Prime Minister Imran Khan is two for three in terms of his addresses since Election Day, with the victory speech the day after elections being the pick of the lot, closely followed by Sunday’s inaugural address as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Sandwiched between the two was Khan’s address in the National Assembly after being announced as the winner in the Prime Minister elections, which bore an uncanny resemblance to his dharna days. Just how much of it was pure container talk can be gauged by the number of times the word ‘container’ was used in the Parliament – and not with any remorse or regret of course, quite the contrary.
Shehbaz Sharif’s bitter tone in his own address was as understandable as it was meaningless, considering his own abandonment of the narrative that his party’s Quaid Nawaz Sharif had been propagating for the previous years. That Shehbaz Sharif came across as a sore loser in his speech was because he was one.
But PM Khan also came across as such, even though he was anything but. Yes, he might’ve been caught off guard by the hooliganism in the house – something he should’ve been prepared for – but that’s hardly justification for him to personify a high school gang surrounding himself with his sidekicks that would hoot the loudest at his utterances.
Worth reminding again that this was his first reaction to being announced as the Prime Minister of Pakistan inside the Parliament, which he of course bestowed his laanat upon earlier this year.
The most sensible of these reminders came from the PPP chairman and National Assembly debutant Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose speech that illustrated the cost that the country had paid to make Khan the PM, and underlined the premier elect’s promises illustrated maturity that ideally should’ve been expressed elsewhere as well.
But of course, just like every other instance, Bilawal’s words were just that – words. He and his party have a lot of work to do in Sindh, and indeed a lot of their own work to undo. But the importance of using the right words inside the most prestigious the most supreme institution in the country cannot be stressed enough, especially in a country which is still learning the significance of its own Parliament, and whose latest democratically elected leader has a history of undermining it.
There will indeed be question marks over just how democratically Khan was elected, but elected he has been. And the opposition’s presence inside the Parliament and implied refusal to take the container and dharna route should be appreciated as well.
Even so, it’s all about PM Khan right now and his own towering words. Sunday’s address was arguably that of a seasoned statesperson and not a spoilsport that Khan has been thus far in his political journey. His stress on education, health, welfare and accountability are admirable and should he follow through with a fraction of what he vows, there will be a tangible change in all these areas.
However, for a politician whose entire campaign – and indeed majority of post-election echoes – is focused on the marginalised, PM Khan crucially missed out on addressing religious extremism and safeguarding of the minorities.
He said nothing to allay the fears of the women in Pakistan, which regularly finds itself at the bottom of all gender equality rankings. There was only a passing mention of Balochistan, where Khan could’ve said a lot even without crossing the lines that have been defined for him.
PM Khan’s focus seems to be on eradicating corruption, and ensuring fiscal welfare of the masses. Truth be told, even if he lives up to his economic vows alone, his tenure would be a success. And hence, it is Khan’s economics that will be under the most scrutiny.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.