The back and forth between the federal Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) government in Sindh concerning the three hospitals in Karachi is hopefully now at an end. With the former conceding “in principle” to return control of the hospitals to the latter – alongside returning a fourth hospital taken from the Punjab government – citing a lack of funds, it is unclear why the ruling party was so adamant on taking over when it could never afford to run them. The federal government has spent months bickering against Sindh over control, which reflects stubbornness without cause.

Not only does this backtracking make the government look needlessly obstinate, it also gives off the impression that it does not really know what it is doing. Taking the hospitals away from provincial control before the review petition in the Supreme Court was finalised made the government look bullish and overconfident of its ability to do better than the Sindh government. The decision to hand them back reflects incompetence, which is the worst possible look for a sitting government. A four-month saga could have been avoided if the government had worked out that it could not afford to sustain these institutions earlier.

Another worrying implication of the government’s failed attempt at wresting control away from the provincial government is that the ruling party is willing to forgo the larger benefit of the country in attempts to get one over its opponents. PTI needs to understand that its priorities should have shifted after coming into power a year ago; the matter of most importance is now the larger welfare of the country, not scoring petty political wins against opposition parties. The party has already won; the fight is now against the many problems the country is currently beset by.

Ultimately, the facilities finding their way back into the hands of the provincial governments is not only a win for them, but the 18th Amendment as well. PPP did not have to do much, PTI defeated itself and the centre in this fight for supremacy, and all the Sindh government has to do is accept the centre’s defeat magnanimously; if it does, PTI’s browbeating tactics will be all the more obvious as a result. One can only hope that the ruling party learns from this failed expedition into areas of control of the provinces and keeps itself limited to the many tasks that it has to deliver on.