CIRCUS OF INCOMPETENCE: Nawaz Sharif becomes a recluse,1/3 honeymoon passes without an agenda

Nawaz Sharif becomes a recluse,1/3 honeymoon passes without agenda

Politically Incorrect

Amir Mateen

582452_313644852057916_984887607_nThe first month of the new National Assembly and the new PML (N) government gives some contours of how Nawaz Sharif wants to run his third government in Islamabad.

For a start, the Prime Minister has become quite a recluse this time around. He keeps himself away from the Parliament, the media and even from his party members. He spoke twice to the National Assembly so far. His first speech was just a sketchy account of the government’s intentions. The second time he came to the Parliament was to announce the indictment of Pervaiz Musharraf in the treason case before it was laid before the courts.

He hardly appears before the media after becoming the Prime Minister and is only seen in photo-ops issued by the government. Even his media managers keep the journalists at arm’s length. We wait for Nawaz Sharif’s policy speech that was supposed to announce his grand agenda for this country.

The government’s pace is definitely slow. It does not give the impression of a government that has got its homework done and offers solutions on the fast track. It’s almost been a month since the National Assembly took oath and nearly 50 days since May 11 when the PML (N) knew it was coming to power.

One third of the supposed 90-day honeymoon period is over and we are yet to know the larger contours of the government objectives.

Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar plans to announce his national security plan this week. Whether it matches the hype built around it and gives us hope of peace in near future–only time will tell.

More important, we hold our breath to listen to what has the entire country going through hellish days and sleepless nights—the energy plan. Already, the government backed out of its election bravado and party manifesto about resolving electricity load-shedding in two years. We just hope it’s as good—and transparent—as they claim.

But the Parliament and the public is totally out of the loop on foreign policy. We have no idea what is the government policy on Iran gas pipeline. PPP’s Naveed Qamar asked why the crucial project was missing in the budget but was not given any response. The parliament was not taken into confidence about the US-Taliban talks in Doha and Pakistan’s role in it. Despite protests in the Senate, the government did not explain the contours of our Afghanistan policy and the post-US withdrawal strategy. The Prime Minister briefly mentioned about the Chinese offer about making road and rail link from Gwadar to Khunjrab but no details were shared even as he leaves for China this week.

We know about the government intentions on peace with India but the details, again, are missing. All we hear are rumours about tension between the Special Assistant and the Advisor to the PM on foreign affairs.

Unknown-49-1Frankly, it does not look as a government that had 13 long years to prepare a shadow agenda and to groom its team for Cabinet jobs. The Cabinet core of Ishaq Dar, Chaudhary Nisar, Khawaja Asif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are all experienced hands to run their Ministries but the challenge before them is no small either. We have reservations about other Ministers. Some are simply being trained on the job.

Ayaz Sadiq was groomed for the Railways at the Parliamentary Committees but he was promoted as the Speaker at the last minute. Khawaja Saad Rafiq is making extra effort to become Laloo Prasad Yadav of Pakistan but, in the words of a colleague, “Khawaja Sahb was made the Minister not to sort out Railways but the idea was for the Railways to sort him out.” It is rarely that the sharp-tongued Saad is seen nonplussed. 

Zahid Hamid was transferred to the Ministry of Science and Technology after his name came up as one of the drafters of Musharraf’s 2007 Emergency order. Now, how will a lawyer handle a Science Ministry. And if you read the objectives of the Ministry of Science and Technology you might wonder why should it exist in the first place. His predecessor, Khurram Dastgir, an engineer by profession, is now made Privatisation Minister. “It’s akin to deputing a cobbler for a gardener’s job or making a cook run a poultry farm,” quipped a journalist. What has Rana Tanvir to do with Defence Production or Sara Afzal Tarrar with Health Ministry.

Anusha Rehman, we are told, has a degree in law but was made IT Minister because she types the minutes of official meetings on a computer. She could be a better Public Relations Minister considering the intense socializing she does in the House. Pervaiz Rashid might happily oblige her with his Information Ministry as “I have no secret funds and no power to take journalists on official junkets.” He said this in a lighter vein in the Press Gallery the other day.

The key Ministers are seen only in talk shows and are generally not accessible even when approached for their version. This could be because of tactics, arrogance or, we are forced to infer, they do not have much to say.

Riaz Pirzada, a perpetual turncoat, was made a Minister to adjust a pressure group from South Punjab. If this be the criterion, Javed Ali Shah was already seen spitting venom against the government in the corridors.

The PML (N) was smart to divert the public attention from the unpopular budget to Musharraf’s treason trial and the Swiss cases. But it’s about time the PML (N) came out with something of its own.

Luckily for the government, the opposition is equally disappointing. The PPP is only concerned about wriggling out of its corruption cases. The battalion of Sindhi Waderas that it has brought to the Assembly is pathetic is not a shadow of the PPP we once knew. And the PTI will need a lot more to make an impact. The experiment of introducing new faces and academics in the Parliament has backfired. None of them has shown any spark so far. The ‘Naya Pakistan’ has luckily a handful of old Parliamentarians to save it from utter failure.


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