A couple of months back I had an opportunity to listen to and interview Sir Michael Barber. He served as an adviser on education reform during Shahbaz Sharif’s previous term, and during Tony Blair’s second term as British prime minister, he was his chief adviser on delivery. Sir Michael spoke at length on, what he called, the Science of Delivery or the exact knowledge of translating reforms into results. In his own words, “it meant changing the facts on the ground and ensuring that citizens could see and feel the difference”. Call it science or an art, Pakistan is badly in need of delivery. And this is exactly why the recent elections give us hope.
You can view the results and the entire process through a hundred prisms but that will not change the fact that this time, people have voted for better governance and rejected emotional blackmail of every shade. The two parties that won the highest number of votes were clearly advocating reforms and better delivery. This is a triumph of sorts. To those with a proven track record, this provides a better opportunity; the ones who want to bring an overnight change, that flighty temptress that wrecked almost 66 precious years of our evolution, were taught the virtues of patience.
But while many may bemoan it, the truth is that it has been a win-win for all except for a few who became political casualties, and yet, may one day rise from their ashes anew if they only grasp the message handed down to them — of delivery. The winning party will form governments at the centre and two provinces and the runners-up get one province each to rule and prove they are better. Let the competition of better governance begin and show us the miracles of destiny that await us.
As for those who lost, the PPP that was routed in Punjab and is reduced to the province of Sindh, complains that terrorists didn’t let it campaign freely. They did not but were they supposed to? In 2007, they had eliminated the single most potent source of the PPP’s hope of better performance, Benazir Bhutto. And yet, the PPP had campaigned tirelessly and refused to let the elections get delayed beyond a month. No, that was not it. The PPP did not lose because it could not reach out to the people; it lost because it did not want to reach out. This is because of two reasons. First, because the party’s new elite was not ready to delegate the role of campaign leader to anyone who had a chance to become prime minister. Second, it knew how poorly it had performed during its five-year rule. As for the clout of the terrorists, tell me, what was seriously done at a political level against it during the five-year tenure? How many counterterrorism laws were made, how many defensive mechanisms like Nacta devised or any serious investment made in human resource development, witness protection programme or other means to preserve evidence? Failure of delivery was quite evident.
Of course, it is neither for the first time that the PPP has done so badly nor the worst performance of its history. However, in order to stage a comeback, it will have to rely solely on better performance and better election strategy.
The ANP was the actual intended victim of the terrorist threats and has been wiped out of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). It has its weaknesses, too, but perhaps, the failure can be better described in terms of provincial proclivities. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwahas suffered so much since 9/11 that it has not given power to the same party twice. And it is ready to experiment more. The MMA and the ANP have been offered government, once each, and now it is the PTI’s turn. The situation is unenviable but if any government succeeds, it will be rewarded for a lifetime. I foresee the ANP down but not out.
But the real driver of change is the PTI. Earlier, we had two major parties originating from two separate provinces with different dynamics. By challenging each in its power base, the PTI ensures that they will not become complacent.