LKY on not crumbling

Published November 18, 2022
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

Apple pie or apple crumble
The Captain’s taken a tumble

“DON’T just try to pluck out a few words from what I may have said and toss them at me expecting me to crumble [because] in answering questions I am very careful with my choice of words.” This was legendary Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew in a Hard Talk interview with the BBC.

Unfortunately, Imran Khan has a tendency to crumble and reverse himself when confronted with the consequences of his repeated statements. His remarks about the military and the US have been very clear. Moreover, they are perfectly understandable. Many among the middle-class intelligentsia and the overwhelming majority of his supporters insist they are entirely justified. And yet, he goes back on them.

Where do such ‘U-turns’ leave his supporters? They are left in the lurch, scrambling for reasons to support him. They will, of course, support him. But the question arises, will he support them if he is re-elected with a working majority — the only scenario in which he says he will accept becoming prime minister again, unless he has another crumble.

Imran Khan is a very polite listener to constructive, even stringent criticisms. But he appears also to be a very inept learner, because he has allowed his ego — which of itself is no bad thing as it can boost a leader’s self-confidence in challenging times — to become a barrier more than a driver.

He has to stop being careless and casual. If not, many among his supporters will ask whether he can be a better captain than he has been. Being brave and courageous is essential, as the recent attempt on his life has again underlined. But hard work, learning and humility are also necessary to acquire an equally essential wisdom.

The Prophet (PBUH) said knowledge should be sought, even from China. And today, China is again emerging as a teacher to the world. Pakistan is fortunate to have China as a strategic neighbour, friend and partner. But it is unfortunate in not being able to benefit from its excellent example and experience.

There is no doubt Pakistan needs as many friends as possible. This includes the US. But the US is a hegemon; China is not. The US effectively demands its dependents prioritise US interests over their own, which is only possible through ruling elites who are no friends of their own people. China makes no such demands.

The US, moreover, is a strategic partner of India. Through CPEC, China has made Pakistan a flagship of its global and Asia-Pacific BRI cooperation strategy. The US sees India as the “major spoke” of its “Indo-Pacific hub strategy” to contain China. Imran Khan, however, almost alienated Chinese opinion through a number of missteps. This would have been unforgiveable. Fortunately, he limited the damage and restored China’s confidence.

Where do ‘U-turns’ leave Imran’s supporters? They are left scrambling for reasons to support him.

Nevertheless, for Imran to have allowed his pre-election ‘dharna’ in Islamabad in 2018 to postpone Chairman Xi Jinping’s visit was unfortunate. His subsequent inclusion of a minister in his cabinet who had called for a suspension of CPEC — a key US goal — was lamentable.

He practically drove Pakistan’s most reliable ally into the arms of his major rival. Like all previous leaders, except ZAB, he sought a US “sub-continental balance” that was (a) never going to be on offer and which (b) threatened Pakistan’s most vital strategic relationship.

Incidentally, China has never demanded Pakistan distance itself from the US, which has consistently aimed at limiting Pakistan’s relationship with China as the condition for a less unbalanced subcontinental policy. Pakistan’s economic vulnerabilities are cited as justification for such wretched abjection, whereas the truth is that these vulnerabilities are carefully sustained by domestic ruling elites and their Western-approved technical policy minions against any radical reform programme.

Their actions and class interests, despite their pretensions to the contrary, are wittingly or unwittingly inconsistent with the survival of Pakistan and its people.

Climate change is bringing the world together in voluntary or involuntary embrace. This embrace will ultimately be defined either by ideologies of genocidal conflict or by cooperation strategies for global survival. The scientific consensus is that global survival will require the rise in global temperature since the industrial revolution to be limited to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius during the current century. The Economist, however, reports the consensus now considers this goal to be “dead”.

Carbon emissions continue, if more slowly, to go in the opposite direction. Accordingly, the likely increase in global temperature by 2100 could exceed 2.5°C, whose devastating implications — especially for the Middle East and South Asia — are too horrible to contemplate.

Moreover, large-scale current climate prediction models are, according to the renowned scientist Sabine Hossenfelder, far too primitive to rule out even worse outcomes, or even to agree on the most efficient strategies and priorities to avoid them.

For any national climate strategy to be successful, the promotion of climate awareness and education must become the overarching national priority. The only route to global and national survival is through some kind of a Global and Pakistan Green New Deal, including a financing plan for it, to generate the momentum to become independent of the financial bromides on offer and to begin to put in place a progressively unfolding strategy for radical political, social and economic change.

Otherwise, loving parents will tragically become enemies of their own children and grandchildren merely by producing them. Except, possibly, for ruling elites who may or may not plan to escape by dying abroad!

Imran Khan does not have to be a climate expert to provide the political leadership for a Pakistan Green New Deal. He is well aware of the urgency of climate security. Climate leadership, however, will require him or any leader to contextualise Pakistan’s economic, foreign and security policies, and indeed all national, regional and local policies within the survival imperative of regional and global cooperation.

Only grassroots movements can deliver. Existing power structures will vehemently oppose them. What will Imran do?

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

ashrafjqazi@gmail.com

www.ashrafjqazi.com

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2022

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