Islamabad - Last week marked the completion of a hundred days of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party in office. Given the country’s endemic structural problems and dysfunction, expecting the party, a first-time entrant in the corridors of power, to pull a miracle in just over three weeks is delusional. However, it is understandable that PTI would term the last three months a resounding success and its detractors would portray the government’s performance as an abysmal failure. What is essential to analyze is whether the direction PTI has taken for reforms and governance looks promising or not.

The initial signs do not inspire much confidence. The government stumbled from one gaffe to another, one embarrassing episode to the next. Most of the ministers have looked terribly out of depth when it comes to performing their primary jobs and immensely talented and qualified to be hostile and sarcastic toward critics. Bureaucracy is petrified to sign any documents lest it becomes an excuse by the National Accountability Bureau to rake it over coals. Political statements have been hailed as transformative policies. Political somersaults have been described as a great strategy.

Government officials are incensed at the latest wave of criticism. What they fail to grasp is that people expected them to come up with new and innovative solutions and not repackage old ideas and economic and foreign policies of the past governments. Prime Minister Imran Khan has now directed his ire at those with “colonized minds.” Finance Minister Asad Umar has balked at those who speak English with an affected accent. Some other officials have mocked those who throng the upscale eateries at Kohsar Market of the capital and MM Alam Road of the provincial capital Lahore. The chickens are finally coming home to roost (pun intended).

The finance minister has been a peculiar revelation. His transformation from a corporate executive to a populist politician – high on rhetoric and low on substance – is now almost complete. His speech at the 100-days ceremony in Islamabad was telling. It was as little about finance as it was high on nationalist, religious sentimentality and political grandstanding. It was as if he was pitching to be the next prime minister and cynics could also conclude that he was trying to overshadow the prime minister, who was sitting right in front. No wonder there was some unease amongst those present in the audience.

Two generations have grown up idolizing Imran Khan. The cult and celebrity status of the prime minister is unmatched compared with any other local celebrity or politician. It has helped to catapult Imran Khan to power and get away with what other mortals would have found politically fatal. He has managed to defy all and criticism and achieved his ambitions with resolute single-mindedness.

Its still early days to tell whether this indomitable trait will help overcome the daunting challenge he has set himself upon. However, the fact remains that he can’t pull it alone this time. He would need much more than the constant mantra about corruption and mishmash of varying, often-contradictory economic models and governance structures. Many of his idealistic notions have already hit stark realities. The expatriate Pakistanis have not started investing back in the country in bulks. Remittances have not skyrocketed. Moreover, having an honest man on the top does not stop or ensure power politics of the mid-tier to play it dirty and nasty.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will have to make some course corrections soon and discard the extra baggage. He might want to gloss over some poor political choices and portray some visibly failing officials as beacons of change. It won’t work. Within a year, some bad decisions will only compound and make matters worse. The prime minister can sound all earnest and reassuring when he tells the public not to fret over the current rate of inflation, dipping value of the local currency and disappointing performance.

The constituents who helped ease the way for Imran Khan to become the prime minister have been watching the initial bungling of the government with unease. They are still hopeful about their political choice. If the indicators of much anticipated economic turnaround still look grim within a year from now, their patience will be tested.

To the government’s advantage, the opposition is in disarray. Despite their numerical strength in both houses of the parliament, the combined opposition has failed to put the government on the defensive. The government’s aggressive media strategy has been effective. The opposition leaders have themselves to blame. Sycophants and non-political advisors ‘egged on’ both Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, leading to a dead end. Now, their supporters feel abandoned in a no man’s land while the Sharif’s maintain a conspicuous, defeated silence. The slogan of “Give sanctity to my vote” sounds like a sad, discarded joke.