The last two months have been particularly embarrassing for the federal government. Be it the fuel shortage or its inability to implement the National Action Plan, allegations of corruption involving the notorious Saif-ur-Rehman or return of the military to the political forefront – the PML-N has at best appeared alarmingly incompetent and at worst, simply unwilling. Enter Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Prime Minister can no longer watch from the sidelines as some spoiled ministers spoil the show. It is time to take charge and let everyone know who’s boss, and the boss is around, watching, closely. It is time to pay a surprise visit to a couple of markets in Islamabad and ensure that common citizens are not being looted by common vendors. How much is the potato for? What about carrots? Excellent. He must do this himself. It is important. The people not only want a Prime Minister who works, but one who can be seen working. He sees the hand, and he raises it. Not only will this prime minister be seen doing his job, he will be seen, out and about, doing other peoples’ jobs too, such as inspecting prices of edible items, even if that means not going to Jati Umra for the weekend. These gimmicks would’ve worked in 1999, where Nawaz seems to live, but unfortunately for him, it’s 2015, and no one is buying it.

He realises that the government isn’t doing well. So, does he reshuffle his kitchen cabinet? Does he replace incompetent ministers to give others a chance? Of course not. That’s too much, too real. In any case, one simply doesn’t abandon friends and family like that. Instead, let the citizens settle for this familiar promise: PM Nawaz wants that key ministries are “scientifically monitored”. Is the PM conceding that they were not being monitored previously? Maybe they were, but not “scientifically”? Does the PM not know that his primary job is to oversee the performance of his cabinet members? If he has not been doing that, he hasn’t been doing his job. If he has in fact been doing that, he’s terrible at his job. The PM may have provided a solution only if he was not the problem.

The PML-N government must understand that it is wiser to focus on improving realities rather than obsessing over perceptions. The ‘surprise’ visit to Aabpara market was a useless exercise undertaken to change perception, not reality. The people understand the difference and they feel it, even if the PML-N doesn’t. The PM had said that he would review the performance of ministries every three months and put the report before the people. It never happened. Let’s see what else the PM does not do in the future.