What the PML-N got wrong

Published: May 16, 2012

It’s like the PML-N has spent the last eight months trying to make sure that the public face of the party is, at least, disliked, if not hated. PHOTO: INP

In the last eight months or so, the PML-N has done pretty much everything a party can do in an election year. They have dug up every road in Punjab, raised concerns about problems in other provinces and have even recruited avidly to beef up their party ranks.

Effectively, they have prepared well for the upcoming elections. And even though the tsunami is coming for them, they are still focused on the real competitor. One would say that they are ready to go to the polls and seize power. However, all is not what it seems to be – my personal belief is that the PML-N will lose the national elections again. Here are my reasons:

Inability to evolve

In a country that is obsessed with the word ‘change’, it does pay off to be the consistent one. While people harp on about change, a large majority likes things the way are; not because they are fair, but because they understand how things get done within the current scenario. So while there is always this urge to change everything, majority of the people are content with the way things are and only wish for a few tweaks here and there.

In such a situation, one would imagine that a party like the PML-N would thrive by making small changes to make life easier for people. But that is the whole issue; change and evolution is not the same thing. The PML-N, instead of evolving over time into a mature party, is still trying to get on the bandwagon of ‘change’.

The problem with that is that one cannot be in a provincial government and harp on about change – that is effectively an oxymoron. What you can do instead is focus on better governance, and that’s exactly what the PML-N hasn’t done in the past four-and-a-half years. While people claim that Bhutto-ism or the tsunami will defeat the PML-N, they are all wrong; the PML-N will defeat itself.

No media strategy

Apparently Senator Pervaiz Rasheed is heading some sort of media strategy for the PML-N. However, no one seems to have seen that in action. The PML-N often cries that when the party does something, they never get credit for it; that’s because the message never really gets out.

Compare this to the PTI. Even though I do not agree with their views, there is no doubt that it is brilliantly efficient at getting its message across. People identify the word ‘Insaf’ with them when it is used in any context. That is the power of excellent media management and strategy.

The PML-N, on the other hand, wastes money and hopes that things will work out. So while Senator Pervaiz Rasheed is doing ‘excellent’ work for the PML-N, the party is slowly dying a very public media death.

No message

Does anyone, including Mian Sahib, know what the message of the PML-N is? What exactly are they going to fix when they come into power?

The economy is in crisis, there is a food shortage expected to last the next two years and we are expecting floods in August. What is the PML-N going to do about that? What is anyone else going to do to if they come into power?

Saying “we shall end corruption” does not cut it, because politically speaking, a certain level of corruption exists in every system as it is endemic.

This question is in no way limited to the PML-N; this is a real question for all parties including the PPP and the PTI.

Since we have taken huge loans, our budget is constructed in accordance with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; so no party can make massive changes to it as there is no money.

I wonder what the PML-N’s message is. It’s been four years and all I have heard is complaints about what the PPP does wrong, while presenting nothing as an alternative.

Below par leadership

The PML-N will lose out because of the leadership. It’s not Mian Sahib who is the problem; it is others like Chaudhry Nisar whose words and actions contradict each other. Another is Senator Pervaiz Rasheed who effectively blocks any decent idea from being carried forward. Amir Muqam is also one who has an impeccable record of not doing anything.

With such a cadre of leaders, how can one win? It’s like the PML-N has spent the last eight months trying to make sure that the public face of the party is disliked, if not hated.

Bad advisors

This is a problem with most political parties, but with with the PML-N it’s more serious. It is a well known fact that both the Sharif brothers adhere strictly to the words of their advisors; whatever is fed to them is what they start believing eventually.

The current mix of advisors are more interested in personal benefits than the long run sustainability of the party. It is due to this narrow-mindedness that the party lacks a crop of young leadership that could take over the in the future. The cherry on this cake of errors is that most of these advisers who are given the task of advising a political party and its leaders are not even elected members. They are people who have no long term stakes in the well-being of the political party.

A few months ago, Ayaz Amir wrote an effective obituary of the PTI in his column. At that time people said he had jumped the gun, while many agreed with him. If he were to look at the PML-N now, that obituary would fit like a glove.

The PML-N is a party that does not need enemies; they are their own worst enemies. All these reasons have always existed – the PTI’s emergence has merely highlighted them.

So while Mian Sahib tells Pakistan why the prime minister is wrong, what he doesn’t understand is that his party should be the last to talk about right and wrong. His own members are destroying his party and he hasn’t been able to see it in four years.

One wonders how a leader will run the country when he can’t manage even his own party.

Read more by Adnan here, or follow him on Twitter @adnanrasool


Adnan Khalid Rasool

Currently the Deputy Executive Director Center for Enterprise, Trade and Development, Adnan is also a political analyst working mainly on electoral politics and political campaign management. He tweets at @adnanrasool

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.