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Time For Imran To Appoint A Deputy PM

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Imran Khan is running out of excuses for lack of performance after 14 months of his government. If he wants to survive, he should appoint a skillful deputy prime minister who acts his CEO without delay. He would not only serve as a buffer for buying thinking-time but also becomes a scapegoat if anything goes wrong, writes Aamer Sarfraz.

Summer mist is romantic but autumn mist just sad. This is because in autumn, the sun grows weaker, and an unfriendly wind picks up unfelt and unheard. When a swirling whiteness appears in the distance, a spiralling twister of smoke is forming into a funnel. You may feel gusts sweeping into a hurricane, gashing at your clothes as if they were shredded flags in a uniform. When the mast of that dense mist begins to move toward you, a flat stretch of khaki is noticeable before it engulfs you. Only the painful memories survive afterwards.

I wrote in 2018 that if the governance and economy do not improve by December 2019, it would be the beginning of the end for Khan government. The economy has since picked up slightly but governance is still in dire straits. I am not ready to eat the humble pie yet, but Imran Khan should be really grateful to Fazlur Rahman for extending his lease of life. However, his time for learning on the job and our time for analysing the aetiology of his failures is just about over. In military terms, it is time for rapid-fire during a rearguard action.  

It is said that every village has a simpleton, and if one does not exist they invent one to pass the time. Khan has the right to imagine that we are governed by him because the force is still with him. He may also assume that the gods, including NAB and FIA, are an embodiment of his power, and the rest of the state institutions have gone missing. But for the rest of us, our conviction allows us to expect what the goddess of democracy embodies by its nature: good governance, rule of law, integrity, and hope. Khan may believe he is endowed with the extraordinary powers of endurance characteristic of premier athletes, but he is not invincible. No one is.

The system has got overheated. It is not entirely Khan’s fault as some of it is systemic and the rest is due to incredible expectations from him, and the dedication of his adversaries. Unfortunately, he is contributing to it in a very big way through his naivety, belief system, and legendary obstinacy. Considering his age, quality of advisers around him, and the company he keeps, it is perhaps time for the whole nation to pray for a miracle for him. He is quickly running out of excuses after 14 months in the government. After we have finished watching all the episodes of several seasons of his and her favourite Turkish TV series, Ertugrul – Resurrection, something will have to give.

Khan has got bogged down with small details. A great leader inspires, and supports those who look after small details for him when required. He also drops those ideas, practices and personnel who fail to deliver; no matter how dear and near they are to him. For example, it is reportedly the same person who advised Khan about the timing of sacking Asad Umar and issuing Army Chief’s extension memo. Since both decisions have been a disaster, he should not rely on that person again for critical decisions. As advised earlier, Khan does not need to read as many files or hold so many meetings; civil servants and ministers can take care of these. Finally, blatant public displays of his rosary-working only portray lack of confidence, ignorance of Islamic tenets, and bad social and professional manners.

The trouble with opening many fronts is that cracks appear on all sides when counter-attack comes. The media would always magnify those cracks. Their mischief is to sometimes bombarded us with manufactured pseudo-realities when everybody is being twisted by the same sources simultaneously. Khan currently believes that the media does everything for money’s sake; and its awful power to sway the public opinion is held to ransom by some ignorant TV anchors who after failing at menial jobs, have ended up in journalism on their way to perpetual unemployment.

He may have the right to distrust their power but not their motives all the time. He forgets that whoever controls the media, controls the minds. They have made him, and if he continues like this, he gets carted offstage politically wounded or dead in a great charade.

Khan always wanted to become a prime minister and we made him one for being our hero. A successful prime minister anywhere in the world is essentially a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) now-a-days. This role requires certain management skills, high energy, and the relevant experience, which Khan does not possess. This is no disgrace because, except Shehbaz Sharif, all top politicians in Pakistan are similar to him. If he carries on doing what he is doing, he will meet the same destiny as that was encountered by Nawaz Sharif, Zafar Ullah Jamali, and Yousaf Raza Gilani. Musharraf and Zardari also wanted to be prime ministers but they chose to become presidents instead and had prime ministers working as CEOs for them.

Pakistan does not have a presidential system. If Khan wants to survive, he should appoint a skillful deputy prime minister who acts his CEO without delay. He would not only serve as a buffer for buying thinking-time but also becomes a scapegoat if anything goes wrong. This will free Khan from the daily grind of meetings and the day-to-day running of government. He has gained enough experience of the job to support and monitor his deputy. He would then be able to concentrate on the big picture and do what he is good at.

He could go around the country energising and motivating his chief ministers, party faithful, and travel abroad to raise the profile of Pakistan along with its fringe benefits. He would also have enough time for daily exercise and catch up with his neglected friends at home and abroad.

After all is said and done, power in Pakistan is essentially about knowing the nature of challenges, and accepting lesser solutions. It does not corrupt you itself but the thought of losing it often does. The day Khan decides to become the true image of his own imagination; he will ditch inaction that keeps breeding doubts. He needs to confront himself one day soon as no one else can do it for him.

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