Friday Feb 08, 2019
There is an old joke.
A Sikh sardar once claimed that he was special. He could guess the quality, name and brand of a bottle of wine simple by tasting or smelling it, he would boast. The sardar's friends and acquaintances enjoyed his skill, until, one day a guest challenged him. The man went into a room, took out four bottles of wine, of various brands, and mixed them up. Then, he kept a glass of wine each in front of the sardar. “Now tell me, which is which?” he asked slyly. The sardar looked nervously at his friends, before picking up a glass. He smelled it carefully and then took a sip.
The room fell silent. Everyone waited with bated breath. After a few minutes, he put up both his hands and confessed his failure. “Whichever brand this may be, whichever company made it,” he announced to the room, "inform them that their company will not run for long."
Now, as I said earlier, the joke is old. But it still applies today. The characters are new and so are the events.
Take the present government, ruled by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), for instance. After only tasting three grains – Asad Umar, Usman Buzdar and Mehmood Khan – from the cauldron PTI is cooking, it is clear that this company will also not run for long. If these three grains continue to remain in the pot, the entire stew could be ruined.
Now, there is no doubt that Asad Umar, the minister for finance, is well-educated. He may also be talented. But he has an issue of timing. Umar cannot, we have seen, make the right decisions at the right time. If he had gone to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package, as expected earlier, the economic crisis, Pakistan is faced with today, could have been avoided. That said, the Captain is also in a pickle. His team says he has no one to replace Umar with.
Over to Punjab. Here, despite the Captain’s fulsome support for Usman Buzdar, the chief minister is not delivering. Just look at how upset Ammar Yasir is, the MPA from PTI’s coalition party, PML-Q.
Recently, Abdul Aleem Khan met the Captain. In the meeting, he launched into his litany of complaints about the chief minister. The Captain, frazzled, called Aleem Khan, Usman Buzdar and Basharat Raja for a sit-down and some reconciliation. At the end of the meeting, it was decided that Aleem Khan would be given the extra responsibility of the minister for planning. He was also told by the Captain to work as a team. (Khan was arrest on Wednesday by the anti-graft body due to a corruption probe against him).
There is another problem in Punjab. The top bureaucracy has been out of work since over two months now. When you ask them, they complain that they are not given time with the chief minister, due to which all major decisions remain pending.
Buzdar is shy and gentle. He is also humble and good at socializing. To date, six months in office, and he has yet to give a single media interview. But the bureaucracy around him is fearful of the accountability process being pursued at rapid speed. The civil servants are afraid to go forward with any initiative or give orders, leaving the entire system paralyzed.
For any country or province to progress it needs effective developmental planning. At present, the development budget has been slashed to half. This means that by the end of this year, the roads in the province will be dotted with potholes and if the housing project does not start soon, infrastructure development will become a weak link in the PTI’s governance.
Why was Buzdar made the chief minister then? Either because he hails from a backward district, or his name appeared in a clay pot, or his simplicity won the Captain over. Whatever the reason may be, it is clear that Buzdar was only Bani Gala’s choice. There was no role of the real masters. Even they are wondering today how the province will run.
Any sincere person would advise the Captain to replace these three jewels with suitable people. But the prime minister insists that the jewels will shine soon. Just be patient, he tells us.
Well, we are waiting.
On the other hand, no one is happy in Punjab. Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, Punjab’s governor, was appointed with the promise that water distribution in the province will be his sole domain. But he was never given the powers. So, he began setting up Reverse Osmosis (RO) water purification plants, under the Sarwar Foundation, a private NGO he established. Had he been given the authority he could have done the same for the Punjab government.
It is very unlike Sarwar to hide his feelings. Yet, he chooses to remain silent these days.
There is also Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in the province, the expert political chess player.
The recent resignation of his right-hand man, Ammar Yasir, was a small spark. But if the government is not careful this small spark could ignite a fire.
Back to Buzdar. Let me reiterate. He is kind-hearted and wants to earnestly be on good terms with everyone. That is also why he cannot make big decisions. But governance is all about decision-making and then sticking to those decisions.
During the Mughal era, Mohammad Shah Rangila was a larger than life king, surrounded by all the royal grandeur. Yet, his weakness was that he could never make up his mind. It was the same with Afghan ruler, Bacha Saka. He too spent some splendid days in power, but could never make a decision.
Buzdar is definitely the best, but he lacks a good team. There are no wise or discerning men/women around him except for a few well-educated principal secretaries. He is instead surrounded by sycophants, who are only enjoying the chief ministership. No one, it seems, is bothered about performance. Whether it is the issue of board of directors, solution to the problems of overseas Pakistanis, the appointment of chairmen of the fruit and vegetable markets, or the reformation of the local government, every file is waiting for the government’s final recommendation.
If the company doesn’t change the way it is doing business, or its team, it might not run for long.