaign and after. There are warnings of growing factionalism within the PTI — the frequent brawls in public are a testimony to the internal turmoil. Mr Khan’s tendency to rely overly on late imports into the PTI from other parties could be the cause of a lot of heart-burning. Then there is the eternal reality that all Pakistani rulers face: they are beholden to recommendations from domestic as well as international players to come up with a working setup. Mr Khan must realise that not all selections are easy to refuse — and at the same time guard his own reputation as someone with a mind of his own. He must find ways to assert himself to ensure that he is not just a spectator burdened with a title without the powers to justify it. No one said it was easy to be the prime minister of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019