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Losing Wicket of Hafeez Shaikh on First Ball offered a key setback

His Ability to Rise from Ashes of Political Defeat – Can He Be Really Resilient Perform, Perform, Perform High time to re-think and prioritize….

There is no denying fact that the Government and allies victory on Chairman as well as Deputy Chairman senate slots and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swift move to secure a vote of confidence from the National Assembly on the heels of his party’s failure to secure a Senate seat for Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh was an astute measure and boosted the ruling party’s morale.

PDM’s failure to devised strategy for resignations from Parliament, long march and Sit in has boosted for the time being scattered major political parties which is sign of relief for the PTI and allies.

For one thing, it immediately stemmed the erosion of morale within his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, and for another, it denied the opposition the opportunity of staging a communications blitz around their electoral victory.

Having said that the setback his government suffered was not the kind that would go away on its own. Khan will have to work both hard and smart to repair the damage – if he can at all repair the damage that is, say political pundits in the federal capital.

What is more, Khan and his team have to realize they need more political savvy than bravado or cricketing strategy to recover from the hiccup. Win of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate is not enough. The question, however, is if Khan can muster that kind of savvy and leverage it with adequate finesse in good time.

Also, the victory in senate and the vote of confidence do not render his government impervious to future shocks of this kind. First will be to contest writ petitions challenging chairman and deputy chairman senate election in courts of law. Much time will be consumed in discussing this case.

Unless he can conjure something truly outstanding, his government will have to pay a price for every day in office.

Nobody is in doubt that the PTI government needs to get its act together. Khan will have to re-think his priorities and rebuild his team, shedding dead wood and injecting more political savvy and clout having roots among masses, political wisdom as well as experience to run government affairs. Most importantly, he needs to improve governess at federal and provincial level, said a former bureaucrat now holding a political slot in the federal cabinet.

Presently there are at least ten advisors to the Prime Minister enjoying the status of federal minister but there is a big question as to what political role they are filling. Did they offer a helping hand in the election campaign of Dr. Hafeez Sheikh and later on in political crises, which erupted after the defeat of Hafeez Sheikh in senate election.

To their credit, the opposition Pakistan Democratic Front (PDM), played all their cards right. But finally, this house of cards build in form of PDM is almost collapsed. If not collapsed, lost its ability to launch effective movement against government.

Former Speaker National Assembly and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani were always going to be a formidable candidate for the Senate seat from Islamabad. And the PTI lead government failed to devise any strategy to defeat heavyweight like Yousaf Raza Gillani. What PTI did to counter this expected move? Answers are nothing.

Interestingly, it is rumored Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) supremo former President Asif Ali Zardari was less than enthusiastic about fielding Gillani, only Bilawal’s insistence forced Asif Ali Zardari to nominate Yousaf Raza as candidate for senate seat from federal capital. However, the fact that he came round to it goes to show how politicians can rise above their personal preferences for political gain.

On the other hand, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh, was hardly the most suitable candidate for PTI to field for the Islamabad seat. In fact, being the Finance Minister, he was by default the lightning rod attracting ire from all sides for unpopular economic policy decisions.

In all political show the only wise decision was to nominate Sadiq Sanjrani and Mirza Afridi respectively for the slots of Chairman and Deputy Chairman Slots. This decision remained helpful to win election on these seats. Who played a decisive role in this win? PPP or government or PTI? Yet needs a reply.

Prime Minister Khan must think about the non-political credentials of his team, especially the unelected advisors who do little beyond clustering around him on public outings and huddling with him in private. To say this lot has miserably failed to show its utility would be an understatement. The government is not doing anything to counter PDM moves politically, said a federal minister talking on condition of anonymity.

There is a long queue of such advisors who proved they were extra luggage and the government is paying a high price for keeping them. They humiliate elected members of assembly and cabinet. In the Senate election, their role at provincial as well as federal level was zero. Plus there were serious questions of their competence and financial credibility, commented another federal minister working in economic-related ministries.

Then there is the urgent task of fighting inflation and price hike, stemming chiefly from official mismanagement and business malpractice. The common man feels the pinch of these failures every day at the checkout counter whether buying wheat flour or sugar or chicken meat.

Unless the Prime Minister has some genius trick up his sleeve, his catchy promise of millions of jobs and houses are truly coming back to haunt his government in a big way. He will do well to draft help from his cabinet colleagues to help placate the public and address the grievances of his party’s elected lawmakers.

A federal minister holding an important ministry said a study of political governments’ performance showed that the role of Principle Secretaries had been very important. This office had assumed a quasi-political role. But under Khan, federal secretaries have developed severe differences with ministers, and his party’s parliamentarians from Punjab and Sindh are routinely overheard discussing the insults they suffer at the hands of these super bureaucrats.

Then there is the role of provincial governors. Khan’s governors of Punjab and Sindh have no roots among the masses and no time-tested links in the political circles. Both are holding the highest offices in Punjab and Sind without offering help to overcome solutions of increasing problems, a consensus among PTI parliamentarians.

Khan’s coalition partner Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) holds some ground in interior Sindh but it has been totally ignored in the province. It is high time that he should allow politicians from interior Sindh their due place in the government, said federal minister from GDA.

In Punjab, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi has proved his worth by managing unopposed election of senators from the province notwithstanding the political polarization in evidence across the nation. PML-Q only Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema publicly expressed his grievances against Punjab and federal government.

That the Chaudhries have never been allowed a say in political decision-making in the center as it is Khan’s loss. His move to visit their residence to hold talks ahead of Senate polls was a good move. He now needs to build on it rather than dropping the matter.

“Those cannot swim in Punjab drown in Islamabad” says an astute maxim of Pakistan’s politics. Analysts say Punjab will be the target of an opposition onslaught in the days to come, and when that happens, the Prime Minister will sorely need the help of the Chaudhries of Gujrat. There have been reports of contacts between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Chaudhries. Khan should be mindful that given the composition of the provincial assembly, when the push comes to shove, the Chaudhries may well hold the key to who rules the province.

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