The Kaptaan’s first 100 (plus some) days have left even his most die-hard followers a bit red-faced, reduced to parroting the familiar refrain, “So would you rather have Nawaz? Or Zardari?” as an excuse. Not that any neutral commentator thought that the Kaptaan came in to bat on an easy wicket but when you promise ad nauseum a century before lunch then people expect you to at least score a few runs as opposed to almost running yourself out every few deliveries. The Kaptaan appears incapable of comprehending that he’s in the middle of a Test match now rather than the T10 he’s intent on playing. It requires preparation, patience, maturity and a lot of dead-batting and leaving the ball alone — not perpetual wild slogging resulting in missing the ball more often than not. (Do excuse the cricketing metaphors. But when the Kaptaan insists on constantly using them do we really have a choice?) Right off the bat (ahem!) you had the massive cock-up that was the Atif Mian expulsion from Economic Advisory Council, which only further whetted the appetite of the TLP (you think the Aasia Bibi protests came out of the blue?). This has been followed by one howler after another. You can’t be announcing a major government initiative of monitoring the use of public urinals the day your stock market is going down the toilet and the rupee is nose-diving. You can’t say on the eve of your departure to an economic summit in Saudia that the Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was unfortunate but you have no choice but to attend because “we are desperate for money.” You can’t announce an inane five million homes housing scheme and nobody in your government — not even your much vaunted finance minister — has any real idea on how it’s going to be financed. You can’t be seen to be constantly toing and froing over going to the IMF (and being reportedly unprepared when actually doing so.) You can’t be proclaiming u-turns as a badge of statesmanship. The Kaptaan’s volte-faces over the years on matters all and sundry have been common knowledge to anyone who’s had his or her eyes and ears open. Now, however, he’s declared u-turns to be practically state policy. Perhaps even worse — he’s declared it to be a sign of a great leader. Nobody’s saying politicians and leaders and statesmen don’t have to be flexible and nimble. They do. But you can’t be compromising on core principles willy-nilly. Even if you lack a certain moral, ethical ideological core you can’t be seen as being completely hollow. Appearances matter. Words matter. Their use and their timing matter. And, no, the excuse offered by PTI apologists that the Kaptaan isn’t really a politician and so he speaks from the heart and can’t really be expected to be a smooth talker and diplomatic with his words. I’m sorry but that doesn’t wash. He’s been at this game for twenty years and has been speaking publicly for a lot longer than that. If he hasn’t learnt to communicate by now then he’s better off keeping his trap closed (like Nawaz did for the majority of his career.) You don’t help (Bill Gates and our colonised minds notwithstanding) a floundering economy by announcing chickens and eggs as a cure-all for poverty. You certainly don’t help by undermining the authority and independence of the central bank when you accuse it of not informing you beforehand when the currency depreciates and announcing the consideration of a mechanism to ensure the central bank does so in the future. Really, probably the best thing the Kaptaan can do for the economy is not to comment on it at all. Nobody’s saying politicians and leaders and statesmen don’t have to be flexible and nimble. They do. But you can’t be compromising on core principles willy-nilly. Even if you lack a certain moral, ethical ideological core you can’t be seen as being completely hollow. Appearances matter. Words matter. Their use and their timing matter But the Kaptaan isn’t the only one on his team suffering from foot-in-mouth disease. His federal minister for water resources defending his absence from the National Assembly by declaring that eating and going to the toilet takes precedence over attending assembly sessions and his information minister (in defence of Jahangir Tareen) stating that insider trading is not an offence but a “complex business transaction” are just a couple of examples. It’s not that the PTI government has a monopoly on public gaffes and misspeaking — it’s a keen contest with the PPP and PML-N for the championship belt on that front. However, the PTI promised us change. They were supposed to be different. However, sadly, it’s just been more of the same so far. They really need to up their game. And fast. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Credit where credit is due. The best news since the PTI government took charge is its decision to finally initiate legal proceedings against Khadim Hussain Rizvi and the TLP leadership booking them under sedition, treason and terrorism (amongst other) charges. The government dragged its feet on this issue but better late than never. This is probably the best thing that could have happened for the country’s economy as well — security and the rule of law have a huge impact on development and growth. Religious extremism has fundamentally changed the fabric of this country and continues to do so and it has had a hugely detrimental role in our economic prosperity (or lack of it) and we need to take this hydra head on. It’s taken us four decades to get to this stage and it might take us twice as long to reverse the damage but that is only if we start addressing this danger as of yesterday. This is the never-ending battle we are facing and the longer we wait the longer it’ll take to win it. So, Kaptaan, no backing down on this front. See it through. No u-turns on this particular issue. Please. The writer is freelance columnist and can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, December 12th 2018.