Government of U-turns

The talks between the government and TLP produced a deal, a deal that was kept secret

Kamran Yousaf November 08, 2021
This writer is a senior foreign affairs correspondent at The Express Tribune


The PTI government is notorious for taking U-turns. As it feels the public heat for failing to deliver on many of its promises, the frequency of such U-turns is increasing by the day. Last week alone the government took at least three U-turns. This speaks of its lack of decision-making abilities. In the middle of violent protests by TLP, the prime minister convened the National Security Committee — which is the highest forum when it comes to taking decisions on national security and defense matters. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss options on how to tackle the TLP.

After a two-hour session, the NSC said all the right things making it clear that no group would be allowed to take the law into their own hands. The civil and military leadership was categorical in their resolve that no unconstitutional or illegal demands of the protesters would be met, and negotiations with the group would be strictly in line with the law and the Constitution. But two days later, it emerged that the government did exactly the opposite of what it earlier pronounced through the NSC meeting.

The talks between the government and TLP produced a deal, a deal that was kept secret. As part of the agreement, the government released hundreds of TLP members while the Punjab government initiated a move to reverse the decision of proscribing the religious party. The government also decided not to challenge the decision of release of Saad Rizvi, the party chief. It must be embarrassing for the government to take a swift turnaround on its tall claims and perhaps that was the reason Prime Minister Imran Khan stopped cabinet members from speaking on the subject.

The second U-turn of the week was the decision on allowing India to use Pakistan’s airspace for the international flights from Occupied Kashmir. India announced the start of Srinagar-Sharjah flights on October 23 and it came as a surprise when Pakistan allowed the use of its airspace. The decision was surprising given the fact that Pakistan never allowed over-flight permission to India in the past because of the disputed Kashmir region and the current state of relationship. But later it emerged that even the Foreign Office was not on board over the decision. Nobody knew who took the decision. The Civil Aviation Authority, which confirmed the development, said its role was merely of a “post office”. After the public backlash and objection by the ministry of foreign affairs, the government then had to cancel the permission given to India. This once again highlights the functioning of the government that such key and sensitive decisions are taken without due diligence.

A third U-turn was about the increase in prices of petroleum products. First the Prime minister rejected a summary moved by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to increase oil prices from November 1. The government said the Prime Minister turned down the summary in the larger “national interests” and decided to maintain the existing oil prices. The next price review was due on November 15. But on November 5 after midnight the government reversed its earlier decision and dropped a petrol bomb on the masses. People woke up in the morning with distressing news of further increase in the oil prices. The government tried to defend its move saying the increase in oil prices was due to the international market and claiming that oil is still cheaper in Pakistan compared to other regional countries. While giving such comparisons, the government would never share the per capita income and other economic indicators about those countries. If the flip flop by the government on key national security, foreign policy and economic issues is not incompetence then what else is?


Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2021.

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