Demolition Down Under
Thank God it’s over — the plight of Team Pakistan Down Under. Even though our players were never expected to pull off a miracle on the Australian soil, it was painful to see them fare like club cricketers — even worse. We were not defeated, we were demolished. The Aussies were merciless. They outperformed us in all departments of the game. They literally pounded us into submission. There was not a single day on the whole tour when we had the time to breathe easy. We lost the T20 series 2-0 and if it had not been for the rain in Sydney, it would have definitely been a 3-0 whitewash. The hosts then cake-walked to victory in both Tests of the series.
There is, however, nothing unusual in Pakistan’s humiliation on the latest tour. The loss at Adelaide is their 14th Test defeat Down Under — all more or less in a similar fashion — since the 1999 tour of the Wasim Akram men to Australia that came in the wake of the World Cup the same year. Pakistan’s last win in Australia had come in 1995 at Sydney. Our batsmen have a history of struggling with the pace, bounce and movement that the Australian conditions offer. So it’s kind of welcome to see two centuries scored in as many Tests — one each by Babar Azam and tail-ender Yasir Shah. But why our bowlers — almost all of whom are reasonably quick — fail to take advantage of the same conditions is indeed a mystery.
The demolition Down Under is a bad news for the team management too. Misbah-ul-Haq’s dual role as Headcoach and Chief Selector has already come under scathing criticism. Apart from former cricketers, PM’s Special Assistant Naeem-ul Haq has called for his removal. Ali Zaidi, a former federal minister, has also expressed displeasure over Pakistan’s poor performance in Australia. Bowling coach Waqar Younis is unlikely to escape criticism either. Are we going to see a head or two roll?
As many as 134 bureaucrats — including 44 in Islamabad and 90 in Punjab — got their transfer orders last Friday. Making the postings and transfers more curious was the reputations enjoyed by some of the people removed from top posts and those that replaced them. At least one officer was removed and made Officer on Special Duty (OSD) just weeks before his retirement. While most bureaucrats will have to spend time as OSDs at different points in their careers for a variety of reasons, it has also been used by political leaders to punish officers who refuse illegal or nonsensical orders without violating any rules. It is also rare for a career officer to be removed from a post just days before the end of one’s career.
Nevertheless, a major bureaucratic reshuffle in Punjab, the country biggest and the most important province, had become inevitable after Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his dissatisfaction with the administrative structure of the province and granted the provincial government free rein to remove civil servants that were hindering government business. The orders at the provincial level came on the heels of the first meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and the new Punjab Chief Secretary, Major (retd) Azam Suleman.
Meanwhile, speaking at a meeting with bureaucrats in Lahore, the Prime Minister reiterated that “the old system can no longer work in Naya Pakistan”, while stressing that they needed to bring improvement in the lives of the poor of the country. While praising Chief Minsiter Buzdar’s performance so far, the Prime Minister claimed that the reforms implemented during the PTI government’s tenure were unprecedented, but seemed to blame bureaucrats for not publicising them well enough. But most tellingly, the Prime Minister promised that the tenure of the new team would be protected and that he would not give in to political pressure.
Given that the bureaucracy is supposed to be apolitical, and the Prime Minister just sent more than 100 officers packing well before their tenures had ended, this promise will do little to reassure officers at the Centre or in the provinces.