The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has achieved two key milestones in its short life so far. The first was completing 100 days in power, a time frame it insisted should be used to judge its performance so it would showcase the ‘tsunami of change’ it promised in lieu of being voted into office. The second is completing six months in power — a slightly more reliable barometer of how the government has been able to translate promise into early practice.
The government has struggled to offer a convincing media story about its performance on both occasions. When the first 100 days were up, the prime minister did not himself lead the articulation about how his government had fared and left it to his federal information minister to essentially spin ‘too little’ into ‘a lot’. Now just over six months later, little has changed in terms of the government media policy — the ‘corruption and accountability’ sound bite from the pre-election days continues to define the central media message of this government.
Sure, there continues to be a lot of noise about promised reforms but no voice that is heard clearly about performance. But then, who speaks for the government of Imran Khan?
There are a plethora of names that are in contention. First and foremost is The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry — he’s certainly the loudest and brashest of them all and easily beats his predecessors in — often wantonly unpolished and in the shape of cheap jokes — in the federal information ministry’s history.
Then there’s Naeemul Haq who is the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs, including political communication. These past six months he has been much quieter than his usual self before the 2018 elections when Chaudhry hadn’t yet found his voice as a PTI representative and his was the primary voice of the party.
Then comes Iftikhar Durrani who heads the Central Media Department of the ruling party and is officially the prime minister’s Special Assistant on Media. No one knows what he does because he is media shy and is rarely in the public eye.
There’s also Nadeem Afzal Chan, an amiable former star of the Pakistan People’s Party but who was promptly appointed the ‘spokesperson for the prime minister’ a few weeks ago after joining the ruling party only last year. Soft-spoken to a fault, he hasn’t been ‘spokespersoning’ for Imran Khan at all since he has joined.
There is also Yousaf Baig Mirza, a former director general of the state broadcaster Pakistan Television, appointed as the prime minister’s Special Assistant on Media Affairs.
The latest to join the ‘spokespersonship bandwagon’ at the federal level is Dr Arsalan Khalid, the Secretary Social Media of PTI, who was in February appointed the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Digital Media.
These were all only on the federal level, there is also a list of people who speak for the party’s provincial governments, first and foremost on it is the recently ‘de-throne’ Punjab’s Minister for Information and Culture Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, but he had to be kicked out for over-embarrassing the already embarrassing Punjab chief minister and replaced with former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Syed Sumsam Ali Bokhari — who offers a refreshing contrast, but only to the extent that he talks less about himself than his predecessor.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there’s Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai who is, puzzlingly, not much in the media — perhaps to avoid questions about the never-ending and often mind-bending Peshawar Metro.
Apart from this, there are two gentlemen who even though not formally charged with being spokesmen of the government, have ended up being recognised only for this purpose.
These include Finance Minister Asad Umar, who has picked up the un-endearing habit of speaking about anything and everything except about finance.
Then there is Shaikh Rashid, the railways minister, who is often on-track with his wanton attempts to derail any chances of the leaders of the house and opposition in National Assembly to strike even a modicum of a working relationship. You can predict more accurately when he will fulminate his often foul-mouthed diatribes than when the trains under his watch leave for their destinations.
It would be difficult for even the most competent spin doctor to justify how and why in the first six months, defence spending has climbed 22 per cent and development budget trimmed by a whopping 37pc — not to mention increase in energy prices and the devaluation of the rupee by a whopping third. Or that not a single piece of legislation has been enacted by the federal parliament so far. Instead, the media highlights of the PTI phalanx of spokesmen has been their inability to keep up with the number of U-turn’s in policy proclamations and pre-election pledges.
There’s some irony here somewhere but it is destined to be lost, for who among the government’s army of spokesmen think it’s for them or about them? The spokesmen are everywhere but there’s little to speak about. The messengers are many, but the message is missing.
Courtesy: Dawn Newspaper