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Political wisdom

Updated July 08, 2017


IMRAN Khan says Raymond Davis’ recent book should be read by every Pakistani to learn the shameful reality of his country. The people of Pakistan by and large already know how utterly rotten the whole range of their ruling elite have become. They know why the Abbottabad Commission report, including its Dissenting Report, has been hidden from them. They know why political opponents of the prime minister are vociferous in their demands for him to be brought to justice but anaemic in their support for the release of the Abbottabad Commission report.

The people know why no independent inquiry commission has ever been set up to inquire into the true state of affairs in Balochistan. They know the answers to such national political and security issues are carefully kept hidden by ruling enemy elites. They know how the national interest is treated with contempt and how they are excluded and divided. They know the rule of law is a complete hoax for them. They know they have no representatives either in parliament or among political parties even though everybody lies in their name. They know their country has been made into a killing field for their children. They know their real questions are addressed by the media with deafening political irrelevance and silence.

If the Panama verdict is seen to be fair, the credit will in large part belong to one man: Imran Khan.

Right now, all eyes and ears are fixed on what the Panama verdict will be. If it is seen to be fair, the credit will in large part belong to one man: Imran Khan. If it were not for his bulldog persistence, including making a thorough nuisance of himself for the establishment, no person, party or institution would have made the necessary and sustained effort to challenge entrenched elite corruption, which is killing Pakistan before our very eyes.

Imran has rendered many sterling services to Pakistan. This will be among his finest. He will now need to build upon and broaden his demonstrated qualities to help bring about a fundamental structural transformation of the country. The removal of a massive roadblock should make this seminal undertaking more possible. However, his critics allege he is not gifted, well-read or even serious enough to shoulder such a historic responsibility, which is also beyond his understanding. Moreover, the inconveniences, risks and dangers involved are allegedly more than what he wants to burden the rest of his life with.

This is certainly biased criticism, although his political record is open to criticism on a number of counts. No one is perfect, indispensable or sufficient. National transformation requires more than a lifetime. There have to be others who bring out the best in a leader. As a great sportsman, Imran must know that the greatest are never satisfied with their performances; they always search for ways to improve on them, including by examining their own attitudes. They are willing to learn from those far less gifted or favoured by destiny. That is what makes them human — and potentially an invincible force on behalf of goals far greater than themselves.

An Irishman was asked by a tourist who had lost his way about the road to Dublin. The Irishman answered: if I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from here! Similarly, if Imran wishes to transform Pakistan into a successful 21st century Islamic, modern, inclusive, welfare, human rights, and rule of law-based nation, there are better starting points than reiterating clichés and wish-lists instead of identifying root causes and power structures, as well as strategies for their progressive elimination. Clichés may be safer but they offer little guidance for socioeconomic transformations, and little understanding of the underlying structures that divert and impede the political awakening of the people of Pakistan.

Men destined for nothing in particular need not take up such challenges. However, those like Imran who feel destined to bring about a national transformation have also to be great teachers, not necessarily through erudition and instruction, but through the example of their human qualities and their life’s work. Why is Faiz Ahmad Faiz so enduringly popular and relevant? It is not just because of the incomparable muse within him. It is primarily because he had a transcending human purpose his muse will forever serve.

This is a facility and a felicity that, in varying degrees, are available to all human beings irrespective of talent and genius. After a certain age, a person’s nature may not be open to significant change. But if they seek a deeper understanding of how knowledge and morality reinforce each other they will acquire a human maturity, the essence of which is wisdom. This is a disposition, not a talent. The door to it is never closed.

Should the Panama judgement not turn out to be as expected, the struggle for a better Pakistan must continue, even if corruption and cynicism will seem to have triumphed once again. The next elections will be significant. But the desperate error of regarding them as the last chance to acquire the power to do any good for the country should not be repeated. This has already harmed the political project Imran Khan personified and sought to promote. In the wretched political environment of Pakistan, the search for ‘electables’ from other discredited parties makes little sense. It will merely alienate young and older cadres and supporters because ‘electables’ will, almost by definition, demand and receive tickets and high party offices.

As before, political has-beens who have no ideological or personal loyalty will again seek personal electoral victories and personal clout within the party. Imran would let himself and his party down again. Even if he won such a status-quo based election he would have to pretend he had made the revolution he had actually forsaken.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s greatest success was his 1970 election campaign. He changed the political contours of Punjab. He did so without ‘electables’ even if he reached understandings elsewhere. He carved out the necessary political space he could have used for national regeneration and transformation. He was gifted and brilliant. Tragically, wisdom eluded him.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2017

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