The Dr. Atif Mian Flying Arrow!

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*

Yesterday was a harrowing and embarrassing day for Imran and PTI.

Barely 20 days in and they tasted the angry and highly inflammable onslaught of the right wing. In the media, from the pulpits and great possibilities of a dharna on the streets.

First they put up a brave and defiant face refusing to bow down to the threats and blackmail, but then retreated under pressure and faced the second wave of anger, shock, disbelief and criticism from the other side of the divide.

Saw Dunday Aur Saw Chitthar!

A very tough week and day indeed! The event also marred the impact of Imran’s appeal for donations. I’m certain it had an impact. Unfair yes, but unfortunately it must have had. The Dr. Atif fiasco couldn’t have come at a worst time!

I see this not as a wrong decision or two wrong decisions. Or one wrong and one right. And I’m not saying which was wrong or right, because I have no intention of wading into this theological minefield and quicksand!

To me it’s an abject failure of process. It’s a failure of how decisions are made.

While hindsight is always 20/20 having the benefit of knowing the outcome and commenting on what could have been done better, the issue is whether robust, thorough and rigorous decision-making processes are in place?

To me the answer is a big NO!

Without knowing details, I can only hazard that Imran probably accepted the advice of whoever was tasked to deliver this outcome of nominating members to the Economic Task Force!

Clearly they didn’t do their due diligence to vet the names.

Clearly, their “what if then” analysis to anticipate possible range of outcomes from a *”most serious, most likely”* to a *”least serious, least likely”* about a potentially controversial decision was not done!

I say this because had such due diligence and a robust *”what if, then” analysis been done, at a very preliminary stage, even before talking to him and prior to going public, someone would have said, *”……Hey guys do you think Dr. Atif’s religious orientation would be an issue?……”* .

Its then predicting, as stated earlier, a range of possible scenarios ranging from Worst Case scenario to Best Case scenario and Most likely to happen to Least likely to happen!

This would have resulted in two possible outcomes!

*Outcome 1*
Yes. We will nominate him and yes we can handle the worst case scenario of a massive right wing onslaught from the pulpit, the media and threats of civil disobedience or even actual dharna BUT we will stick by our decision.

*Outcome 2.*
No. Let’s take his name out as we are not in a position to handle the fall out at this point in time. Let’s fight this battle later!

There’s a possible third outcome that the worst case scenario envisaged was milder than what happened. This is a consequence and combination of lack of correct ground information, poor analysis, and incompetence.

If the outcome 2 was agreed, then Dr. Atif wouldn’t even have been invited. And a completely avoidable gross error of judgement, avoided.

So, as they say, the best way to handle a conflict, is not to start it!

Therefore as the entire country does emotional convulsions, let me just say this.

To me this is not as much a failure of PTI or Imran buckling under the right wing threat, with egg on their faces, as much as it is a manifestation of a serious lack of a professional, thorough, rigorous and robust, decision making process in their environment!

And this Imran must fix.

While, he probably had nothing to do with the initial decision, every screw up, every stupidity, every unprofessional act, every incompetence, every deliberate sabotage by any member of his team, whether deliberate or in ignorance will lie at Imran’s doorstep and tarnish his brand!

Every such capitulation will reinforce the precedence that we can force Imran and his government to give in and retreat if enough of the right kind of pressure is applied on them!

This is a very very dangerous precedent.

But the Dr. Atif flying arrow is not existential. It is very sad. Very sad! While the messaging both internally and externally is terrible it is not existential and the end of “Naya Pakistan” as hordes of commiserating chest beaters or gleeful opponents are gloating over. But enough as this is not my argument here.

These are very early days for Imran and his mostly inexperienced team, him included. For many this is their first “real job”, Imran included. They lack hands on administrative, management and governance experience.

And everybody’s under a firehose buried under a million issues. And hence the clumsy clodhopping and foot in mouth diseases!

But give Imran 3 month’s and hopefully by then he and some members of his team (sadly not all) would have fixed these processes, gotten a handle on things and greatly minimised the recurrence of such blunders.

I think he also needs a really smart and structured process to ensure he is advised well, constantly receives correct information and data, is always current and well informed on critical issues, and his decisions are thoroughly stress tested and analysed before being made.

And even more importantly this people, process, technology combine must shield him from poor and ill advice, incomplete and incorrect data and information, either deliberate or as a result of sheer incompetence.

He must ruthlessly remove bad eggs. Both in processes and in people. Otherwise he and his administration is in for a very very rough ride

The Dr. Atif Flying Arrow was a completely avoidable disaster.

Saw Chitthar thay Saw Dunday! Unfortunately

*Salaams and Prayers*
*Haider Mehdi*

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