Lack of restraint

Updated 02 Jul 2020


THIS past week’s speeches in the National Assembly have showcased emotional outbursts by lawmakers.

As political temperatures soar and conspiracy theories gain momentum, it appears that no one is willing to pull their punches. Rhetoric and personal attacks between political opponents were at an all-time high as speeches peppered with all shades of criticism were delivered.

Among these was one by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he resorted to remarks that feature so often in his public addresses: he vowed to go after ‘cartels and mafias’; blamed past governments for the mess ‘inherited’ by his dispensation; railed against political opponents for ‘corruption and lies’; and mocked the accent of PPP leader and MNA Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Notably, Mr Khan’s speech was made in the absence of the opposition members, who had walked out of the house after a verbal clash with treasury members following the completion of the budget process. Mr Khan’s verbal onslaught appears to be a tit-for-tat response to opposition parties’ criticism of his governance.

The prime minister must be aware that, while the opposition is criticising him and creating hurdles where it can, it is hardly in a position to oust him. Despite this knowledge, their campaign against him appears to have rattled the prime minister, and he is continuing to spend his energy making tedious, repetitive speeches about how those across the aisle have allegedly failed the country.

Since he came to power two years ago, Mr Khan has repeatedly talked about tackling the culture of corruption that has dogged Pakistan over the decades. With the same gusto, he has decried the huge debt burden he has inherited and has also reiterated his promise to carry out reform and make drastic changes.

The trouble, however, is that despite his two years in government so far, the present reality continues to mirror the time before he took charge. Where are the reforms and development projects that the current leaders have promised? What has been done to revive the economy, reform law enforcement, improve access to sanitation and drinking water — along with the dozens of other goals the PTI espouses?

After listening for a considerable length of time to Mr Khan telling us what others have done wrong, it is high time the people were told what the government is doing right. Two years have already passed, and in three more it will be an election year again.

Mr Khan must save his defensive ‘container politics’ for later and, instead, concentrate on fulfilling the promises he made to the people in 2018. The PTI had a robust election manifesto but political point-scoring and bickering have taken the government’s focus away from the task at hand. Ranting against political opponents and constantly trying to deflect rumours that hound every prime minister is quite simply a colossal waste of time.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2020