By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
Imran knows that these elections are perhaps his last and best chance as a political leader to come into power.
And therefore he has to win at all costs and deliver on his promises.
I’ve always maintained that Imran’s bigger challenge is not winning the elections, but the subsequent governing of what Dr. Ishrat Hussain calls “Governing the Ungovernable” the title of his must read book.
Therefore PTI and Imran are awarding tickets to those candidates who they think have the best chance to win them a seat and get him and the party past the finish line.
In this list, while one finds some surprising choices, some dubious characters, ultimately, its about the assessment by Imran and his ticket awarding committee about which candidate has the best winning chances.
And in this assessment, clearly some compromises have been made. Some big, some small. Some really questionable people got through. A few I know personally.
But I also understand that in every case the person or group which got the ticket were more effective than the other group to convince the ticket awarding committee and Imran that their horse or mare had better chances of winning the seat.
It’s that simple!
And if Imran and their committee made wrong assessments, choices and decisions, then they have no one to blame but themselves. And consequently they will suffer the consequences of a wrong assessment and a decision, as we all do in our own lives.
Constituency politics is a mean, mean, mean and cutthroat business.
It pits children against parents. Siblings against each other. Families and friends against each other. The stakes, especially in rural constituencies are very high. Hence the battle to get a party ticket is vicious and severe.
There will always be winners and losers. And there will always be extremely powerful arguments for and against those who got the ticket and those who didn’t
And because I’m not a very insightful observer or participant of constituent politics, I will dwell no more on this and hold my peace.
Finally as we get to the last stretch.
Imran and PTI made some costly and embarrassing blunders in the recently concluded caretaker CM appointments.
It showed, thankfully, the weaknesses in the party’s consulting, feedback and decisioning processes.
I say thankfully, because hopefully he and his party have learned a painful but necessary lesson from these avoidable blunders and will take corrective action to set their house in order.
More importantly, going forward, Imran must give the people of Pakistan the confidence that he and his party are capable of good governance and good decisions as he moves from being a highly effective opposition leader to one with an effective and winning electoral engine and finally to governance and delivering on his promises, despite having questionable people as his party candidates.
He must clearly show that he is capable of dealing with the questionable electables, when he’s elected!
Having said that, personally and despite some reservations, their recent blunders and some questionable candidate choices, I will certainly and unquestionably still vote for any PTI candidate, irrespective of who he or she is, just to give Imran a fighting chance for Pakistan.
Otherwise folks as I’ve always said its back to the stench, stink and vomit of the Sharifs and the Zardaris, their unbridled loot and plunder and gross misgovernance and wholescale destruction of all our institutions.
And perhaps an existential threat. Foisting their completely incompetent children on us.
But If there’s any hope in rebuilding and strengthening our public sector institutions, it lies with Imran.
We’ve already seen what the Sharifs and Zardaris have done.
If there’s any hope of rebalancing the power balance between the military and the civil, it lies with Imran.
Not because he’s going to take the military head on as did Nawaz or try and “buy” them as did Zardari, but because he holds the best hope of strengthening civilian institutions and bringing them to their rightful levels of discipline, effectiveness and good governance, so that we are not constantly dependant on this one institution, the Army, to come and fix everything and in the process acquiring more and more power and influence.
The current imbalance of power in favour of the Army is extremely unhealthy and existential not just for the country but for the Army itself.
Nawaz has used this anger against military dominance in politics very effectively.
And the answer to correcting this balance lies in strengthening civilian institutions and not in weakening the Army.
If our police is effective we will see dramatic improvements in law and order and economic activity.
If we have effective accountability institutions which hold public office holders accountable, irrespective of party affiliations we will see many PTI legislators being hauled up and punished under Imran’s watch.
If we have public sector institutions headed by people of competence and integrity we will see dramatic improvements in revenue collection, health care, education, investments, job opportunities and all areas of public service.
If our public funds are not misused we will see visible symbols of growth and prosperity based on correct priorities.
If we have cohesive and aligned Economic, Political, Foreign and Military strategies and policies we will have internal and external cohesion and strength.
In a well-governed society with equitable access and opportunities to all, charlatans, bigoted mullahs, 5th columnists and Quislings cannot hijack the emotions of a society to serve their vested interests.
The likes of Khadim Rizvi, Fazal Diesel, Achakzai, Asfyandar Wali, Manzoor Pashteen, Altaf Hussain will never thrive in a well-governed society. They thrive on stoking the emotions and fears of people who have been misruled and misgoverned and denied their rights.
And if we are governed well, we have a fighting chance!
In my personal experience in change management across 44 organizations, including one major public sector entity, I’ve seen that a competent leader appointed to a position of authority gets like people, changes processes and achieves great outcomes.
In Pakistan institutions like KP police, Motorway police, Traffic Wardens, NICVD in Karachi, Urology clinic, 1122, IBA, and many others are some examples of amazingly well run public sector institutions.
Islands of excellence in our rotten public sector!
People change behaviour based on the context and environment they are put in.
Take for example the dramatic change in people’s behaviour from the fish market of Lahore airport to the quiet disciplined lines our own fall in at Dubai airport in a span of less then 2 or 3 hours. A miraculous transformation!
Or take the incessant honking and weaving and mad driving and full throated curses on GT road and compare it to the seat belted, speed limit serene disciplined drive, on the Islamabad Lahore Motorway. As the barrier lifts to enter the motorway, angelic transformation takes place. Seatbelts on. 125 kms max speed. Indicators to change lanes. No honking. And the devil overcomes us as soon as we leave the motorway at the other end. Miraculous transformation in 4 hours and back to chaos!
Imran plans to change the context and environment to change our behaviour and especially of the MNA’s and MPA’s.
He plans to make all Public sector institutions fully autonomous and independant with empowered boards, through executive fiat and by changing their rules of business, or through acts of parliament or presidential ordinances, freeing them from government or political control or interference.
This includes the police and all key institutions like NAB, FBR, Utlities, PSO, PIA, PTV, FIA, SECP, SUIGAS etc
He plans to bring back security of tenure for public servants so they are not changed like chess board pieces and hence can administer free of political influences and pressures.
Only policy making will vest with cabinets.
He plans to devolve administrative and financial powers to highly empowered local governments to ensure money is spent on local projects. No national or provincial legislator will be given developmental funds.
He knows that only by taking financial temptations away from elected legislators will he succeed.
His model is very similar to the governance model and legislators of the west.
1. Independent, autonomous governance bodies headed by competent people, to deliver public services
2. Legislatures only to legislate.
3. Cabinets to only make policy
These western democracies realised that politics and governance if mixed leads to corruption.
Remember nothing and no person is perfect.
No one is! Not Imran! Not anybody!
But we have to work with what we have and for me, despite everything, Imran still holds out the best fighting chance to unleash our potential as a great nation and do the things listed above!
Only time will tell.
But we have to give him the chance and the opportunity for the sake of Pakistan, ourselves, our children and our future.