Exit Shehzad Akbar


Headlines about the government’s blue-eyed accountability czar being shown the door by the PM himself and Pakistan sliding 16 places on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) appearing alongside each other is something that even PTI’s most committed spin-masters will have trouble spinning to the party’s advantage. That all this happened just one day after the prime minister betrayed a great deal of frustration, some would say even desperation – and claimed that he’d survive this electoral cycle as well as the next but also threatened to take to the streets if he’s made to leave – makes understanding what is really happening not harder but easier.
It’s pretty clear that the PM is not happy that his promises of accountability and “bringing back looted wealth” and all that have turned out to be nothing but hot air so far, and he’s decided to begin venting his frustration by firing his own special advisor for accountability and also the head of the asset recovery unit. Yet while it is true that Akbar made a lot of big promises just to please the boss, it can also not be denied that it was the PM himself who wanted to hear what he was being told. And it’s not like the PM couldn’t see that a lot of what Akbar was saying was just not true, but he still kept blaming the media, and even the courts, out of sheer frustration instead of bothering to actually smell the coffee.
If it is really true that the belated realisation that his advisor was not all that he was made out to be made the PM swing the axe, then a lot more heads can be expected to roll in the next few days and weeks. For, there’s no end to the number of people who’ve formed a crowd around Imran Khan simply by singing his praises all the time. And perhaps somewhere down the road, the prime minister will also realise that it was his own hubris that not just allowed such a situation to develop, but pushed for it. And now he can’t mend everything that is broken even if he wanted to because there’s no time left and people are unlikely to trust PTI’s favourite slogans anytime soon.
Perhaps the strangest and most instructive thing about this collapse is that the government achieved it without any real help at all from the opposition; which was itself quite the picture of disarray these past few years. How much Akbar’s exit changes the complexion of the government, especially its accountability drive, will become clear soon enough.