The prime minister made an astonishing revelation on Tuesday. While speaking to his team of ministers and advisers and special assistants, when he said it’s a good idea to do your homework before coming to power.

PM Imran Khan admitted that his government did not have excuses anymore and that it was the time for performance now. At the time of transfer of power from one government to another after general elections, all previous leaderships should provide a complete briefing to their successors.

Prime Minister observed, “for one and a half years we remained unable to even know the actual figures of different sectors, particularly the power sector. From one ministry at times the figures indicated we were performing very well and then sometimes some other figure showed we were not performing that well.”

For one and half years, the government could not even get its figures straight, let alone adopt a policy direction. Some of the think tanks also predicted this all along, saying the government does not seem to know what it’s doing. It was clear to see for those who have eyes and ears. A leader appealing to his population to step forward and make donations to the dam fund, to take one example, was all that was needed to know that the ruling party had come to power with no idea of how big the world is, how complex is its machinery and how delicate the balance of the moving parts.

Speaking of the 18th Amendment, PM Imran Khan said the Center now had jurisdiction over food security but the power sector has gone to the provinces. However, the government’s decision to review the performance of each ministry as the PTI regime would be unable to govern unless that was done.

“If a province does not release the wheat it has produced, then the federal government has no authority. When flour had become expensive, everyone cursed the Center even though the provinces retained all the control”, Prime Minister noted.

But let’s not get too strung up on this. Those in government take umbrage when we listen too carefully, and the inevitable cries of he said this but he meant that get triggered. Let’s focus instead on one more ceremony of senior government leaders assembled to evaluate the performance of ministries. Having seen this same spectacle more times than I care to count over the years it should be clear by now that it is little more than a ceremonial performance.

Some of the hardliners of government have had the tedious task of following closely all the ceremonial performances that count for governance these days and need no effort to recall this, but to those who have been paying scant attention to the news flow, it is worth recalling how many times it has been here before.

The first performance review was in December 2018 on the first 100 days of the PTI government. “The circumstances are not normal. We are passing through an extraordinary situation and I expect all the ministers to show extraordinary performance” that report quotes the prime minister as telling his ministers.

Specific performance targets were given to all ministers in that cabinet meeting, which was held in an air of seriousness as the IMF talks dragged on, the economy was stalling, and the leadership was beginning to wake up to the fact that running things in a country of 200 million people was serious business which would take more than televised appeals to emotion to pull off.

Then in January 2019, the creation of a cell to monitor the performance of ministers and government servants, to be headed by Arshad Dad, was ordered. A little more than a month later we had another announcement of quarterly reviews to be held to monitor the performance of all ministries, who would be required to deliver 30-minute presentations to show how much they had performed against targets that were supposedly established during a cabinet meeting in November of the preceding year.

The next month, in September, we had another announcement, this time of red letters being issued to 27 ministries for being lax in implementing specific tasks assigned to each.

By April 2020 sources in the PM Office said that the prime minister was deeply dissatisfied with the performance of several of his ministries. “The PMO has directed all the federal ministers to submit a detailed report on the meetings held in their ministries, decisions taken and implementation on those decisions since the time of their taking office.”

Yet here we are, six months later, and now we learn that through all this they didn’t even have their numbers straight. And another round of performance targets, another announcement that this time it is for real.


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