Beyond the Crossroads

Ardeshir Cowasjee once wrote that Mr. Jinnah once remarked to his friend, and Ardeshir’s father, Rustom Fakirjee Cowasjee, that “each successive government of Pakistan will be worse than its predecessor.” If Mr. Jinnah indeed said this, then we have surely lived to see this sad prophecy come true.

Review just the 3 most recent governments, including the present dispensation. Musharraf’s era, midstream, gave birth to Taliban in Pakistan and to the infamous NRO, among other ills. Then the PPP government, arguably the most corrupt ever, plunged the country into economic, social and political chaos. And now we are facing the sheer ineptitude of the present government, which became starkly evident within a couple of months of it coming to power, when an allegedly deranged individual named Sikander held the federal capital, indeed the whole country, hostage for something like 8 hours or more. One single person, armed with 2 guns, and the entire government machinery could not disarm him or take him out; even when he went into the bushes to answer the call of nature, several times.

So in succession we have had a fairly decent guy who lost the plot on that fateful 11th day of September 2001, then an evil genius whose avarice was matched by his boundless zeal, and now an intellectually challenged leader with delusions of being a reborn Mughal Emperor.

Many a leader on taking over the reins pronounced that Pakistan was standing at a crossroads and only he/she can lead the country on the road to progress. And every single time this naive and infinitely optimistic nation has swallowed this story, to relive the same lie over and over again. After Zia’s darkness, we believed Benazir was the beacon. Then we believed Nawaz Sharif, the first time around, will make us an Asian tiger. Then we believed Musharraf will ‘sort out’ everything with military precision. It seems that every time we are at the crossroads, we either take the wrong road or go around in circles.

Enter Imran Khan. Charismatic, educated, worldly. Also thoroughly confused and a megalomaniac of Gargantuan proportions. Khan in 2013 achieved something truly remarkable; a societal political evolution (revolution?) that changed the game forever. Practically the entire youth of Pakistan and a huge segment of society across gender, ethnic and income divides, suddenly woke up. They believed blindly in Khan’s Naya Pakistan mantra. A desolate, hopeless and hapless nation once again saw itself at the crossroads and swore to the individual that finally we will be proceeding beyond the crossroads.

History will record that it was our great misfortune that Imran Khan simply did not have the vision and the wisdom to convert the awakening he generated into the sea-change we needed and which he promised ad nausem. Consider the below statements from atop his container:

August 16, 2014: At 3 p.m. our World Cup Final match will start. (Nothing happened)
August 17: Nawaz Sharif’s days have ended. I can give you in writing today.
August 17: We will celebrate azadi in the evening.
August 19: Tomorrow is the Big Day
August 21: Decision will take place in next 2 days. The umpire will raise his finger
August 24: (To Nawaz Sharif) Resign in 2 days or I will ….

Several months later one is still bewildered what the circus in Islamabad was all about.
And now Khan is looking to upset MQM in NA-246 on April 23. So what will happen if PTI indeed wins this seat, as far as the populace is concerned? Has anything worthwhile been done for the citizens of NA-250 from where PTI’s Arif Alvi won in 2013? Hell, even I voted for him. But since then Alvi is MIA majorly.

I feel we as a nation still have a rare window of opportunity today. The awakening that Khan brought about may have diminished somewhat but is still a strong enough flame. Imran Khan needs to think beyond NA-246 and his obsessive compulsive habit of non-stop tirades against everyone. He needs to read and absorb life stories of Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir, Mandela and other visionary leaders. Absorb their thoughts, take learning and develop a real vision for change and sharing concrete plans. Let’s do away with immature boasts and talk specifics. In a parliamentary democracy, the opposition is supposed to be the shadow government, ready to take over and run the country seamlessly overnight if need be. Is the PTI fully ready for this? It should have a shadow cabinet in place already, with identified MNAs given shadow ministerial portfolios. Each shadow minister should be closely monitoring the work being done in his/her designated field by the incumbent minister. Each shadow minister must have a detailed and defined strategy to run the ministry allocated.

Pakistan’s natural resources are substantial, as are our human resources. It is a sad fact that our major source of foreign exchange is remittances of overseas Pakistanis. How risky and short of vision is this as a policy? Remittances should be the cherry on the cake, not the cake itself. The cake has to be exponentially enhancing our own productivity, output, exports. If overseas Indians are going back to India in droves because livelihood opportunities at home are now as good as overseas, why can’t we aim for this too? Or will we wait for Saudi Arabia and others to start sending back our people because we didn’t send troops for their war in Yemen and then realize that a huge crisis is upon us?

Think all this Mr. Khan. Think big and think ahead.

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