Almost a year into the current government’s tenure it has become clear that the worst fears of the PTI’s critics have come to pass; not only is the government incompetent, it also seems to lack a clear vision of where it would like to go. We have long passed the point where the tragic becomes the farcical; if the sight of leaders (from the Prime Minister downwards) continuing to insist that the panacea for Pakistan’s problems lies in the repatriation of hundreds of billions of ‘looted’ dollars was not dispiriting enough (because of the utterly unrealistic and inaccurate nature of the claim), Faisal Vawda’s recent statement that the government would create one billion jobs should be enough to make even the most diehard PTI supporter pause and reflect on their political choices. As we move past the point where the government could credibly pin its misfortunes on the actions of its predecessors, it is important to take stock and recognize that the PTI experiment is failing.

The evidence for this claim is clear to see. Far from ushering in a period of unprecedented prosperity and growth, the PTI is currently presiding over what promises to be an epic economic crisis. While it could reasonably be argued that the inflation and stagnation currently engulfing the economy are the inevitable consequence of the economic mismanagement of previous governments, it is not at all clear what the PTI intends to do about this beyond continuing to castigate its political opponents. Matters have not been helped by the contradictory signals the government has been sending with regards to both the IMF and CPEC, and it is hardly reassuring to note that the conditionalities underpinning the economic assistance received from friendly Arab countries remain shrouded in mystery. As prices skyrocket and economic activity slows, the PTI has already had one Marie Antoinette moment when a minister claimed that those struggling to meet ends meet should simply eat fewer chapattis.

On the domestic political front. It is impossible to shake the feeling that the PTI still perceives itself as an underdog fighting against a corrupt and irredeemable status quo. Every time the Prime Minister and his lieutenants speak on matters of national importance, from the economy to tensions with India, they inevitably drift back into launching tirades against the PML-N, the PPP, and other political opponents. With its eyes firmly set on the past, the PTI continues to wage the same war it has been fighting for the better part of a decade, vowing to bring the country’s corrupt political leaders to justice. That this process is already underway and has been for some time is a point that seems to escape the government, just as it remains apparently oblivious to criticisms rightly pointing out how its approach only fuels the belief that the actions of NAB and the courts are fuelled more by partisan politics than a commitment to the pursuit of justice.

This may have been excusable if not for the fact the government’s own record in power has hardly been one marked by accomplishments. Across the country, it is difficult to see the tabdeeli promised by the PTI. In Peshawar, the BRT project continues to languish, its completion delayed time and again even as reports emerge of corruption and shoddy work. In Punjab, the party appears to be paralyzed by its factional in-fighting, with questions of governance ignored as different politicians jockey for power and position. In Karachi, bold announcements have been made promising reform and investment in the city, but nothing concrete has yet emerged from these pronouncements.

The PTI also continues to walk back on its campaign promises. Constituency development funds, used to buy the support of legislators and perpetuate patronage politics, have made a comeback after the PTI vowed to abolish them. People continue to go missing around the country even though the party promised to bring an end to this practice once it came to power. Austerity in the name of economic reform, and at the behest of the IMF, is being undertaken despite promises to the contrary. More disturbingly, the PTI continues to mollycoddle the extreme religious right. While one arguably good outcome from the PTI and the establishment being ‘on the same page’ has been greater coordination between the two on issues related to foreign policy and domestic security, this does not necessarily mean much if the decisions taken are flawed to begin with. Thus, while Imran Khan has recently made the right noises, claiming that Pakistan will no longer support or shelter religious militants (the very same statement that landed Nawaz Sharif in so much trouble as part of the infamous ‘Dawn Leaks’ saga), there appears to be little evidence for this on the ground, particularly when considering the soft position the government continues to adopt with regards to different local and international religious outfits. The terrorist attack in Quetta on Friday, which left 20 people dead and which was allegedly perpetrated by the TTP, was a stark reminder of how much remains to be done to counter the scourge of extremism in Pakistan. Thus far, the PTI has done little to tackle the problem.

As Atif Mian, the award-winning economist who was removed from Pakistan’s Economic Advisory Council due to his Ahmadi faith, recently stated on Twitter, corruption is usually preferable to incompetence in the context of developing country governance. While corruption imposes obvious costs on a country, corrupt but competent officials are at least able to deliver some governance, especially when they compete with one another, and, intentionally or unintentionally, help set up routinized systems through which to get things done. This is in contrast with incompetent but honest leaders who, for all their good intentions, are incapable of delivering simply because they lack the ability and vision to do so. The worst combination, of course, would be leaders who are corrupt and incompetent and while it may be too early to tell, the PTI increasingly seems to be fitting in this last category.