Imran’s Address to the Nation: Bowling Straight to the Wicket

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IRSHAD SALIM: In his first address to the nation which overwhelming majority of Pakistanis abroad and the Western media also listened to, Prime Minister Imran Khan set a new tone and new set of priorities with specific direction he expects to follow with a roadmap milestoned with deliverables — most of the issues and observations he touched upon were for the first time ever mentioned by chief executive of a nuclear-armed nation which has the highest youth bulge in the region but had never been prioritized at this level — and in doing so Khan Sahib gave away important news and information nuggets the nation and others had probably not heard of before in high-pitched monologue.

Cliches and jargons and beaten-up narratives were amiss in the plain talk Khan did, –the up, close and personal style, form and substance touched the nation’s pulse Beethoven-style. And the symphony remains ringing in the ear despite the day being over.

Earlier in the day, the 69-year-old had set the pace with what the nation should expect his daily ritual. It was an anti-climax much to the delight of most people specially the youth, but a distraction for many who had accepted the regal as the norm the nation ought to witness among the powerful.

Nonetheless, the “dress-down” was a newsworthy chatter on social media.

Later in his evening talk, Khan gave another shocker. He mentioned the urgent need for: change in thought process, attitude, living standards and lifestyle, and calls to be humble and caring for the underprivileged — many had expected him to startoff with corruption, misgovern, Afghanistan, Kashmir, etc. etc.

He also instead highlighted the need to empower the 2.5 crore kids who remain out of school; address water crisis as a national emergency; consider climate change as a matter of concern, and invoke habit of generating savings, doing cost reductions before seeking ways and means to generate additional revenue by borrowing as the first resort. Another music in the air for his mile-long critics but a shot in the arm for the rest.

Upending the priorities to focus on for national salvation have been a national call for decades, but hitherto buried under media-centric old-guard’s narratives and choices. The new stream of consciousness the silent but majority of apolitical Pakistanis had deep inside them and wanted someone to articulate. Khan did it. Resultantly, there’s a shock and awe on one side and disbelief and cynicism on other end. In between the bandwidth Khan spin has created a contour though of a new ecosystem meant to address future generations while handling urgent issues at hand. The commentators are in a spin zone now trying to figure things out the old way. Khan has moved on from the cot and the container days.

Khan’s address of issues affecting future generation more than articulating present problems being faced is a paradigm shift many considered heartening to note. Some where disappointed though understandably.

He not only promised to empower the children out of school, as much as empowering the youth, widows, the handicapped and the marginalized — all subsets of the poverty-stricken set of our socio-economic class and were never addressed at such a high level and pitch.

How he would achieve it is his dream team’s task now but he has set the rules already being followed worldwide: save, reduce –to pay for, so the need to spend more is incrementally minimized, and therefore the urge to borrow (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – sustainable model) can be rationalized — shaming borrowing as national habit was shunned by him except on short-term basis.

Most issues are of imminent nature and in urgent need to tackle.

Stressing on austerity measures, the need to address corruption, economic, social, and environmental challenges to bring Pakistan back on track, the prime minister emphasized there was a need to change our direction otherwise the country would head towards disaster. “We need to change our mindset and think about the children who are out of school.”

He bowled straight to the wicket:

Pakistan is among those 5 countries in which most of our children die before the age of 5 due to diseases caused by contaminated water.
Pakistan is also included in top 5 countries of the world where rate of female mortality is very high. We are among the top 5 countries in the world where children die because of malnutrition resulting in stunted growth.”I have been telling people till today, but people have not understood.: “Today I show you a picture that shows a 2-year-old child on one side who is is getting nourishing food, and has normal mental health and on the other hand, a child of 2 years has been shown with insufficient diet. His brain has not been growing completely. We are talking about 45 percent of Pakistan’s children, that is, almost every other Pakistani child, suffers from this disease. I am worried because we are not able to give them food completely and they are not getting nutrition too, and thus they have left behind in the race of life. They can not compete.They can not move forward in the 21st century . what were feelings of parents of those children I am telling you just to make you realize that where are we standing in this regard and how we will change our way.”

“We are talking about 45 percent of Pakistan’s children, that is, almost every other Pakistani child, suffers from this disease. I am worried because we are not able to give them food completely and they are not getting nutrition too, and thus they have left behind in the race of life. They can not compete.”

At PM House we have 524 workers, 80 cars, of which 33 are bullet proof. The price of each is more than Rs.5 crore; helicopters, aeroplanes; the Prime Minister House is spread over 1100 canals, we have Governor Houses, Rest Houses, Chief Ministers’ Houses they have cars, Secretaries 100 have 2/3 cars. Our D.Cs, Commissioners reside in large residences.

On one hand is the nation in debt which cannot spend on its citizens and on the other hand are those in power who live as the Britishers lived during their rule. They, like our rulers, built huge Governor Houses. We were (their) slaves then, but now that we are free we continue to live in the same manner. We are not worried that we cannot meet the basic needs of our people, look at our life style.

Money laundering worth $10 billion every year is taking place. This must stop.

So does it matter if he did not discuss the hyperbole and the usual? That we all hear daily in TV Talk Shows and in politicians statements laced with innuendos and diatribes? He’s a cut above all these –in fact like rest of the nation are. The dress-down was much needed and bowling straight to the wicket was inevitable, according to one Western analyst who chose not to be named.

Complete text of Imran Khan’s maiden speech

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