Facts, questions & solutions

Published December 22, 2023
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

‘Asbahna wa asbaha-lmulku lillahi rabb-il’alameen’ (We awake and the country awakes to Allah the Lord of the Universe) — Hadith Sharif

PAKISTAN’S population is around 240 million, 90 per cent of whom are poor with little access to food security, shelter, health and education. Pakistan is also a constitutional democracy without essential democratic content.

Over the course of Pakistan’s history, its major national institutions have failed to serve the national interest which is the welfare, security, and protection of the basic human rights of its citizens. The superior judiciary has failed to protect the Constitution of Pakistan. The executive has failed to provide good governance for the people. The legislature has failed to represent the interests of the people. The military has failed to defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan or respect its own constitutional limits.

The relatively educated middle classes, especially the political intelligentsia, the bureaucracy, the commercial classes, and the media have by and large chosen opportunistic complicity rather than principled opposition whenever the national interest has been threatened by military intervention.

Each of these failures has contributed to corruption, inequality, inefficiency, cynicism, defeat, resignation, and loss of hope. This has inhibited the development of organised and sustained movements on behalf of a national transformation to overcome a whole range of challenges to the existence of the country. It has enabled the power structure to defeat the legal structure and precluded the political coherence of the country.

Our currently passive and perverse political intelligentsia needs to have more integrity.

Sadly, all this is known. Most of it is accepted. But none of it seems to make a difference. This cannot be true. If it were, Pakistan would not deserve to survive. Yet there are far too many among the elites and their ‘coattails’ sweeping the floor behind them who cheerfully accept such a verdict.

What is to be done? Chairman Mao said, “So much to do; so little time” and “Women hold up half the sky”. At the time China was worse off than Pakistan is today. And China is where it is today. China, moreover, is a tested friend that has a strategic interest in our recovery, stability, success and friendship that no other country can match. We are so fortunate. And yet so unfortunate!

There are ten thousand things to be done. The equivalent of pyramids have to be built. Great walls have to be constructed. Real Long Marches have to be undertaken. The eternal truths of Islam have to enlighten, energise and unify the people against all obstacles.

A thousand movements have to emerge and coalesce. A nation has to develop. A thousand-mile journey takes time to traverse. But the first step — in the right direction — must be taken immediately so that ‘a thousand-mile journey is a thousand miles no longer’.

Does Pakistan have a Mao Zedong or Quaid-i-Azam? Yes, every Pakistani is potentially one. So, what must be the first step of a thousand-mile journey? A free, fair and internationally monitored election the results of which are accepted by the people. But the last time such an election was held the country broke in two. That was because the military aborted the results of the election. The military rejected what the people accepted. We must learn from our tragedies in order not to repeat them.

Our currently passive and perverse political intelligentsia needs to have more integrity. Moreover, we need to assume a latent decency among our movers and shakers even if our experience cannot vouch for it. We have to assume no one is inherently evil in order to take the first step. Otherwise, all is lost.

Spontaneous popular eruptions die down quickly. National transformation requires meticulous preparation and time. It also requires a sympathetic or at least non-hostile government. Once movements develop momentum those who are truly incorrigible can be dealt with. Those who deride such optimism are either cynics or dreamers pretending to be realists.

Almost certainly, Imran Khan would win a fair election. Probably with a working majority. Possibly by a landslide. If so, he should avoid the ‘electable’ trap. Similarly, he must reject ‘hybrid’ models and U-turns which undermined his credibility. The Egyptian model, in particular, would sink Pakistan. But he should form a coalition government even if he does not need to in order to be as inclusive as possible. There is no need, however, for a ‘national government’ as it would lead to political deadlock and paralysis.

He will need to prepare the ground for radical reforms across the political, economic, financial, social, educational, human rights and human development spectrum. A longer-term policy perspective must lend consistency and momentum to his policy measures which otherwise would sooner or later peter out.

He must also prepare the ground for the continuation and development of his policies beyond his political career. This does not mean managing his succession. It implies the development of a whole infrastructure of discussion, debate, consensus-building, communication, reviews and revisions, etc that will progressively alter the political culture of the country. Imran Khan Mark II, accordingly, will need to be very different.

If he fails again he will have had his innings and the country will move on. Failure may not be an option. But it is always possible. What matters is how one fails if one is destined to. In making a gallant and valiant attempt at serving the people and nation? Or in walking away from all one promises?

The only certainty is that no one but the people have the right to decide on whom to put their trust and on making a judgement on whether their trust has been fulfilled or betrayed.

As a citizen, it is my fervent hope, prayer and demand that those shaping the destiny of Pakistan today rise to their God-given moral potential and fulfil their constitutional obligations to the much abused people of our country. Words can say no more. Only actions or inactions shall answer questions.

Niyyat hi se kuch nahin hota / Niyyat hi na ho kuch nahin hota (Intentions alone produce nothing / Without them nothing is produced.)

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

ashrafjqazi@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2023

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