My name is Ug. Ug Lee American. On October 3, I declared my candidacy for president of Pakistan. I presented a three-pronged platform: eradicating militancy by leveraging our in-country assets (spies, security forces, US fast-food chain mascots, Sesame Street muppets); enhancing food security by deploying instant-irrigation technologies and pizza delivery services; and easing unemployment by implementing an expansive massage therapy jobs program that alleviates the distress of sore-jawed, “do more”-uttering US officials.
Regretfully, I made this announcement in English — a language that my most trusted sources estimate is spoken by less than 8 per cent of Pakistanis. Accordingly, today I am kicking off a grassroots campaign to bring my message to the Pakistani people — all 180 million of you. Or 154 million of you. Or whatever happens to be the UN Population Division’s projection du jour. (As president, one of my first directives will expedite the completion of Pakistan’s long-awaited census, so that we finally have a definitive figure.)
My core campaign strategy is to beat my competitors at their own game. To this end, I will pepper my speeches with occasionally alliterative yet ultimately trite slogans often divorced from reality — “trade not aid,” “regional solutions,” “fly drones under the Pakistani flag,” “sweeter than honey and higher than the Himalayas,” etc. I shall impart these pearls of clichédom while flashing a grin reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat’s. And whenever a particularly horrific tragedy befalls Pakistan, I shall abruptly suspend my campaign and repair with alacrity to my beachfront home in Hawaii.
Not to be upstaged by another competitor, I shall enlist the assistance of my dear brother and fellow politician, Ug Leo American. While I make progressive, paradigm-shifting pronouncements, I shall dispatch Ug Leo to parrot the populist rhetoric of the street. Together, we shall steadfastly take for granted our ability to hold sway over Punjab. Furthermore, I shall demonstrate my mass mobilisation prowess. Another of my competitors has garnered immense praise for attracting 100,000 people to a rally in Lahore.
Well, I promise you at least 500,000; there is nothing like a public appearance by an American to bring Pakistanis onto the streets. Yes, many will chant naughty insults, some will wave anti-American signs, and a few may even try to kill me. Yet as my eyes-on-the-ground confidants assure me, in Pakistan it is all about the crowd numbers and less about the other pesky details. My advisers also underscore the imperative of projecting myself as a savior — a messiah-like figure who can save the nation from itself. “Ug Lee,” they say, “you must depict yourself as a breath of fresh air — one who will emerge from the mountains, or from a forward operating base, and answer the long-held prayers of the masses for a blissfully uncorrupt and post-dynastic leader to come and make the bad guys go away.”
No problem. There are two things we do well in Pakistan: Appearing out of nowhere (particularly in Lahore’s busy traffic circles), and making the bad guys go away (at least the militants we expunge via Predator drones and occasional Special Forces raids).
To be sure, it is never easy to run for president of a foreign country, and Pakistan is certainly no Albania. To my chagrin, merely delivering an innocent public presentation in Pakistan can place you in the crosshairs of an angry shoe-thrower.
Several of my advisers have warned me about the Ghairat Brigade (only recently did I realise that, despite its martial-sounding name, this is not a local security force). This Brigade has accused me of besmirching Pakistan’s honor, and one of its crafty members has declared his intention to run for president of India in retaliation (Ronald McDonald, one of my more incisive advisers, wonders why the Ghairat Brigade would aspire for what in India is a largely ceremonial post).
My coterie also speaks ominously of a growing anti-American urban middle class, and of all those young people with quibbles about America. My prized aide Rani the Muppet, who is intimately familiar with Pakistani youth, tells me that even joining Haseen O Jameel the Crocodile for a sing-along on Sesame Street, or jamming with Atif Aslam on Coke Studio, would do little for my prospects.
Happily, I have already formulated a strategy for such challenges: I shall simply ignore them. There is a truism about American efforts in Pakistan: Never let the overwhelming sentiments of Pakistan’s populace get in the way of right-minded policies. There are, after all, other ways to fulfill our objectives.
One option is to tap a relatively new resource: sketchy yet savvy interlocutors well-placed to facilitate backchannel correspondence between myself and Pakistan’s leadership, in the hopes of attaining an outcome that will hasten my journey to President House.
So, as I sit here in the business-class lounge of Dubai’s international airport, surrounded by bleary-eyed travelers watching very old episodes of “Baywatch” on a larger-than-life plasma TV, and waiting for the next PIA flight to convey me to Pakistan, whenever that may be, I solemnly declare to you: “Yes Lee Can.”
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.
Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MichaelKugelman.
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.