Well that’s it then, pretty much done and dusted. The new Prezzer was a dentist in his past life, and we trust he remembers to turn up to his inauguration clad in something other than his former profession’s smock. Ceremonial as the post is he is a considerable improvement on his predecessor whose approach to the job was reminiscent of a particularly lethargic tree-sloth.
Other casualties of the near-clean-sweep by the New Kids On The Block wander about in a state of confusion and incomprehension. How could this happen to us? Are we not The Chosen Ones? Who are these whippersnappers that have snatched our birthright away? Is it all a dream? Actually no. All credit has to go to the ordinary men and women of Pakistan who awarded the Order of the Boot to the Old Guard — some of whom have wound up to nobody’s surprise on the slightly less well-appointed and austere gravy train run by the new dispensation. The political equivalent of the recycling phenomenon. Nobody has yet come up with a shred of evidence of game-changing rigging and what rigging there was small-scale local stuff hardly worth a headline. Rigging is going to quietly disappear from the script.
Despite being only days into the job, the Newbies have already had The Great Helicopter Scandal and the Spare Limos Scandal, as well as shedding a PM’s adviser who fell on his own sword rather than being done in behind the arras by the PM’s cleaning squad. The trigger for his demise was some nippy footwork by the National Accountability Bureau.
Assorted notables have been caught on cellphones being unpleasant to members of the public and generally acting like they owned the place which suggests that all is very much business as usual. Except that it isn’t.
There have been comparisons between our very own Dear Leader and the Orange One in Washington, largely on the basis of a lack of relevant experience for the job — neither had held an elected position formerly — and all the grace and finesse of a bull in a china shop but these are false equivalencies. Thus far our man of the moment has refrained from inflicting a daily Tweet-storm, which of course has triggered speculation that he is perhaps less competent thumbwise than many of those that voted him to power. Any evidence to the contrary may be submitted at the reception desk of Schloss Corkenheim.
There are other differences — our man does seem to be generally honest in that he does not appear on national telly and lie to the assembled populace and there is seemingly no record of corruption large or small, which in itself is something of an upset of the status quo. He does, however, have a brace of past spouses, one of which has literary aspirations of the dirt-digging variety. Make it look like an accident. A tumble into a croc-infested lake. Killer bees. That sort of thing. Yes sir.
So is it Naya Pakistan? The straight answer is that it is far too soon to say because so far the talk is being talked but the walk has yet to commence in earnest, and the road ahead is far from easy. There is a close encounter of the IMF variety looming, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) may or may not be impressed by measures taken regarding funding for terrorist groups and money laundering in general. On the plus side, the Brits have weighed in with the ambassador saying that Pakistan should not spend too long in the Grey Zone and wishing well to the new government. In fact, casting an eye over the media generally there does seem to be, if not exactly, a rosy glow around the matter of governance, at least a willingness to give them space and — probably — 100 days to see if they can come up with anything resembling The Goods. In reality again many of the changes being bruited about are going to take considerably longer than 100 days to implement and are in some cases going to require way-paving legislation and constitutional amendment — but these are small matters in these heady days, though the sooner the PM transitions from the rhetoric of the campaign to the more measured tones of holding the levers of power the better.
As for the man and woman on the street well the jury is out. Electricity is going to cost more as are consumer and luxury goods. The man who fettles my computers tells me that there is to be a tax on all individual housing. Nobody votes to pay more taxes and finding holes in your wallet beyond 100 days may put holes in slim majorities when it comes to by-elections in coming months. That said and completely unscientifically there does seem to be a lightening of the national mood. For now.
There are wild rumours of ‘enforcement’ doing the rounds but in a country where less than two per cent of those eligible to pay tax actually do so, breaking the habits of several lifetimes is going to require more than a gentle shove in the right direction. There is already an admission that the circular debt monster is in the best of health, and an attempt in the last week to devise a way of wrassling it into submission was a failure.
Everybody now sits in the metaphorical dentists waiting room with the prospect of some mighty root-canal work in the offing. Pakistan ain’t so broke that it can’t be fixed and what ain’t broke needs to be left alone.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2018.
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