IMAGINE you have been parachuted into power to rule a country of 220 million people with a myriad of problems of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and malnutrition.
You also inherited huge financial problems from your predecessors, elected officials and in uniform. And to add to your woes, your country as well as the rest of the world has been blinded by a deadly virus that is devastating entire societies and economies.
What do you do in these circumstances? Well, you are just banning TikTok, the app which is so popular with young people all over the world, as well as a lot of your own supporters.
Read: PTA bans TikTok over complaints about ‘immoral content’
The other night I was watching a popular TV presenter take calls from viewers on her YouTube show. A lady called to say: I do not support any party or political leader. I just want the government to tell me how I’m supposed to pay the bills for gasoline, medicine, food, children’s school fees, and my family’s books as the prices keep going up every day.
How indeed? Obviously, the middle class is being pushed out of existence, while the poor are pushed against the wall. Imran Khan’s cooking expenses are borne by his friends as he bragged about coming to power, so he has no idea of the inflation raging across the country.
How to arrange a country like this?
However, he promised to use all the powers of the state to bring the prices down. In fact, all it takes is money: if sugar and wheat are lacking or stockpiled, just import these products and subsidize their sales. Hoarders, afraid of being caught with excess inventory, will immediately offer them for sale.
Sugar factory owners will make windfall profits and people like Jehangir Tareen will be able to add more assets to their booming portfolios. Where’s Jehangir Tareen these days, by the way? Rumor has it he is relaxing in his British mansion, away from questions about his role in the recent sugar crisis.
And what about the mysterious Zulfi Bukhari? He seems to have dropped the radar without a glance. Maybe he too had something to fear from our agencies
In this murky mixture appears the sheet of accusation filed by Bashir Memon, ex-DG FIA. According to Mr. Memon, Imran Khan ordered him to bring a wide range of charges against his political opponents. And when he replied that he did not have a mandate to act in political affairs, the prime minister was very unhappy.
For his recklessness, Mr. Memon was removed from his post months before he retired. This is the same political leader who promised to depoliticize the bureaucracy when he came to power.
Perhaps the PTI’s way of reducing the powers of the bureaucracy is to create the Tiger Force, a volunteer army made up of a million people. Originally established as provincial, unpaid groups to enforce anti-coronavirus rules, they are recalling voluntary forces led by political parties to enforce their will without having to use due process.
Without any legal authority, they could be unleashed against political opponents without any hindrance from the security hierarchy. Ongoing opposition protests will tell whether the Tiger Force is indeed a counter-force to our phalanx of anti-PTI leaders.
While they are only supposed to report on prices charged by retailers across the country, rest assured their unofficial powers will be used to blackmail traders and settle old scores.
As I write this, reports are pouring in that the big protest to be held in Gujranwala on Friday is being sabotaged by the government in various ways. Containers are pulled onto the roads to block incoming traffic, and numerous arrests have been made. The orders must come from the Supreme Leader who once led his troops into battle against the Nawaz Sharifs government using violent and illegal tactics.
At the time, it had invisible support that prevented the government of the day from taking firm action. The shutdown of Islamabad’s PTI was unprecedented and blocked state visits by presidents of at least two friendly countries, Sri Lanka and China.
And we vividly remember the dharna in Faizabad which lasted for weeks and caused misery and fury among thousands of commuters and school children. The clerics who organized and sat at the protest for days received cash awards from an army officer.
So how do you fix a country like this? The ruling coalition is threatening to shut down all major social networking companies unless they move major offices and servers to Pakistan. They can face fines of up to Rs 500m for non-compliance with local regulations.
When solutions are too difficult, the ITP approach is to go for easy solutions, but irrelevant. Leaders can thus be seen doing something, even if it is of no use.
Posted in Dawn, October 17, 2020
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