The hazy atmospherics in the aftermath of Prime Minister Gilani's "botched" maiden TV address to the nation this week resonates hilariously the memory of Saadat Hasan Manto's famous story entitled Toba Tek Singh depicting a state of utter helplessness and confusion among the inmates of Lahore's Mental Hospital at the time of Partition when the governments of India and Pakistan decided to exchange lunatics in the same way they had exchanged civilian prisoners. Manto's hero, Bishan Singh, a Sikh lunatic known among his fellow inmates by the name of his hometown Toba Tek Singh mostly spoke a strange fractured language drawn from Punjabi and English often repeating a seemingly nonsensical phrase: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di laaltein." Unsure of how the Partition had affected his property rights, Bishan Singh would listen with great concentration whenever there was discussion of India, Pakistan and the forthcoming lunatic exchange. Asked for his opinion, he would reply with great seriousness: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan gornament". Later he replaced "of di Pakistan gornament" with "of di Toba Tek Singh gornament." One day, Bishan Singh asked another lunatic who always thought that he was "God" whether Toba Tek Singh was in Pakistan or India. Guffawing, he replied: "Neither, because I haven't yet decided where to put it" Finally, when taken to the border with other Hindu and Sikh lunatics for repatriation to India, a Pakistani official told Bishan Singh that Toba Tek Singh was in Pakistan. Bishan Singh shouted, "Toba Tek Singh is here" Then he collapsed on the border itself, between India and Pakistan, "on a piece of land that had no name." Last week, the mismanagement of Prime Minister Gilani's first-ever televised address to the nation and subsequent controversy between the Information Ministry and PTV Chairman over whom to hold responsible for goofing up the high profile event and embarrassing the prime minister seem to have sparked unnecessary confusion and uncertainty of the highest order with the media rolling the tale with crackles in the aisles. From what has appeared in the media about this event, it appears the TV address has done no good to the well-meaning prime minister. It has been dubbed as a big flop and a great disappointment. The prime minister neither looked nor sounded like a prime minister. His speech turned out to be drab, dull and unimpressive. This time, it was not one or two but three categories of his "mishandlers." These included the Information Minister and her Ministry, the PTV technicians and the prime minister's own media czars and political hangers on. This is what happens when you have too many cooks to spoil the broth. One could see the prime minister struggling haplessly with his teleprompter before he was forced to interrupt his address and take a "commercial break" during which a documentary was played as a filler to cover the interruption. In the meantime a hard copy of the speech was arranged for the prime minister who then resumed by reading from the printed text. He still looked "abandoned" as could be easily seen from his visible chagrin and uneasiness. In the end, according to a newspaper, what we got was the prime minister's "hesitant and faltering delivery" that failed to inspire any confidence. There was something basically wrong with the Urdu that the prime minister's speechwriter wrote for him. Why do prime ministers get stuck with wrong speechwriters? The talk of the town since then has been not what the prime minister said or did not say in his address but what after all went wrong with this high-profile event. Apparently, there was a serious breach of the SOP for such events. Mismanagement seems to have marred it right from the word go. Even a day before the speech, the exact time of its telecast was not given. The nation was kept waiting for several hours while the "script" of the prime minister's address was being fine-tuned or perhaps was under submission to the party "conquistador" for last minute clearance. The prime minister was supposed to address the nation at 8 pm and arrangements for recording the speech had been completed by 11am the same day. Despite repeated contacts, the prime minister's secretariat, reportedly, could not give an exact time for the recording and kept telling PTV officials that the speech was being fine-tuned. Till 9:30 pm, the time of the address was not announced. Finally, it was stated that he would deliver his address live at 10:15 pm. Later, it was delayed to 11 pm. Why? The question is who on earth told the prime minister to go live on camera? He should have opted for a recorded speech. Some PTV officials reportedly did advise him against using the teleprompter, but the advice was ignored. According to them, the speech had to be interrupted because the information minister had earlier taken away the printed copy of the speech leaving the "novice" prime minister at the mercy of an "undependable" teleprompter which itself was being handled at the time by a novice. An inquiry was immediately ordered to look into the so-called "technical fault" which caused an interruption in the prime minister's address to the nation. A new controversy soon followed over the report of the enquiry committee and the prompt action taken by PTV chairman to enforce accountability. He used his legal prerogative and suspended his own deputy and another senior official for negligence while giving warning to some senior officials including two members of the enquiry committee. The information minister on her part questioned PTV chairman's authority to do so and rejected the findings of his enquiry report. She then ordered a fresh probe into the "technical" malfunctions and personnel incompetence responsible for what she described "a gross and unprofessional handling of this important assignment." As these inter-departmental squabbles continue endlessly, the question of Gilani's television "faux pas" seems to remain unaddressed. Every one says there was nothing new in the prime minister's speech. He only repeated what he had been saying since he assumed his exalted office four months ago. It would have been sensible had his media managers urged him not to come on television when he had nothing to say. If it was a speech for the sake of speech, it should have been pre-recorded and thoroughly vetted before scheduling its telecast. This could have at least been used as an opportunity to project Gilani's image of a "calm and experienced hand" guiding the state. Gilani after all is an old political player and despite his known "constraints," he can deliver surprises. Didn't he sound like a prime minister when he first addressed the National Assembly after his election as the new prime minister? He exuded confidence and authority of an elected prime minister when he roared: "I order the release of the detained judges of the higher judiciary." He received a thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the people not only in attendance at the National Assembly building but all over the country. Gilani surprised everyone again when he announced that his government was willing to talk with militant groups in the country's tribal areas on condition that they disarm themselves. This offer was a significant policy turnaround from what had held sway in General Musharraf's Pakistan in recent years. But there has been no consistency in follow up. Perhaps, the tale of prime minister's "mismanaged" address to the nation has a timely lesson for him just before his official visit to Washington. Avoid any mishandling this time. Don't take it lightly, and address every preparatory aspect personally. Don't depend on your political hangers on. Take a very small entourage with you. Travel by PIA's commercial flight. Discard sherwanis. Keep expectations at realistic level. The foreign office will give you "talking points" on every relevant subject. Read them carefully and make your case with confidence. Don't be afraid of any "rapid fire" from your interlocutor. Do not ask for dollars in cash; if aid is offered, ask for turn-key projects that benefit our people. Let the National Assembly give you a resolution on our national priorities before you leave. Be firm on our multidimensional approach against terrorism and for peace in the Tribal areas. In the ultimate analysis, you alone will have to bear the brunt. Good luck Mr Prime Minister. The writer is a former foreign secretary and senior political analyst