Who should Imran Khan fight: Media, PTI or Corona?

TV Anchor, Shiffa Yousafzai, analyses the challenges faced by PM Imran Khan. She argues that while Khan may want to focus exclusively on the pandemic he is hamstrung by his incompetent and divided PTI team, a reluctant bureaucracy and a hostile media. Who should Imran fight? She questions.

Imran Khan

If you have still not grasped challenges faced by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his 19-month struggle to achieve “good governance” then here is a snapshot of the battles he has to fight from the fifth floor. Tighten your seat belts!

The first dilemma Khan had to face was to assemble a cabinet after the election victory. He was weary of the friction that selection of cabinet could bring between the key members and factions of his party. He knew that fault lines would emerge when it came to the selection of the chief ministers for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Therefore, he tried to play his cards right by deciding that it would be him who’ll be calling the shots and brought in those members that did not have much political experience.

This is how we saw two novices in the form of Usman Buzdar and Mahmood Khan. But this soon backfired. Instead of us getting to properly know these two new chief ministers through interviews, the two johnnies hid in their shells, scared to face the cameras.

What Khan was left with were bureaucrats and those who were not concerned with Khan’s future or the promises he had made with the nation, most around him have no political stakes in the country

In American political history, President John. F. Kennedy was undoubtedly considered to be the most persuasive and effective speaker. His inaugural address in 1961 left a poignant question for all the Americans then and for all generations to come which was: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

In Pakistan’s political history Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was perhaps the most impactful speaker who connected with the masses, after Bhutto, it was perhaps Gen. Pervez Musharraf who developed into a great speaker and was later (after leaving office) also one of the highest-paid public speakers in the world. And after them, in my opinion, cake is taken by our current Prime Minister Imran Khan. A once shy-cricketer has turned into a great speaker. People not just relate to whatever he says but he instils faith in them.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Coming back to Khan’s problems, after selecting the novices – Buzdar and Mahmood, the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was soon under control because Khan’s team had already a strong grip over matters there – PTI was already settled in the offices, since 2013, handling bureaucracy. However, it is to note that the provincial government in KP had rarely showed up on camera or for interviews in the last two years; there was a reason behind that too.

Read more: Corona Epidemic: Imran Khan fighting his biggest challenge?

If Mahmood Khan’s team had defended KP government’s policies on TV then it would have meant that they were giving credit to their Chief Minister which not many would have wanted to do because they themselves were eyeing for that post. Consequently, when situation went out of control, Imran Khan expunged two big names from the cabinet and gave their duties to two other cabinet members.

Punjab

Unfortunately, the situation in Punjab seemed even more dire where the selected ministers and cabinet members were even unsure of their own future. Such was the air of uncertainty surrounding these people that as soon as they began walking on their own two feet, they got dragged in a perpetual war with the bureaucracy.

The level of indifference was such that even the Health Minister Punjab was rarely seen on TV informing the people that there were nine hospitals that her government in Punjab had started working on; out of which some had even entered the construction phase.

Bureaucratic Coup

Islamabad was no different! As time passed by, clouds of uncertainty started floating over the Federal Government as well. Imran Khan’s most trusted allies and friends soon became the victims of party politics and power struggles. What Khan was left with were bureaucrats and those who were not concerned with Khan’s future or the promises he had made with the nation, most around him have no political stakes in the country. These people have no constituency, there is literally no one that they have to be accountable to. And I would call this a ‘Bureaucratic coup’ against the Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Feeble Communication

However, PTI’s ministers have admitted on camera that their communication has been weak after their coming into power. Perhaps, one reason can be the lack of having one concrete agenda, a specific party line on every single issue, and that’s perhaps what the party should be working on. Because as of now the party appears confused on its agendas.

Media finds one party member saying one thing, the other immediately comes out contradicting him. The second reason could be the loss of faith in their own party. Many confess off the record that only a miracle could bring them back in the government. Therefore, perhaps most are trying to enjoy what little time they have got.

Read more: Why PM Khan remained ambivalent about lockdown?

If earlier the party was believed to be split into two factions (Tareen and Qureshi) now it appears to have broken into four, five or even more. This can be seen clearly from the generalized reluctance in defending a fellow party member in the media. A prime example of this emerged when controversies started looming about Khan’s very close friend, Zulfi Bukhari. It was ironic, that no one from the PTI roster stood up for Zulfi – not even a single tweet in his defense.

Even Khan’s information team is heading south. Their inept and amateurish skills can be evaluated from their recent achievement, when they invited all the vehement critics of Khan in one live press briefing. Though Khan never shies from robust interaction with media, and no prime minister before him was ever so open, accessible and tolerant of his critics in media – but the pandemonium seen in end March, on live TV, was something new and unbelievable.

Unreasonable Media

Khan’s team had invited these journalists for a briefing on the challenge thrown up by corona but it perhaps forgot to impress upon them the seriousness of the situation created by the pandemic. But none of them was a school kid either. Instead of using their talents to grill the government on its handling of pandemic, they showed greater interest in the fate of a media tycoon – off course under the garb of press freedom.

If the whole situation with these journalists wasn’t perplexing enough, a few of PTI parliamentarians that had clambered on the back of Imran Khan to victory in Karachi, were seen in a video, mocking the Prime Minister’s scheme of providing Rs.3000 to needy in these times of crisis. Whether it was premeditated or a fluke, the fact is that the video was deliberately leaked – by someone.

Should we then ask: If Prime Minister is now fighting with opposition, media and his own party members? Will it not be fair that we let him focus his energies where these are needed most: in the war against coronavirus?

May God bless him with the strength to handle these difficult times – Amen!

Shiffa Yousafzai is a TV presenter & producer with Hum News. She is an International Alumni Ambassador for Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she studied Multimedia Journalism. Earlier, she graduated with business and marketing at Air University, Islamabad. Shiffa could be followed on twitter @Shiffa_ZY and on Facebook @ShiffaYousafzai. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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