Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Image Credit: PID

I voted for you in 2013. That was the first time I voted in a general election of Pakistan. Your party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) failed to win a national majority but formed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In 2018, I voted for you again. You were the candidate on the National Assembly seat of the constituency in which my vote was registered. You won that seat. Your PTI became the party with the largest number of seats. After a by-election in October 2018, the number of PTI’s National Assembly seats was 155. In Punjab PTI had 181 seats, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 79, in Sindh 29, and in Balochistan 7.

On March 3, 2021, the PTI government lost what was touted as the most important Senate seat. The candidate of the united opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Yousaf Raza Gillani emerged as the winner, beating PTI government’s Federal Minister on Finance and Revenue Hafeez Sheikh. The unsavoury controversies surrounding the Gillani victory are beyond the scope of my immediate concern. Two days after the election, on March 6, Prime Minister, you sought a vote of confidence from parliament. Out of the total number of 342 members of National Assembly, the verdict of 178 parliamentarians showing their support for you sealed your position. For now.

The road ahead is long, uphill, without railings, potholed. It is not the battle with the PDM that is your biggest challenge, Prime Minister, it is the issues of governance that are and will be your most important tests. You, Imran Khan, unlike any other leader in the last thirty years of Pakistan’s political history came to power on the promise of changing the fate of Pakistan. Only one other leader in the last fifty years rose in political eminence on the sheer power of his incredible bond with the people of Pakistan: Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. So much hope ascribed to your prime ministership in 2018, the disappointment in 2021 is hardly disproportionate. It is not too late to undo the damage. Most of it.

As you thanked the house for their vote of confidence and pledged to do more for the people of Pakistan, I did not doubt your sincerity, Prime Minister There is not an iota of ambivalence in my mind vis-a-vis your genuine resolve to do your best for Pakistan. What matters to me today on March 7 after the vote of confidence, and what mattered to me after you took the oath as prime minister of Pakistan on August 18, 2018, remain unchanged: the intention, the sincerity, the resolve to translate into substantial action. As your voter and supporter, Prime Minister, it would be unbecoming for me to state today that I feel a great deal of satisfaction in my evaluation of the certain aspects of your governance circa March 2021.

Near the parliament, the scenes of scuffle between the PTI supporters and some of the most prominent PML-N leaders became the tragic manifestation of the alienation of the government and the opposition. Something’s gotta give, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister, I truly believe that you breathe and live Pakistan. What I also know is that that is not enough. As millions of Pakistanis suffer in their diurnal existence, folding their hands in hopelessness and pain to their Creator, they demand answers from the person who promised to create a Naya Pakistan modelled on the noble ideals of Riyasat-e-Medina of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). The awful fiscal policies of the former governments and the destruction wreaked by the pandemic of coronavirus–the genuine double whammy your government is doing its best to tackle–are of no consequence to the aam aadmi, the average Pakistani, the underprivileged, the low-income earner, the lower middle class, the middle class Pakistani. They suffer and they demand solutions. That is their fundamental right. Providing tangible solutions beyond the hyperbole, beyond the sincere promises, is the responsibility of any government. Until 2023, that government is yours, Prime Minister.

Inflation, unchanging incomes, unemployment, paucity of opportunities, bad healthcare, bad education system, decrepit infrastructure, insecurity of existence, the issues of the millions of Pakistanis are black and white. What is required is the immediate and absolute attention of your government. The 178 parliamentarians who pledged their support to you yesterday along with their colleagues on the opposition benches represent the entire Pakistan. Excluding the ones selected on special quota or women seats, each one of them is answerable to the people of their constituencies who voted for them.

Without wasting any more time, all 342 of them, must take a pledge: to serve the people of Pakistan beyond their loyalty to their party leadership, the position they enjoy within the party, and the will-I-get-the-ticket-in-the-next-election worry. Pakistan first must be their united slogan.

Prime Minister, the pleas of the Pakistanis trying to survive within their meagre or non-existent resources call for the government and the opposition to unite. Positive politics has the power to change the fate of a country. The dark chasm between your government and the opposition is widening by the minute. The first and the last casualty is Pakistan, the 220 million Pakistanis There must be a way to oppose each other without so much hatred, so much venom, so much distancing. The debilitating issues of the people of Pakistan should have and must have and ought to have the force to bring together the government and the opposition that currently are embroiled in a feud that resembles that of Cain and Abel in its intensity. But Cain and Abel were brothers…

If the entire attention of the opposition is on the construction of an environment to topple your government, and most of your statements and that of your ministers and spokespersons are in response to the opposition’s attacks, or are scathing critiques of the present and past shenanigans of the opposition, the result is nothing but catastrophic, Prime Minister. Finding the middle ground is imperative. Right about now.

Political differences are essential for a vibrant democracy. A robust and constructive opposition keeps a government on its toes. Opposing ideologies make a fascinating mosaic, displaying for the public an array of choices and paths. It is when political opposition becomes a battle with no rules of engagement it is the country that pays the price. Who suffers in the war of Prime Minister Imran Khan and PDM? The 220 million Pakistanis.

As your voter and supporter, Prime Minister, I hope that you know. What to do next. The 220 million Pakistanis are represented by you, Prime Minster, and your cabinet. They are also represented by 100 Senators, 342 members of the National Assembly, 371 members of the Punjab Assembly, 168 members of the Sindh Assembly, 124 members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, and 65 members of the Balochistan Assembly. 1170 representatives for 220 million people.

How will the issues of the aam aadmi be solved if these elected and chosen people honoured with the vote of the people and/or their colleagues are bitter enemies? How will the issues of Pakistan be solved if all of you do not work together? Reforms in all sectors; implementation of the local bodies system; people-based policies for improvement in indexes of economy, development and enhancement of resources; and solid interior and foreign policies, not a great deal of substantial and long-term provincial and national progress is possible without taking everyone on board. The previous governments alienated the opposition. Please do not make the same mistake.

Prime Minister, I hope you take the high moral ground. The growing distance between the government and the opposition is marked with mistrust, bitterness, rancour. The opposition’s absolute focus on overthrowing you is their Achilles’ heel. Using the pain of people as their Trojan horse, they fool no one. But their fight has made the issues of the people mainstream. And that is where you should and you could make the difference.

As your supporter and voter, I say to you, Prime Minister: accountability of a few must not be the sword that inflicts wounds that bleed on the hopes of millions of Pakistanis. Punish the corrupt in a court of law, by all means, but do not label the entire opposition chor, corrupt, enemy of Pakistan. Pick your battles with care. Utilise your unlimited empathy for the people of Pakistan to find a way to work with the opposition. Pakistan is your all, your everything. Use your love for Pakistan to find real, concrete solutions to the issues of Pakistanis. Let everyone, even the opposition, be part of the process of turning our beloved homeland into Naya Pakistan, the twenty-first century Riyasat-e-Medina.

Take the first step for a new united Pakistan. And I say today: Prime Minister Imran Khan, we the people of Pakistan will stand with you. Every step of the way. InshaAllah.

Mehr Tarar, Special to Gulf News-1592296810288