The way Imran Khan has been rallying the youth over the years has now seen him put up a big show in Peshawar over the weekend. “Stop the drone strikes, or we’ll block Nato supplies to Afghanistan!” cried the angry cricketer-turned-philanthropist-turned politician from a stage that seemed more like a pulpit.

Khan is no diplomat; he does not know how to mince words, and believes in thinking aloud at all times. He boots for success and does not know of failure; even when failure strikes, as in his politics over the years, he picks up the pieces and starts walking again.

Nothing seems to bog him down, no obstacle appears insurmountable; he’s in it for the long haul. Add to this the personal charisma that he has carried all these years, and you have an endearing leader in him: relatively young, educated and articulate. He does not do doublespeak nor plays mind games, and is thus also a darling of the youthful electronic media, many of whose not as charismatic talk show hosts have been echoing the same mix of rightist patriotism in a new, empowered lingo. The only problem is that little of it is based on progressive thinking.

Safeguarding national honour is like protecting your women, believing that your honour lies in them, and as your possession, and that they are incapable of protecting it themselves. The truth is that they will remain incapacitated if you do not take steps to educate and emancipate them; make the same tools of life available to them as are to men. The same is true for any nation’s capacity to defend itself and its so-called national honour. Unless a nation has access to the wherewithal of modern life, the right education, a working healthcare system, the social net hedging the less privileged, gainful employment and opportunity for all, it lives a life of utter dishonour and low self-esteem.

It is not the West or the CIA that have done this to us. We’ve worked hard to achieve this ignoble status ourselves. The kind of education we impart, with heavy doses of right-wing rhetoric and a hollow sense of patriotism based on the hatred of others, instead of empirical knowledge and adherence of universal values, produces only bigots. Those not having access even to this shady mix of ideological social engineering then gang up on society to blow up schools, preferably girls’ schools, mosques and shrines alike. That’s their revenge on a society that is working to sully not its own honour but also that of the great Muslim faith, hence there can be no meeting point with them.

They must be eliminated to make room for the pious and the righteous to establish Allah’s writ in this unruly world which is full of evil attractions for the rich; a whole generation of pious sons must be raised, everyone of whom is a mujahid, ready to kill and maim all those who oppose Allah and his Kingdom. The world must be cleansed of all infidels. Muslims not buying into this world view must also be eliminated for they are agents of infidels. Now this is the emerging world that Imran Khan has set out to turn around on the back of the groundswell of his popularity amongst largely urban youth.

Given the rising anti-US sentiment, mainly in urban Pakistan, and with alleged help from certain powerful quarters that share his vision for an Islamic welfare state, where women and minorities are seen as burden, he is very likely to win more and more converts as he pushes ahead. And the first step in doing so is to cut off Nato’s supplies into Afghanistan, as proposed by him. The next would be to rescind Pakistan’s commitment to being a partner in America’s war on terror, because we’re a state armed with nukes, not Iraq or Afghanistan that could be invaded. In doing so he forgets one critical aspect: who will finance this newfound independence and the flagging about of national honour?

According to the political analyst, Khaled Ahmed, Pakistan only succeeds if it succeeds economically. He goes on to say that our economic success hinges very much on whether we give trade passage to willing, buying countries. This may mean giving passage to India and Central Asia from east to west and vice versa, China from north to south and vice versa, and the US and others as and when they need such a passage through Pakistan. Denying this passage will mean that the international community will have to go around us and make other, perhaps more expensive arrangements, like India has done for its oil supplies.

The US too can bypass Pakistan by exploring more expensive routes for Nato supplies but in the process it can isolate Pakistan completely, and bring its already troubled economy to a grinding halt. It will not need to militarily invade Pakistan, for we will have accomplished the needful ourselves. Where will then the urban youth, and those nouveau riche TV anchors will go to seek their comforts, more opportunities to prosper and live a better, more promising life, with less loadshedding, more air conditioning and international mobility? A revolution to regain national honour by asserting independence in an increasingly interdependent world will surely result in economic blockade and a nation so inclined left to rot in its own isolation, making it all the more irrelevant to the rest of the world. Drone attacks must stop but we have to remove the bait that brings them on in the first place.

In order to start putting things right, one does not start by blocking the roads or threatening to march on the capital to bring down an allegedly corrupt and inept government that has failed to deliver. Who else but Imran Khan should know that to treat cancer he had to build a well-equipped modern hospital instead of destroying the ones that were there and could not provide the needed treatment. The positive energy that went into building that state of the art treatment facility is what is required at the national level to start setting things right; an overdose of radical ideology just won’t cut it. It does not get any simpler than that.

Murtaza Razvi is the Editor, Magazines, at Dawn.

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