FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 20

Imran Khan himself to blame for his downfall

The political crisis in Pakistan is not going to end in the immediate future despite the dissolution of the National Assembly by the President of Pakistan on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, the President has asked the Prime Minister to continue as chief executive until a caretaker government is put in place according to the constitutional procedure.

The immediate reason for the political crisis in Pakistan is that the opposition parties to the former ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan wanted to come to power through a change of loyalties, horse-trading and foreign meddling. However, Imran Khan is himself to blame for the current political problems. The way he ran the affairs of the federal government left a lot to be desired. His choice of key ministers was at best floppy. He reshuffled ministers without any solid reason or without giving them ample time to settle down and bring reforms. Then handing over important ministries to political and administrative novices, like Murad Saeed, who was given the portfolio of communication, was a great mistake. Although Imran Khan praised Murad Saeed for the “best” performance, nothing of such kind could be seen on the ground. Then a noteworthy observation about Imran Khan’s rule was that while he reshuffled ministers off and on, he did not change his Principal Secretary, Azam Khan, during the entire span of his rule despite severe criticism from the PTI and outside. Sticking with people like Azam Khan suggested that Imran Khan just wanted to hand over the key responsibility of supervising the civilian bureaucracy, the very important factor in implementation of public policy, to a civilian bureaucrat with little political oversight. This is the area where he miscalculated and could not act as a genuine political leader.

Then he always bragged during his rule that his government and all national institutions were on the same page. However, ultimately it turned out that it was not true. It was evident from differences over key positions in the security establishment. The people Imran Khan banked upon for running the affairs of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces were not up to the task. For instance, the choice of Usman Buzdar to head the government in the largest and politically most important province, Punjab, was a faux pas. However, Imran Khan despite being told of his bad decision of making Buzdar the chief minister of Punjab, he was recalcitrant to change him and continuously dubbed him a man of “extraordinary” talent. The truth was that Buzdar was a person of not even ordinary talent. Imran Khan was of the view that only a person untainted by corruption, with simple personality, a modest background and backward area could deftly rule Punjab. Buzdar, from Dera Ghazi Khan, fulfilling his criteria was thus automatically dubbed “honest and talented.” It was a total miscalculation and lack of political acumen on the part of Imran Khan. How come someone untested in power and governance, like Buzdar, could be expected to set an exemplary model of governance. With such a poor educational background and non-cosmopolitan personality, a simple Buzdar could not run the affairs of Punjab in the era of postmodern politics of issues and identities. Most importantly, having no knowledge and background of managing economic affairs, Buzdar could not be a good choice as a ruler of a province, whose main problem has been revolving around lack of economic governance. Imran Khan thought that an honest or for that matter untainted person, like Buzdar, would be enough to manage the affairs of a complex and big province. But it was total naivety on the part of Imran Khan.

The basic argument and belief of Imran Khan has been that financial corruption within the corridors of power committed by dishonest politicians has been the key cause of all problems and bad governance in Pakistan. The argument, to an extent, has been correct and believable but it is never totally correct and believable. There have been far bigger problems and issues afflicting Pakistan than financial corruption by the rulers. In fact, financial corruption on part of the rulers is the outcome of structural problems. The two basic problems with Pakistan have been its social structure and incompatible political system. Pakistan’s social system is ultra-conservative with an authoritarian traditional structure. In this social structure individualism, liberty and freedom have no or little space. Therefore, we could not establish a solid democratic culture in Pakistan and on the basis of that culture could not develop a strong political system which could result in the formation of structures, processes and mechanisms of good governance. One can give an example in this regard. In the entire history of Pakistan, local government institutions, which provide the foundation of a democratic system, existed for a few years. Even whenever local government institutions have been there they existed merely in name without any power to address the basic issues of Pakistan. Why this has happened because in an ultraconservative social structure power only lies in traditional authorities, like waderas or family patriarchs, who believe in the centralization of power which is totally against the spirit of local government institutions whose basic spirit is decentralization and devolution of power to communities and local tiers. On the other hand, Pakistan’s political system, which ideally should have been designed and formed to overcome the problems of the social structure as is the case of any development political system. Pakistan’s parliamentary political system, instead of overcoming the ills of the social structure, has reinforced the social structure. Consequently, the problems associated with the social structure have not only remained unresolved but become more complex with the passage of time due to the increasing population, outside influence and social complexity due to urbanization and migration. Imran Khan, like earlier rulers, could not understand the two realities of Pakistan’s political sociology. Therefore, he remained a largely ineffective ruler. In fact, Imran Khan tried to reinforce the classical social structure of Pakistan by promoting people from rural and modest backgrounds to establish a good governance model. He failed thoroughly. Our problems will not be addressed if we continue to ignore these social and political realities of Pakistan.