Governance and compromise

Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif should heed Jinnah's advice

Governance and compromise
With the ongoing campaign against the Taliban in North Waziristan, an economy teetering on the brink, a growing energy crisis and floods ravaging hapless people, the wise course of action would have been for all political forces and state institutions to unite and cooperate to steer the nation out of trying times. Instead, rigid postures have ensured that the gridlock continues. This being Pakistan, self-appointed saviors are willing to sacrifice all for power, and invariably the nation emerges worse off after they are done saving it. Imran Khan, arrogantly, and too eager to make history, seems to have learned nothing from it.

After 17 years of struggling on the fringes, Mr Khan burst on to the political scene in the last elections, with a galvanized youth behind him, and KP as his prize. All he had to do was to change his province for the better and the premiership may well have been his in about four years. Where patience and canny politics were required, Mr Khan has been impatient and stubborn. And to be willing to attain power as part of a script and possible backing of some in the army shows flawed thinking: after all, Mr Khan would have lost all credibility and would only have been a puppet prime minister.

[quote]Tahirul Qadri and Musharraf could share a one way flight out of Pakistan[/quote]

Imran Khan would have done far better to replace the idea of revolution with the idea of reform and constant improvement, which would result in small but consistent gains. Success in increments would be more in line with the spirit of democracy. Calls for toppling the system may be successful in inciting a mob to violence, but real change can only come from reforming the system from within through constitutional means.

So, what fueled the protests?

To all appearances, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, had the encouragement and backing of some elements in the army because of army’s unease over the Musharraf trial and disagreements with the government over security policy. There is no denying that the government’s handling of the Musharraf trial and putting his name on the exit control list was ill-timed, and came back to haunt the administration. People’s disenchantment with the government over increased load shedding during the intense summer months did not help matters much either, and Nawaz Sharif’s style of governing through cronies, instead of utilizing the parliamentary process, had alienated many.

There are many lessons to be learned by all, and while the government has acceded to most of Mr Khan’s demands, still in the larger interest of the nation it should also compromise with the military on Musharraf, and give the general a safe passage to the comfortable abodes of Dubai or London. He has done his bit with Pakistan and we could do without any more of him. In the best case scenario, perhaps, his Holiness Mr Tahirul Qadri, and Mr Musharraf could share a one way flight out of Pakistan.

A helicopter flies past Pakistan's national flag outside the Parliament
A helicopter flies past Pakistan's national flag outside the Parliament

In all the mayhem, perhaps, there is a silver lining after all. The crisis might, indeed, serve as a stern reminder to all interested in leading Pakistan: the majority vote is never just an invitation to live at Islamabad’s most prestigious address. Instead, it requires performance through development, reforming education and healthcare, reducing crime and boosting the economy. Fail at these tasks and there are plenty who are willing to go to any lengths, constitutional or not, to grab power, and as the current crisis testifies, they won’t always wait for the next elections. The government will have to learn that nothing will keep irritants at bay, and ensure longevity, like good governance; business as usual won’t do anymore.

Electoral reforms and a judicial inquiry into allegations of fraud in the last elections would also be a positive outcome of the current quagmire, making the next elections all the more transparent and legitimate.

For our inchoate democracy to mature, we need to make indelible in our minds that politics is all about compromise, and winning elections and holding office is all about governance.

Jinnah was said to have recommended that the Pakistanis read John Morley’s book ‘On Compromise’, in which Mr Morley wrote:

“Fanatic is a name of such ill repute, exactly because one who deserves to be called by it injures good causes by refusing timely and harmless concession.”

Imran Khan should heed the founding father’s advice and pick up a copy of Mr Morley’s book.