60 Days in Naya Pakistan

By-Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Its been a while since I wrote. The last was the Atif Mian flying arrow.

Many arrows have taken flight since.  Some good, others reminiscent of the permanent foot and mouth diseases people in power suffer from.
Nothing serious, but embarrassing.

The anticipation of returning to Pakistan after 4 years was like the indescribable euphoria which engulfed us in Lawrence College as we neared the final departure day of our three months winter holidays.

Have things changed in Pakistan?

Considerably.

First the game of traffic chicken on the roads (who moves first) has reached Olympian levels.

No one, and I mean absolutely no one gives way. Young or old. Any gender. Rich or poor. Civil or military. No one cares a damn about anything.

I’ve seen steely eyed determined  young girls and shawl clad Aunties going head to head with Rickshaw guys and that most insane character on our roads, the motorcyclist.  I think some of these guys must be missing a DNA string or two.

One young lad, driving without any lights at night on a highway when cheerily suggested to get his lights fixed, replied.
*Laytaan naal kay kurrna aay. Allah Hifazath kurrsee*

Absolutely irrefutable logic, worthy of the Socratic order.

And of course the new political order was everywhere.  The new kids on the block. The new big man on campus. Kohsar Market in F-6/3, Islamabad abuzz with everything, political and non political. So was Coffee Beans just round the road.

But the most visible and sad part was seeing a neglected Islamabad.

Overgrown grass, crumbling sidewalks, piles of garbage and even worse as one travelled to Pindi (Been to three cities so far, Pindi, Islamabad and Lahore).

Someone needs to read “Blink” to understand how much environment impacts behaviour.

In the early days my impression in the power corridors was of everyone drinking from a fire hose, the man included.

A feeling of “quiet hysteria ” if I can call it that. A sense of people being overwhelmed not just with the enormity of the task but of being significantly challenged in experience, capability,  and insights about governance.

In some cases, lambs to the slaughter. A bunch of kids totally dependant on a crafty bureaucracy who have seen off the likes of the current lot and more.

Of innocently making decisions with huge negative consequences. Of someone who perhaps never had a formal job in his life and barely made 6 decisions in a week, now making sixty in a day etc.

The team that one saw wasn’t going to win you the world cup!

Some decisions like appointing Buzdar in Lahore, allocation of cabinet portfolios and a general feeling and sense of drift added to people’s discomfort,  including mine.

By the way, Asad Umar seemed to be drinking from a bigger fire hose than the PM.

But people always underestimate the “man”.

And as I write this, the change from this earlier doom and gloom, the baby steps and the falling down, the incoherence of the new kids on the block,  the uncertainity of going to the IMF and the uncertainty of other decisions. The stock market crash, the plunging dollar, the DPO Maneka affair, is now gradually moving towards some coherence.

Clearly the new administration’s biggest feather is the economic support from Saudi Arabia,  most likely UAE and China.

This fiscal breathing space is essential to set our economic and social fundamentals right.

But then along comes Azam Swati and the buffaloes and the sordid completely avoidable drama of the sacking of the Islamabad IG. And the Goebbelian responses by several spokespersons. Nothing existential but avoidable.

I know the PM has a soft corner for his Information Minister.

My advice.

He need someone who’s as quick witted as Fawaad is, as smooth talking as Dr. Mussadiq and as handsome as Khusro Bakhtiar!😎

I think he should take another look at Shafqat Mahmood who seems to be wasted in his current role. I think he will bring a much needed level of maturity and respectability to Imran and his administration. Even Iftikhar Durrani!

If the PTI administration and the PM have to remember one rule, one principle, it is *always follow due process*
in making any decisions.

Remember you guys came to power vowing to remove corruption and rebuild our institutions, destroyed and torn to shreds by the Sharifs and the  Zardaris.

Do not take arbitrary decisions outside the ambit of due process, even if it’s the right decision. Because doing so will weaken the process and the institution.

The solution. Change the process or the system if it interferes with good decision making or good governance.

On the political front, I do not see the present government under any serious distress either at the center and Punjab.

I think Buzdar will surprise everybody, including himself. Yes there are efforts afoot within his own party to weaken him so a former aspirant can turn to the Khan and say
*”Didn’t I tell you”*
and gleefully become the new CM.

But my sense is that IK will stick with his current horse.

I think appointing Buzdar was a masterstroke and also a huge risk in changing the political power dynamics of the Province.

I think the Sharifs and the Zardaris are in for a very tough time.  The noose is getting tighter and barring a Black Swan event, one doesn’t see their woes ending.

The political dynamics and power politics of Pakistan are changing. Perhaps imperceptible to many but they are.

Two game changing things are across the board accountability, not just for corruption, but measuring and evaluating performance in all spheres of governance and the Local Government system. The Citizen’s Portal if implemented successfuly will dramatically change governance and delivery of public services.

The elite of this country are not the issue. They have had it good forever and will slink away when the going gets tough.

It’s the poor, uneducated, illiterate, exploited, devastated, poverty stricken man, woman, child who needs this Tabdeeli.

This Tabdeeli is not for those with full stomachs, too much money, too much time, too many pretentious holiday destinations, clothes, cars, houses. For those whose only claim to fame in helping Pakistan is forwarding posts on Facebook and Whatsapp or smart alecky tweets.

And many with too little grey matter, mostly living off the corruption or inheritance of their parents etc.

This Tabdeeli is for the poor!

The only reason the wretched of the soil responded like lemmings to the tunes of the Pied Piper of Larkana in 1970 was the hope he held out with his Roti, Kapra and Makan mantra.

He failed them miserably and even worse is to still see his successors scrounge off and fatten themselves on the flesh of the downtrodden.

The Tabdeeli  the nation want from the Khan is this:

Give me and my children safety and security.

Save me from the clutches of a demonic police force and a corrupt judicial system.

Give me and my children quality health care so we don’t live and die miserably. So we are treated like human beings not animals.

Give me and my children clean drinking water, the ability and means to have a decent roof and three meals a day.

Give me and my children an education which will give them a fighting chance in life and great job opportunities and setting up their own businesses.

Save me and my children from the exploitation of the rich and the powerful and the corrupt!

Give me the same rights and privileges as all others in this Mumlikath e  Khudad e Pakistan.

Give me the right to live with honour, dignity and pride in Pakistan,  PM Imran Khan.

Over to you,  PM!

*-Haider Mehdi*

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