Hard realities banter king khan’s ‘pious platitude’

Sankar Ray

Political breeze in Islamabad stinks as the foul smell of many a compromise takes away fragrance from the hitherto street-smart Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf president Imran Khan Niazi as he had to compromise unethically to ensure a stable government. If all goes well, the formal announcement of Prime Minister (obviously ‘King Khan himself) will coincide with finalised results of National Assembly and provincial assemblies. The PTI chief will swear in at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the residence of President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain on 11 August. The initial plan to have it celebrated glamorously at the accessible D-Chowk, junction of Jinnah Avenue and Constitution Avenue, had to be dropped Both Khan and ‘miltablishment’ concur with the imperative of austerity from the very beginning. Which is why invitations to heads of states abroad too are withdrawn. Right now Pakistan’s forex reserves are below 17.07 billion — barely able to cover less than two months of imports. The new Premier will in probability live in a simpler residence to avoid incurring of an exorbitant sum of Pakistani Rs 1.85 billion annually.
Uncertainties around the formation of the new government seem to be over as the initial size of the ministry will not cross 20. “The cricketer turned playboy turned right-wing politician” Imran Khan and his close confidantes condescend to uncomfortable conditionalities. The strength of PTI among directly elected Members of National Assembly is 125. Its coalition partners- Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), the Grand Democratic Alliance, Baluchistan Awami Party and the Awami Muslim League – add 19 more, taking the alliance strength up to 144 against the magic figure of 137. With approximately 26 reserved seats for women in the National Assembly – 15 from Punjab, seven from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and four from Sind plus four seats reserved for minorities, PTI’ s total strength will be 155 seats.
Vision of the Naya Pakistan is just afloat, as the playboy turned right-wing politician  has to strike a grand mean between his brand of populism and governance, which has a simile with ‘indifference curve’ in economics – many indeterminates that dog Pakistan’s sanguinary reality. The very first imperative before the PTI chairman is to shape and texturise the new ministry. But make no mistake that a radicalised Pakistan awaits its 210 million people. William Milam, formerly a US and now senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, hyphenates Khan’s populism from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s left-of-centre strain. “Imran Khan is a populist of right; his main ideology is nationalism” which is a variant of “the club of populist-led countries, grown disproportionately in the last decade or two.” His image as a politician of rare integrity among the rightists too turns pale when even several ex-generals openly call the spectacular triumph of PTI as considerably rigged with the help of army. Terming the narrative as Goebblesian, Lt-General(retd) M Haroon Aslam wrote in one of his latest commentaries, that “these elections have been hugely rigged as per a pre-conceived design has found traction and acceptability without people knowing the facts and figures”
Neither Naya Pakistan nor the right-leaning populism is any factor in the formation of the new ministry. Nor meritocracy is a determinant in picking up ministers. Take the choice of the finance minister. The portfolio in all probability is reserved for Asad Umar, who has already started working out the strategy on how to confront the International Monetary Fund in maximising the bailout package.  A PTI Member of National Assembly since 2013, he was the CEO of Engro Pakistan - then the highest-paid CEO of the country, before joining politics. He seems confident to face up to the harsh financial realities. Caretaker Finance minister Shamshad Akhtar has forewarned that the huge trade deficit of $25 billion depletes reserves.
Dr Shireen Mazari is the highly probable defence minister A graduate from the London School of Economics with a Ph.D. from Columbia University in political science and formerly head of strategic studies department at the Quaid-e-Azam University, she is at ease to take on her Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman,. Dr Mazari was the editor of The Nation. Another female minister, being considered for health and family welfare, is Dr Yasmin Rashid, formerly head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the King Edward Medical University and ex-president, Pakistan Medical Association. She joined politics after her retirement from the Pakistan Health Services.
Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi, PTI vice-chairman, is likely to be the minister of foreign affairs, a post he held between 2008 and 2011 (then an MNA of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party). Actually, he was all set to be the chief minister of Punjab, but he was defeated in the provincial election. He still eyes the post by getting elected as a member of Punjab Assembly through by-election. In that case, Dr Mazari may be the foreign minister. Coming of a wealthy, political and Sufi Muslim family that claims to be of saintly lineage, he did his masters from the Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
The PTI supremo has to keep allies and defectors into his party in good humour by doling out good portfolios to them as a reciprocal gesture. The lone MNA from Awami Muslim League Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, the AML chairman, too is all set to be the next Railways Minister, while the PML-Q Pervez Elahi is almost certain to be the speaker of the Punjab Assembly.
Makhdoom Khushro Bakhtiar, who defected from the PML(Nawaz), has to be allotted a major portfolio as the prize for engineering defection of southern Punjab-based Janoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz group, including eight former PML(N) law makers, and merger with PTI in May 2017. Finding slots for other heavyweights such as Aleem Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed is another headache for Khan. (IPA)

Saturday, 18 August, 2018