El-Capitan and the Sick Man of Asia – Daily Times


The journey that Mr. Nawaz Sharif took going from the favourite ladla of the deep state to its most hated enemy in two installments – 1981-1999 and 2008-2014- may actually be shorter for Prime Minister Imran Khan. In my previous article, I had referred to His Excellency as the Fuhrer but on second thought, I think the comparison is somewhat misdirected. The Fuhrer of Nazi Germany and the Duce of Fascist Italy, both civilians mind you, unleashed extremely brutal but efficient authoritarian militarist states causing great misery, devastation and destruction in the world. El-Capitanand his motley crew have all the ability and desire to be just as brutal as any fascistbut mercifully for us they have hitherto proved to be inefficient and utterly incompetent.  As days go by, their lack of a game plan becomes more apparent to anyone who is watching them operate.

Let us see for example the Mohmand Dam issue. Probity, transparency and decency required that an advisor and backer of the Prime Minister, as Mr. Abdur Razzaq Dawood is, should have either stepped down before the bid or would have not allowed his company to participate in it. Let me make it clear that Mr. Dawood is an extremely respectable businessman and his family has contributed valiantly to the industrialization and modernization of Pakistan since 1947, when his uncle Seth Ahmad Dawood moved to Pakistan. Seth Dawood had then lost his paper mill in former East Pakistan when it became Bangladesh. The Dawoods kept moving forward and Descon unquestionably is one of the best corporates in Pakistan. Acknowledging this is necessary because even their credibility has been put on the line because of terrible mishandling by the current government.  Even though the competitors in this case, the Frontier Works Organization, is itself an incredibly efficient construction firm with a proven track record, I am willing to give the government a benefit of the doubt and say that technical bids were evaluated as per law. Nevertheless the optics are terrible and what is more is that they are likely to adversely affect the fragile civil military relations which one thought were the one saving grace of this government.  Secondly, not everyone hovering around the current government is a businessman with the proven track record that Mr. Abdur Razzaq Dawood has.

Is there any sector in the country today that is happy with how the government has performed so far? Our domestic politics is held hostage to international geo-politics which has paralysed successive governments of this country. There is no independence in our policy making.Pakistan seems to be forever caught between two international poles. One pole operates through Saudi Arabia while the other is China

Is there any sector in the country today that is happy with how the government has performed so far? Our domestic politics is held hostage to international geo-politics which has paralysed successive governments of this country. There is no independence in our policy making. Pakistan seems to be forever caught between two international poles.  One pole operates through Saudi Arabia while the other is China.

If there is any doubt about it, let me reiterate that Pakistan stands on the wrong side of history today. Unprecedented censorship is the order of the day in the country ever since the current government came into power. What is even more disturbing is the further institutionalization of discrimination against minorities as well as further instrumentalisation of religion in Pakistani politics. In all fairness to El Capitan these issues predate him and he is just going along with it, but if there is one person who could have stemmed the tide given his charisma it is Imran Khan. As Imran Khan visited Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum in Turkey on Friday, one could not help but wish that he had the ability and the desire to emulate the father of the Turks, who after all was described as the greatest man of the age by none other than Pakistan’s own founder. So far the ideological confusion created by the Prime Minister and the ruling party, sharply divided between fan boys, fan girls, socialite butterflies and bearded Mullahs, makes it highly unlikely that Imran Khan would have the foresight, fortitude and forbearance to do so.  The one common underlying message of both the founders of Turkey and Pakistan was rapid modernization of multitudes who in both cases happened to be predominantly Muslim. Significantly smaller in population than us, Turkey today is a power to be reckoned with, while Pakistan is the sick man of Asia.  Much of that has to do with our obsession with religion that has done nothing good for the state or the religion.

So El Capitan has his task cut out before him. How does he revive the sick man of Asia?  It requires courage, which we know he has. It also requires wisdom, statesmanship, a dispassionate analysis and qualities which he has not shown ever since he left the cricket pitch.  For a man famous for his u-turns, Pakistan’s Peter Pan has not learned or unlearned anything since he entered politics. He is surrounded by mediocrities who misguide him while lulling him with their paeans of glory. As he returns from the Bosporus, one prays that he is infused with the spirit of Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium who, facing certain defeat and end to the Empire with the enemies at the gate of Constantinople, turned the tide on the Persians and went down in history as one of the greatest Emperors in Roman and Byzantine history.  After all hope is all one can do.

The writer is practicing lawyer and was a visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School in Cambridge MA, USA

Published in Daily Times, January 7th 2019



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