Cooperation not confrontation

Published: December 2, 2014
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The November 30 public meeting of the PTI, as expected, was an impressive reaffirmation of Imran Khan’s popularity amongst a substantial cross section of Pakistan. The contents of the major part of Imran’s speech were repetitive and somewhat jarring, but his emphasis on clean governance and accountability and disgust for crony capitalism does resonate and touch the right chords. But his call for a series of shut-down strikes at major urban centres, as well as a nationwide strike, gives an impression that he plans to paralyse the government with the aim of eventually ousting it. This strategy, if adopted, will have serious consequences and would be a highly disproportionate response to the alleged electoral fraud. Moreover, Imran’s threat that if ‘plan C’ fails to bring the government on its knees, he will exercise ‘plan D’, which according to him would be a horrible option, seemed preposterous. Fortunately, subsequent statements by Imran and Shah Mehmood Qureshi reflect a toning down of their hard position.

Imran’s contribution in bringing about awareness of the menace of corruption, dynastic and patronage politics and shaking the government from its slumber are unmistakable achievements and duly recognised. The main problem is, however, his self-righteousness and unbridled ambition to become the prime minister that could undo the gains and eventually be his Achilles’ heel. Imran, having walked away from parliament, finds himself in a frustrating position from where he should try to extricate himself. Pakistan is a fragile democracy and all political parties have a responsibility and a stake in strengthening it. The PTI’s decision to quit parliament and mobilise street power neither serves the country nor the party’s interest. He should continue the struggle for seeking recount of votes while remaining within the system and to expedite the investigation, he could also hold public meetings and protest rallies. His conviction that he has always triumphed under trying circumstances, whether it was during the World Cup or while establishing the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital is praiseworthy and a reflection of his positive attributes as a leader. However, the dynamics and interplay of forces in national politics demand additional qualities of accommodation, flexibility and patience. There is an absence of ideological clarity too as, on the one hand, he claims his party to be the vanguard of a new Pakistan and, on the other, associates himself with politicians who are known to be term servers. Many of Imran’s promises in public addresses could raise very high expectations that betray an impression of a leader who is not well versed in matters relating to economy.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also cannot continue to vacillate on the question of the PTI’s demand of establishing a judicial commission to investigate allegations of fraud in the 2013 elections.

The problems of Pakistan are herculean and are not a one-time affair that can be resolved in a month or a year. The people need a leader who can, through compassion, heal wounds and work relentlessly towards solving problems with rigorous intellectual insight. There is already too much polarisation in our society and we need consensus on every issue, be it militancy, economy or the sectarian and ethnic divide.

In the modern day, a country’s future is closely aligned to the organisational ability and performance of its political parties because the strengths and weaknesses of democratic institutions have a direct bearing on governance, building of people’s power and state consolidation. If Pakistan is to recover from its present malaise and find a respectable place in the international community, then a major overhaul of most political parties is long overdue. This is also critical because once again, we hear voices being raised that Pakistan is not fit for democracy and it has to be propped up by the military. First, dynastic politics has to give in to merit. People just do not have the time or patience to tolerate the propping up of leaders on the basis of genealogy. Besides, an incompetent and compromised leadership cannot address the magnitude of challenges facing the country. If the current leadership of the PPP and the PML-N is interested in serving the nation, then it has to accept this transformation.

Nawaz Sharif will vastly improve the performance of the government if he would draw talent from a broader cross section of his party. In this way, he will get more value-added advice and retain the loyalty of party members. One clearly gets the impression that several MNAs of the PML-N feel marginalised and despondent. One does accept that there are exceptions among family members, too, who in their own right deserve a place, like Shahbaz Sharif, who is clearly the hardest working and most efficient amongst the chief ministers, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who besides being very industrious under very trying conditions has contributed towards stabilising the economy and setting it on the right course. There could be other exceptions, but efficiency and individual political strength should be the basis of including people in the power structure.

At the same time, it is important that cabinet ministers exercise propriety while making statements. One was taken by surprise when a seasoned and senior politician like Khawaja Asif, who holds the additional portfolio of defence, made scathing remarks about US foreign and defence policies, while the prime minister was in Nepal attending the Saarc summit and the army chief on an official visit to the US. He, however, took cover by lacing his remarks by saying that these were his personal views. The question is, can a cabinet minister express his personal views at a public forum? Propriety, diplomatic niceties and practices do not give a licence to any cabinet minister to voice personal views because these would always be considered as official, although foreign governments may be charitable knowing that politicians of developing countries can transgress by making controversial political statements.

History and people will eventually judge our leaders on the basis of what they give back to the nation and not on the basis of empty rhetoric.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd,  2014.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Shuaib
    Dec 3, 2014 - 4:48AM

    Your last statement holds true more for Imran Khan than Nawaz Sharif.

    Nawaz Sharif was elected to end loadshedding and decrease inflation.

    Inflation is already at an 11 year low and oil production expected to double within another 2 years. On top of that $43 billion investment by China will solve our energy crisis.

    Besides rooting out corruption in the police what has Imran Khan done?


  • Aussie
    Dec 3, 2014 - 4:48AM

    General Talat Masood has admirably summed up the current political situation in paragraph 5 of this article. The manifold problems facing the Country are of titanic proportions and growing bigger by the day. Our politicians are not up to the task and never were from day one.

    If “History and people will eventually judge our leaders on the basis of what they give back to the nation and not on the basis of empty rhetoric”, then how does Mr. Jinnah measure up on this scale? He refused to hand over in 1947 his impressive residence at Mount Pleasant Road, Malabar Hills, Bombay, to the Government of Pakistan for use as its Bombay consulate, and the self made problem festers to this day. He had rhetoric aplenty for the Nation, delivered in an aristocratic top-end British accent.

    Imran Khan, having made a good opening in this ODI, will likely snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on account of declining run rate. A change of tactics is needed. Why not challenge Nawaz S. and Asif Z. to a series of live TV debates. A three way impartially moderated series of discussions on what has been done in the past, what is to be done now and to share their vision, if any, with the public. A move from Dharna to public discussion, in a calm manner, without aides or hangers-on.

    It may be good to end 2014 on a positive note.

    — Aussie: Shahid Saleem Arshad, PhD, Sydney


  • MA
    Dec 3, 2014 - 6:04AM

    Democracies are loud and ugly, and yes corrupt. If military stays out, Pakistan will come out stronger and cleaner. Military dictatorships give a sense of stability for a short while but result in a much bigger damage in a long run.


  • bahadur khan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 6:49PM

    as indian muslim i read with interest columns of Lt Talat Masood, Kamran Shafi, Aitzaz Ahsan, Shehryar Khan. Unfortunately all these talented are not given goverment post. All these persons have lot of collective wisdom.


  • Shuaib
    Dec 3, 2014 - 9:37PM

    @bahadur khan:
    I Aitzaz Ahsan is not a good man. He is a Senator and joined the corrupt party PPP.

    The PPP is what destroyed our economy. The whole country hates them


  • Shuaib
    Dec 3, 2014 - 9:39PM

    @bahadur khan:
    But believe me Pakistan is rising and we will rise. Our indicators keep getting better and better. We are not a nation which falters.


  • nizamuddin khan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:04PM

    Not sure if IK is loosing or winning…if fresh elections are held today then he might win an overwhelming majority…so it seems. The real question is can he draw the international community to pay attention to Pakistan like what Mr. Modi is doing in India. Time will tell…however…IK does not seem to verbalize a long term vision that is rooted in ground realities.

    Naya Pakistan sounds good…however…is this within his grasp and if so does he have the talent to pick the right individuals to surround himself to become an effective PM?

    IK seems to care less how often he has to lie and provide no proof for his claims…but then do we really need such a politician who right from the get-go has poisoned the minds of the parties that he may have to work with to get anything done in Pakistan?

    Leading a team of 11 players is one thing…leading a nation is no cricket match!


  • Ranjha
    Dec 4, 2014 - 12:28AM

    Yes, and people have found that leader: Imran Khan.

    Bottoms Up General Sahib!


  • Rex Minor
    Dec 4, 2014 - 6:44AM

    General, I do not mean to be rude but it would seem that you have not yet realised that you are no longer in the army which provided advice to the military President about the competence of the civilian politician aministrators. Let the people decide whether IK or Sharif family or the Bhuttos Zardaris are the right people to lead the country out of military abyss! This is a great task for any one when sorrounded by hordes of military brass on active duty as well as those now in retirement. Facts are that the political leadership has nothing to learn or gain from the past history.
    If I were to be in your situation, then I would take a ride to the nearest lake with the dog and enjoy the cheese sandwitch and wait till a fish gets caught in the trap.

    Rex Minor


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