Wayward priorities

Published April 21, 2022

AFTER days of wrangling, the parties in the ruling coalition seem to have arrived at some sort of a settlement, albeit begrudgingly, allowing the new prime minister to finally induct his cabinet more than a week after he was sworn in. And what a cabinet it is. The long list makes for interesting reading, especially if one is to consider the novel predicament the new government is in. Practicality would have demanded that the prime minister nominate a small group of experts to help him navigate the immediate crises he faces. Meanwhile, given his tenuous hold on power and the political turbulence triggered by Imran Khan’s ouster, he ought to have directed immediate preparations for a general election. Expediency, however, seems to have prevailed with the lavishing of high offices on all and sundry, perhaps in an attempt to give some commonality of purpose to a group of politicians who otherwise struggle to see eye to eye.

There are two silver linings in the new cabinet. Miftah Ismail has been given the onerous and thankless task of running the finance ministry. He will be expected to use his experience to once again clean up the economic mess left by a predecessor. Similarly, Hina Rabbani Khar seems a well-considered choice as minister of state for foreign affairs. It is assumed her past experience will greatly benefit Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari if and when he takes over as foreign minister. Sadly, it is evident from the other appointments and continued bickering over posts that the ruling parties do not seem to have put much prior thought into finding common ground. The poorly conceived joint charter they issued days ahead of the PTI government’s ouster had been the first indication that they may have over-focused their energies on securing the vote of no-confidence alone. Now that Mr Khan is gone, their seeming indecisiveness on how to proceed will not be excused for long. The new government does not have the time or political space to afford to proceed in disorderly fashion. It is unsettling that most of the parties which created it seem unwilling to acknowledge the immensity of the challenges they face. The economic and other consequences, were this collaborative project to prematurely self-abort, would be troubling to say the least. The new government needs to share what the road map to the next election looks like and what it plans to do in the meantime.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022

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