Punjab CM’s Office – An Open Letter To Imran Khan
Pakistan has finally tumbled past the 25th July General Elections with Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf emerging victorious. This was a political bout of epic proportions. The greatest political fist-fight of our generation. It was like watching Ali vs. Frazier with much greater stakes – the lives of more than 20 crore Pakistanis hanging in the balance. The cornered tiger eventually shredded through the lion roaring in the jungles of Punjab. The ‘electorate’ has robustly endorsed ‘Prime Minister Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi’.
Sir! You have a forceful mandate to wipe out corruption and build institutions that can deliver Pakistan through a complex multi-layered economic, social, financial, political and religious meltdown. International, regional and domestic dangers loom large, but the Imran Khan brand has given us ‘hope’. We (Pakistanis) believe in you and have openly rallied behind your call for a ‘Naya Pakistan’ where our leader will not sell us out, and with opportunities such as CPEC neatly set up to gallop into full swing, steer our beloved Pakistan across this stormy journey on turbulent waters that has stretched for decades.
Sir! Between the euphoria of triumph, the ambassadors coming in to sip tea and congratulate you, world leaders calling you up, and you overseeing technical political matters such as the number game in Punjab and Islamabad, some healthy exercise, pondering over three cabinet portfolio allocations and keeping all the multi-faceted groupings, ideologies, political alliances intact, you must not be stopping to take in a deep breath. Nonetheless, recalling your victory speech, it surely is the next phase of your political struggle. Down to business then, let’s just pause everything for a moment and discuss the single most crucial decision you must make – who is the ‘most deserving’ candidate to govern Punjab for you?
The pool of candidates has been narrowed down to four categories; 123 PTI MPAs, the dozen or so independents, women on reserved seats, or Pervaiz Elahi getting the largest chunk of the spoils. As there is no perfect answer and you cannot do it yourself, let’s apply a scientific methodology to the task. I call it the elimination method useful in making complicated decisions. Basically, we have a clear goal (question to answer) in our mind, therefore, we reason backwards eliminating each category from our pool to ascertain the correct category. Then we apply a systematic criterion to the few remaining candidates from amongst that correct category to churn out the best possible desired (residual) answer.
Let’s start eliminating. Firstly, Q-League deserves its pound of flesh; it’s time to pay the piper (politically) as their unequivocal support is paramount. The office of the Punjab Assembly speaker with a few lesser important ministries should be their maximum bite. The Chaudhrys of Gujrat have enough political acumen to understand that their bounty must reflect in their contribution to the setup, and once that is settled, they will not blackmail you on this point. Independents get their deserved 15 minutes of fame and due political mileage as Jahangir Khan Tareen rallies them up. A statesman values worthy politicians but their nuisance value ends exactly there.
Next up: women elected on reserved seats bring forth the only relevant contender with impeccable grassroots politicking; the much celebrated warrior lady from Lahore, Dr. Yasemin Rashid. Reserved seats for women are a testament to woman empowerment in legislatures, however, a person incapable of winning a constituency does not genuinely deserve to become the Chief Minister and won’t command respect from the cabinet. Rashid lacks the experience of statecraft and the babus (bureaucracy) of Punjab will chew through her like a pack of merciless wolves. To be fair, she was already the only PTI candidate who went into this election knowing she will be part of Parliament due to her being securely included at the top of the reserved seats list. This bequeath equals acknowledgement.
Elimination method lastly brings us to the correct category – the 123 elected MPAs. The systematic criterion (in no specific order), firstly entails integrity and loyalty to PTI – they don’t have to be the oldest of members but cannot be ruthless hitch-hikers just getting onto the bandwagon before the takeoff.
Secondly, legitimacy – after you, the CM will be the face of the PTI and the electorate must vehemently accept the choice.
Thirdly, the individual cannot be or perceived to be corrupt. Since Panama Leaks, hammering upon this singular social issue as the root of all ills in Pakistan has been your mantra and Pakistanis voted you in to cure us of this disease.
Fourthly, experience of statecraft is essential; seriousness and maturity appealing to our intuition. You have a 100-day plan to enforce and a hostile opposition awaiting you in Punjab. Any interim benchwarmer like Aslam Iqbal that makes way for Shah Mehmood Qureshi would be counterproductive and would lead to vicious instability, putting your government on the defensive. What if he loses again? This is not your style of leadership and no-one in PTI can blackmail you into submission. The electables turned to you right at the end to utilise your tsunami of popularity. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. Although entrenched in their constituency, they ensured victory by joining PTI stripping their rivals of that very opportunity. Reciprocally, you got a plus one for your working tally. From amongst them, Major Tahir Sadiq comes through with a service relationship with the deep state, his lateral entry into the DMG and political fortunes in Attock entail statecraft experience and he is the brother-in-law of the Chaudhrys (a facilitator?). That said, he is a newcomer and the oldest contender, and family linkages can be a two-edged sword – internal plus external public perception would be of handing over the province to PML-Q. Five years on, even if he delivers it would be chaotic for PTI as Q would enjoy a lion’s share of credit. Aleem Khan’s overall services in Lahore and Punjab are unparalleled, but PTI did not fare well in Lahore and the timely reminder from NAB regarding multiple ongoing cases of corruption must make you reconsider whether the political punches you will take on right from the start are worth it? There is a fine line between political hypocrisy and political maneuvering. Even though your number-two supports his cause, it is not worth it as your voters/supporters will be disillusioned (having defended your every decision on the way to power) as they see your CM being periodically hauled in for questioning in NAB courts.
Sir, now you are in power! Expectations are already unrealistically high, so you must repay this trust bestowed upon you or the opposition/critics will not let you or the nation forget such a rash decision. Eliminating the rest, Fawad Chaudhry is exalted as the best answer. The dark horse who many wrote off after a lean jalsa in Jhelum. However, he pulled through on both NA and PP seats. Let’s run him through the criterion. He is reasonably young and you would be creating a surprising opportunity which translates into the electorate believing in meritocracy – ‘you work hard, you can rise to the top even in Pakistan!’ This message gives us hope! He is not a loyalist but not a newcomer. Conveniently, he commands respect from your number-two and is a suitable alternative to Aleem Khan, one which he should by default endorse as ‘Plan-B’ – realising that Aleem Khan as CM is not a viable option. Within PTI ranks, Fawad is valued. He is now a part of the legislature, has vast media experience and has displayed administrative skills upping the ante on political opponents as your spokesperson. His strong family background comprising politicians and the superior judiciary dictate further exposure to statecraft. He is a doer; his well researched and data oriented pressers enabled PTI to grow. Corruption-wise, he has a clean chit. Definitely, he would serve the party well as the federal Information Minister but you still have other options to utilise there. The Chief Ministry of Punjab is a gargantuan task and the scientific elimination method declares him your best bet. This pivotal choice will set the tone for your government(s), hence your stakes are infinitely high. A mistake is unaffordable. A white elephant if you get this wrong, or a unicorn if you get this choice right! With that said, you know best and the nation trusts you. You spotted the likes of Wasim Akram and won us the World Cup by making 11 men work as a team under your leadership and we trust that you will apply the same formula at state-level governance. God bless you and God bless Pakistan!
Previously published in The Daily Times. Republished here with permission.
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