Recruiting the recruiter

Pakistani political leaders right now are bringing in the guy that would approve of their job


Imran Jan November 24, 2022
The author is a political analyst. Email: [email protected] Twitter @iamimranjan

Hollywood actor Matt Damon in an interview once was describing a conversation he had with fellow A-lister Tom Cruise. Matt said he asked Tom about his Burj Khalifa stunt in Dubai during the filming of the Mission Impossible. Tom said that his security guy did not approve of the plan for him to do the stunt where he is tied with ropes and is seen jumping from the Burj Khalifa. Matt asks him what he did then. Tom replied that he hired a different security guy who did approve of the stunt. The rest is history.

I believe the Pakistani political leaders right now are doing the same that Tom Cruise did: bringing in the guy that would approve of their job. Maybe not the first time but the squad is choosing the captain. It is not unusual to argue that if one is not happy with an employer then one can decide to change the employer but in this case the employer on paper is the tax paying citizenry of Pakistan. The real one, however, is a very different citizenry. The good news is that the last ball is yet to be bowled.

Democracy is supposed to be about the people deciding over who would decide over issues. In Pakistan, however, it has been reduced, if it ever was elevated, to where people observe and cheer for their favourite politician to become successful in recruiting their recruiter. And from then onward, it’s a walk in the park toward the throne. Nawaz Sharif is used to and notorious for putting the right umpire in place where he can orchestrate victory in his favour. Imran galvanising to achieve victory at the recruitment lottery flies in the face of his slogans for change.

For Nawaz, this may not even register a blip on his moral radar, provided one exists. Imran must realise that this is the low lying fruit forbidden to cornered tigers. The juice may not be worth the squeeze. Imran’s victory comes from idealism not realism. His 1992 World Cup victory was completely idealistic. Pakistan did not stand a chance to even reach the Final, let alone win it. He faced his first real critique when he drifted away from idealism and decided to enlist the electables in 2018. Today, he is the most popular because he is the symbol of resistance against the mighty America and its domestic cronies. Textbook idealism that the people love him for.

Imran deciding to choose the path of least resistance again would tarnish his image. Him breaking bad will undo the charisma that he embodies. He can only win with idealism, as unreal as it may sound. Whoever the new guy in uniform would be, the PM office would still have little to no wiggle room to practise the chief executive job.

Imran has the opportunity to change the system and change it now. It doesn’t get any better from here. Remember when Musharraf was ousted, Kayani sounded so therapeutic. He had recalled many service members from civilian services. Raheel Sharif is the hero of Zarb-e-Azb. Who can forget the love people had for Bajwa when the Panama Papers driven corruption trials created a hope inside the minds of the citizens of Pakistan. In retrospect, they are not so loved. The new guy would be no exception. It might be a deja vu all over again. It’s the impossible that Imran has always done. Why should this one not be pursued?

I do not recall such a deeply controversial episode of the appointment of the army chief. What good would come out of this deeply disturbing chaos? Most disturbing aspect is the one nobody wants to say: we are all admitting to a system that is anything but democratic. Most shockingly, the vox-populi have also shifted toward cheering for the next man in uniform. We Pakistanis have an unusual ability to rationalise anything. We can make sense of nonsense.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2022.

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