Blaming Imran Khan for everything is a reality in Pakistan

by Mehr Tarar

Blaming political leaders for everything that goes wrong around us is as common a practice as driving without giving a damn where the lane ends and who’s been overtaken from the wrong side. Blaming prime ministers for the ills that affect our daily lives is as acceptable a fact as the knowledge that eating too many carbs alters size six to ten faster than you can say damn, I’m fat.

Today, blaming Imran Khan for everything that is wrong in Pakistan is as much a reality as the smog that has been ignored as fog in many parts of Pakistan for many years. And the “impartiality” of those who are doing it, despite spouting the nobility of their intention to be that of the good of Pakistan, is as subtle as a double decker bus on a one-lane road.

Admit it, folks. Prime Minister Imran Khan, the words that may be of great joy and satisfaction to millions of Pakistanis who voted for him, his party workers who waited as a picture of patience for more than two decades, and tweeters who support, enunciate, tweet and troll — all kinds exist — in his favour, are nothing but a source of great agony for an equal number of people.

Okay, more. Khan was always supposed to be a political outsider, the man who threatened accountability, said outrageous things, made U-turns, staged months-long dharnas, protested more than a Shakespearean prince in the company of his adoring friends, wished to establish a social welfare state based on Islamic values, and held rallies so huge they would gladden the heart of any Justin Bieber fan. Khan was never supposed to be the prime minister, as that one position had to go to one of those who thought they had patented the right to be in power. Yes, the PML-N Sharifs and the PPP Bhutto-Zardaris.

Khan won the elections and became the prime minister, and while the lamentation and the protestation and the outrage and the condemnation were guaranteed to hang over his five-year tenure as scarily as the Bent-Neck Lady of The Haunting of the Hill House, no one could have imagined it would make its entry so noisily, so crazily and so soon.

Man, and I thought I knew how political opposition in Pakistan worked. All rules of journalistic reporting, op-ed writing, tweeting and presentation of facts and analyses on TV have been whacked on the head, creating a Tom and Jerry world of who will win the game of breaking news, propagation of false news, creation of hype, and repudiation of truth. The result is almost comical, if only life, and in this case, the political reality of Pakistan was a 1950s cartoon show.

There is the Washington Post’s Fact Tracker to record Donald Trump’s “false and misleading claims” after two years of his presidential term. After a year of its implementation, analyses of the demonetisation debacle of the four-year-old Narendra Modi government are being done with more determination than that of an alpine ibex trekking up a mountain during rain. And then there is the non-stop, yes, non-stop commentary on the performance of the Imran Khan government.

For the uninformed, Khan was sworn in as the prime minister of Pakistan on August 18, 2018, and not even three months have passed since his government came into existence. And unlike those in Pakistan who have been chief minister and prime minister more times than one can count on two hands, this is the first time Khan has been in any position of governmental authority. The criticism commenced before the tea-and-biscuit ceremony following his swearing-in ended. I mean, seriously, people?

One of the most hilarious things was a critical op-ed in an acclaimed newspaper on the fifth day of Khan’s government. Getting used to sleep on a new memory foam mattress takes longer, here, the new prime minister was being judged on the fifth day. There’re some people who’re in a race with themselves: on how to beat their own record of inanity, partisan agenda-pushing and negative narrative formation. They excel at what they do, and pat their own back, religiously, three times a day.

Healthy criticism, a critical eye on the working of a new government, hard questions, expectation of satisfactory answers, and a regular assessment of government policies and initiatives is the prerogative of media, and even citizens of a country. That is how healthy democracies function and flourish. What is happening in Pakistan is anything but that.

Attacking Imran Khan and his government is not done in the good of Pakistan; it is being carried out as a part of a systematic demolition of the credibility of the new government. It is a black comedy of the puppet masters and the drama they mis-wrote. Political parties that have been defeated in the elections have made it all a personal game of vendetta, a la Queen Cersei Lannister of the Game of Thrones: if you wrong me I will burn all of you to ashes in the Great Sept of Baelor. Pakistan’s wellbeing be damned, let’s make Imran Khan rue the day he took the prime ministerial oath, fumbling on a word or two.

The economic mess created by previous rulers forces Khan, contrary to his staunch conviction about never seeking help, to ask friendly countries to help. Oh yes, the mess is theirs, but it is Khan who is doing the “begging".

An anti-ostentation and pro-austerity Khan is reluctant to live in the palatial Prime Minister House, but that idea is ridiculed. Without a pause, it all became a full-time tamasha.

Khan’s wife is in a full veil, but that has been made an issue in a Muslim country. Khan wishes to make Pakistan green but the commentary has swerved to the types of trees that are being planted. Khan advises water conservation and promotes construction of dams, but that is damned as another utopian idea that will never see fruition. Khan’s decision on adjustment of gas tariffs is criticised as to why he had questions regarding its rationalisation having approved it in principle. Khan talks about giving nationality to Afghan refugees in the age of Trump’s draconian immigration policies, and there is censure. Khan wishes to have peace with India, but that is a bad idea. Khan is responsible for curbing freedom of expression when anchors from different media houses facing a financial crunch are sacked for reasons best known to their employers.

It goes on and on...

Tomorrow it could be: Prime Minister Imran Khan uses too much oxygen to breathe.