Accountability fixation

25 Oct 2020

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IN a string of recent public addresses and interviews, Prime Minister Imran Khan has devoted much of his time to lambasting the opposition parties and vowing to accelerate the accountability process. During a conversation with ARY journalists on Friday, Mr Khan in a similar fashion during the near two-hour interview launched a blistering attack on his political opponents and pledged ‘not to forgive their loot till his last day’. That Mr Khan has taken the accountability drive so personally is unsettling; it not just challenges the principle of judicial neutrality but also indicates that his focus is largely on opponents instead of matters of governance. What is more troubling is that Mr Khan has already decided that if the people ever vote his political opponents into power, he will take to the streets in protest. He knows that the prime minister’s seat is not a birthright. With just two more years left till election season, he would do well to focus his energy on actually giving relief to the people and go beyond his vows of bringing back looted wealth. At present, the public is facing multiple crises due to food inflation, a shortage of gas and power, and mass unemployment. Simultaneously, a political crisis is unfolding which has seen the undermining of the Sindh police force — an episode Mr Khan surprisingly brushed off as a “non-issue” and went so far as dubbing a “comedy”.

While there is no doubt that allegations of financial mismanagement at the hands of public officer holders must be investigated according to the tenets of the law, Mr Khan’s relentless and dogged obsession with the opposition’s alleged theft is perhaps distracting him from the greater task at hand, which is to serve the people of this country and uphold their constitutional rights. By fixating on the accountability drive and constantly threatening to jail his political opponents, it appears Mr Khan is missing the forest for the trees; accountability, after all, is just one crucial aspect of governance. The prime minister would be well-advised to focus on the larger issues of bringing relief to citizens crushed by economic hardship. Raging against his rivals’ alleged theft was a good campaign slogan when he was in opposition, but it may not be enough for the public to vote for him in the next election if his policies fail to bring them relief after five years of government.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2020