PM Imran Suffering From Ego Overdose Even In Times Of Corona
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had already declared that he would ‘lockdown’ the province for a fortnight from midnight, March 22. And he was to announce around 4PM the same day the details of how the lockdown would be observed.
In the face of the serious threat that Covid-19 posed the Sindh CM’s initiative had appeared just what the doctor had ordered. More, so because of the pace at which the deadly virus was spreading in Sindh which viewed against what had happened in China and was happening in Italy and Spain was looking ominous.
The threat had become all the more serious when Pakistani Zaireen in thousands were crossing over the Taftan border from Iran and when found that some of them had become carriers of the virus the arrivals were being kept in non-quarantine quarters inside Pakistan’s territory under the control of federal, provincial and in truth of the Army’s non-chalant supervision. Hundreds had started escaping from these unlivable camps and spreading all over the country carrying the virus.
Answering a question at a news conference the other day about inadequate arrangements for Pakistani pilgrims who returned from Iran, and reportedly caused the spread of coronavirus in the country, the PM’s lame excuse was: it was very difficult to confine the pilgrims at quarantine centres set up at the borders. “The area of Taftan is 700km away from Quetta. Makeshift quarantine centres were established at the borders with the help of the army and our health minister had stayed in Taftan for the purpose,” he added.
At the same press conference when asked why his government was shying away from enforcing the ban on religious congregations, PM Khan hid behind the excuse that the government had mobilized Ulemma to guide the people to avoid mass gatherings and follow precautionary measures.
Locking the lockdown
Unfortunately, Prime Minister Imran Khan instead of appreciating Murad Ali Shah’s initiative saw his move purely in the political context which to him probably appeared as if a PPP governed province was taking a political lead over the rest of Pakistan under the PTI rule.
What was even more difficult for him to adjust to was perhaps PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s declaration that in view of the serious threat posed to the nation by the pandemic he would put on the back burner for the time being his political differences with the PTI chief and accept him as his PM without any reservations. This gesture of Bilawal received nation-wide appreciation but which the PM presumably saw as PPP winning a battle in the running political point scoring war against his party.
In view of the way the PM actually responded to the moves by Bilawal and Murad Ali Shah, it would not be too wrong to assume that the PTI chief viewed Sindh CM’s initiative in the political framework of government—opposition relations and, therefore, saw a serious threat to his self- assumed ascendance of relatively higher political pedestal vis-à-vis PPP and felt this impacting negatively on the PTI voters.
It was in this frame of mind that PM Khan was blind-sided into countering quickly with an initiative of his own that would make the Sindh CM’s initiative appear in a negative light. And because he and his advisers were trying to take a decision with a stopwatch in hand, they could not but lock the term ‘lockdown’ itself as a target.
And the PM literally exposed his desperation by addressing the nation with his ‘Eureka’ only half-an-hour before the Sindh CM was to announce his decision.
Traditionally, the usual time of the day at which Pakistani presidents and prime ministers address the nation has always been well past 7 PM. But PM Imran in his desperation to speak before Murad Ali Shah, ignored the tradition and addressed the nation at 3:30 PM.
Further, again in his desperation he also forgot that the appropriate day to address the nation, if at all there was a need, was the next day – March 23 which we officially celebrate as our Republic Day. Moreover, not resisting his cussedness he actually praised in his speech the government of Balochistan and federal government for the Taftan border ‘success’ which was actually a scandal. He completely ignored even recognizing the Sindh government’s move to gradually lockdown the province against what was looking as country-wide exponential spread of the virus.
Concern for the poor
In his address, he said he was opposed to enforcing complete lockdown which to him was like imposing a curfew which he thought would cause the poorest of Pakistan’s poor comprising 25% of our population and who make up mostly the daily wage earners, vendors and small shop keepers, to lose their daily keep and starve to death.
He seemed to have purposely ignored the fact that even the partial lockdown that was being gradually enforced since March 17, in Sindh and Balochistan with appeals to the population to confine themselves to their houses, keep a reasonable physical distance while interacting with friends, colleagues and family (educational institutions and most government and private non-essential offices, big market places, shopping plazas, hotels and restaurants were already being closed down) was already making it very difficult for our poorest of poor to keep their heads above water as earning opportunities were shrinking at the pace with which the lockdown was taking roots.
And the PM had also ignored the fact that mindful of the various essential needs of the population at large, it was still largely a partial lockdown that Sindh CM had enforced and not a complete one and certainly not a curfew without any break in the transportation of essentials like daily domestic use items. Medicines, prepared kitchen items, hospitals, clinincs and oil.
Shutdown vs lockdown
Still, the spokespersons of the PTI government spent the whole day on March 23 trying to insist that PM did not approve the lockdown measures announced by Sindh as he saw it affecting adversely the poor of the poorest of the country.
But when the very next day the rest of Pakistan including the PTI ruled Punjab and KP provincial governments and Islamabad enforced lockdowns identical to that of Sindh’s (the written orders issued by Sindh and Punjab governments are word for word identical) the PM and his lackeys were found getting themselves entangled in one falsehood after the other trying still to show what was happening in the rest of Pakistan was different from what was happening in Sindh. In their desperation, they started calling what was happening in Punjab and KP as shutdown and not lockdown forgetting that the two terms ‘shutdown’ and ‘lockdown’ were synonymous.
Investigations have revealed that the PM was in the know of the decisions being taken to lockdown by the rest of Pakistan except AJK and GB (both PMLN ruled entities). But the PM in his press conference the other day said it was under media pressure that the rest of Pakistan had to follow in the footstep of Sindh. When he found this falsehood was also not being taken on its face value. As they say you may tell the greatest lies and wear a brilliant disguise, but you can’t escape the eyes of the one who sees right through you.
He resorted to lying with total impunity. First he lied that because of the Sindh lockdown the Karachi port was closed down, knowing very well that ports were federal subject and Ali Zaidi of PTI was the Federal Minister responsible for ports. Next he lied that GB was running short of petrol because of slowdown of oil transportation from the Karachi port. When the GB government was asked if this was so, the answer was: “We have oil reserves for a month and we closed down some petrol pumps to discourage the motorists wasting oil to go on unnecessary driving sprees.”
Walkout by the PM
The prime minister’s worst divisive gesture so far, to set himself apart from the ‘dirty’ opposition politicians, was his abrupt walkout from the parliamentary parties’ meeting called by the NA speaker Asad Qaisar after delivering his address, without even asking the permission of the chair or informing the other participants or displaying the usual courtesy of apologising for leaving in such a hurry from a meeting which was called for developing a consensus along the party lines with regard to the plan of action to meet the challenge of the pandemic.
Such political consensus is developed normally not by the opposition which tries in its political interests to resist reaching such a consensus but by the government of the day itself using to the hilt the leadership qualities of the leader of the house, that is the PM.
Crude attempts to muzzle media
And at such junctures democratic governments usually try to bend backwards to win over the media knowing well its power to help it in developing such a consensus. But our PM has chosen this very juncture in our history to pick a serious fight with the national media by having the owner of biggest media house of country arrested on trumped up charges.
Not only that. During the last 18 or so months of its rule the PTI government has tried to destroy the largest circulated English daily, Dawn founded by the father of the Nation and the Jang and Geo group whose newspapers and channel combined have readers and viewers’ reach of around 60%.
Talking about freedom of press, during the same press conference the prime minister said had the UK media committed the kind of falsehood and fake news in which our media indulged in, the guilty under the UK law would have been punished with the closure of their businesses and fined heavily. But the PM did not use the relevant laws of our land to try those media houses of Pakistan which in his opinion were indulging in falsehood and fake news but has instead forced the NAB into instituting false cases against those media houses that do not toe PTI’s political line.
Weakening the national will and spirit
Our PM, perhaps suffering from an overdose of ego, or perhaps acting like a dumb sports/movie celebrity which perhaps he actually is and not a politician or perhaps being a victim of inferiority complex, seems to be leading the nation into a polarizing whirlwind weakening the nation’s will and resilience to face the deadly challenge of Covid-19.
Leaders don’t behave like the way he is behaving since he left the container and parachuted into Prime Minister’s office.
The author is a senior journalist and editor.