I still remember that October 30 2011 public gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan where Khan put up a big show followed by a whirlwind tour of the country. Khan’s party emerged as a third force in Pakistan. At this point, Emily Dickinson’s poem comes to my mind,

“Fame is a bee.

It has a song

It has a sting

Ah, too, it has a wing.”

He became a ray of hope for youngsters after promises of a “Naya Pakistan’. Songs like “Main tu dekhoon ga” raised expectations. After the 2013 elections, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf formed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The skipper (Kaptaan) had no plan, no team to run the province and had to rely on his friend from Aitchison College to run the province. In 2013, during an interview, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said it would have been a disaster if PTI formed the federal government. Prime Minister Imran Khan failed to create a team of experts, policymakers and regulators who could run the country. During PML-N’s tenure, Imran Khan focused on rigging and corruption instead of turning KP into a model province.

The failure of Peshawar’s bus rapid transport project was evidence of incompetence and inexperience. People still voted for PTI in 2018 to some extent despite claims of inconsistencies in the election from the young Bilawal Bhutto. Once again choosing to utilise the “blame game” tactic, followed by claiming victimisation after coming into power was a poor strategy as Shams-i-Tabrizi (Rumi) a spiritual guide, said “Whenever we fight and hate we are in hell”.

The Prime Minister and his team face a daunting task ahead to deal with COVID-19. There is already resentment among Pakistanis over the 22-month performance of the PTI government, especially with the recent spike in sugar and wheat prices alongside mismanagement of petrol supplies in this hot weather. There is anger in the public over the budget and we have even seen government workers protesting. A lack of economic success and the recent locust attacks on crops does far more than just diminish living standards; it promotes disaffected and destitute populations.

One must appreciate the way Stanford graduate and experienced politician Syed Murad Ali Shah of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) has led Sindh in fighting COVID-19. He is getting appreciation from people from all walks of life. The agony continues with Buzdar’s indecisiveness in Punjab as COVID-19 looms over the province. COVID-19 is crashing against household doors like a tsunami; people have no rescue except to seek from help from Almighty Allah.

The Pakistan Army’s rescue efforts in every natural calamity, be it the massive earthquake of 2005, the floods of 2010 or airplane crashes, has won people hearts and this time again, they stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the country to ensure Pakistanis feel safe and secure, despite the government’s moves to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. Had it been PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari or PML-N’s chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, they would have gotten briefings from the Chinese and would have asked them for immediate help in COVID-19 policies. Their social ties on an individualistic level with the Chinese are far better than this novel ruling party.

The PTI government failed to continue the momentum with the Chinese because of arrogance and hatred for Mian Nawaz Sharif but Pakistan had to pay its price. The silence from the former presidents and prime ministers validates Napoleon Bonaparte’s point, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

This was a time when Imran Khan should have set political differences aside, as we had witnessed in the aftermath of APS Peshawar. All stakeholders should have been on one page, discussing the best strategies to deal with this pandemic.

Yet in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and for the first time in living memory, Pakistan’s growth trajectory is in doubt. Ineptitude in policymaking and political instability are likely to prevail, squandering the opportunity for economic success despite Pakistan being blessed with natural resources of fertile and arable land and a coast linking us to global trade routes.

It now depends on the PTI leader’s will, as Shoshana Zuboff states that the power of will lies in its unique ability to deal with things “visible and invisible, that have never existed at all.” Winning the 1992 cricket World Cup and building Shaukat khanum for Pakistanis are indeed splendid achievements of Imran Khan, but this time what was needed was governing Pakistan with clarity like New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Let me sum up where PTI is heading and their approach with this famous Iqbal couplet:

“Afsos, Sad Afsos Ke Shaheen Na Bana Tu

Dekhe Na Teri Ankh Ne Fitrat Ke Isharat.”

(Alas, you did not become a falcon;

Your eye did not perceive the directives of Nature.)

Ibrahim Tariq Shafi

The writer is a freelance columnist.