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August 10, 2018

Imran’s era

Opinion

August 10, 2018

This shall be the second time in his life that an era will be known by Imran Khan’s name. The first was when he led the Pakistan cricket team and galvanised a bunch of feuding, inexperienced yet hugely talented group of young men into world beaters on the stage of world cricket.

To most, Imran’s crowning glory then was the ultimate prize of winning the World Cup, but to me it was the process of converting this rag-tag group of cricketers into a team with the confidence to beat the best. Which they did. Imran’s greatest potential lies in making things happen.

And it is worth repeating that in Imran’s team then were players and former captains like Javed Miandad, who was nothing if not trouble despite his bank of talent. Add to it the uncle-ish duo of Muddassar Nazar and Mohsin Hassan Khan, and it made for a handful of vanity in any dressing room something Imran could have easily done without. Imran survived despite them all and won, and lest I be misunderstood with no ordinary contribution by them especially Miandad. But who did he depend on to win the games? Waseem, Waqar, Aqib, Inzamam and the likes almost all his protégés who still swear by Imran as their captain.

So those who are worried about how he will manage the feuding Shah Mahmoods, Tareens and Khattaks need no more than to look at his cricketing era for an answer. If he resorts to youth again as he makes his appointments in critical positions, it shall be true to form. And, while running countries is not like playing cricket, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes something out of it more for the sake of the common people who have reposed their faith in him for a better future. Nothing astounding or magical just making this nation into a good, simple people who pay their taxes, follow the rules, are frugal and overall nice to each other. That is transformational from what this nation has become. But then he has five years to do the job, and if he does well enough this nation may be willing to try him on for another five, as have the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

There is enough help at hand for Imran to make the change and to help him win this new challenge. Look around. There is a 93-year-old Mahathir Mohammad, idealised by Imran, who has returned to the ring at this late hour in his life with a single purpose: eliminate the menace of corruption which has seeped into the governing structures of a state that he thought was well on its way on the straight and narrow. Yet Malaysia stumbled big as tales of blatant corruption made for evening news all across the world. He was on TV recently explaining how he is going to cleanse the stables off the grime that has gathered since he left. The government machinery aka the bureaucracy which holds the system of governance in place stands corroded and compromised. Mahathir plans to bring to book those who have massively erred and become the handmaiden for the corrupt political leadership. Keeping track of Mahathir’s progress as Imran handles his own set of challenges will be useful.

Then there is another major reform taking place in parallel in Turkey. Recep Erdogan has arrogated more power in another incarnation to enhance his own support base which has incidentally been widely criticised but how he intends to evolve his governing methodology can be of immense interest. Under the proposed system, he will have only sixteen ministers in the cabinet we should have as many as we ‘need’ and much more importantly nine councils of advisers in areas of interest that deal with Turkey’s policy reform and future direction. These will consist of experts in chosen fields who will formulate policy papers for the president and the cabinet. The areas of support derive from specific national needs.

This is a good model widely practised by nations willing to bring the collective intellectual capital to work in improving governance, economy, security and social cohesion; as indeed all other human development drivers such as education, health and the justice system. Let a cleansed bureaucracy be your implementing arm and these councils of advisers the thinking arm for more effective governance. For all these years the stile had lain askew.

So what can Imran achieve with as thin a majority as he has in the NA and the Punjab Assembly? In reforms needing constitutional changes probably little because he will not have the support of the opposition which has massively coalesced against him and his government in its narrow tribal and political interests, but in policy formulation this should be of little hindrance. If he is able to put in place a governance model which can achieve efficiency, honesty, a sense of duty among those in government and rule of law for all, he will have set the direction right. Over a period of time, when practised with regularity and constant correction by a morally correct leadership, it should become an attitudinal change. If we can cross this bridge, the going will be far easier.

A good, effective administration of rights, duties and justice will first impact the lives of the people. With three provinces where he can exercise direct influence and financially support their reformative initiatives, the impact will soon be felt by the largest segments of the population. This will be the change they voted for. The economy and the infrastructure and CPEC and the rest will all follow in due course as policies begin to take effect but attitudinal changes in the government among the wielders of power and society at large is where Imran can directly influence in helping shape society. With his example, he can make us into a better people.

There are, however, three ministries at the federal level that he must institute: a ministry for water tasked to harness, develop, store and manage water resources of the country (clean drinking water should be a prime ministry at the provincial level); a ministry for environment that should be responsible for ensuring nation-wide measures to mitigate climate change and save the environment; and a ministry for energy responsible for developing, harnessing and packaging an energy mix which will help exploit local resource, minimise external dependence and largely move towards clean energy. Education and health can be overseen at the centre by clear goals for all to achieve. Similarly, instituting criminal justice reform can be worked on by a specialised group of professionals from the various arms of the system.

There is enough human resource in the country which can be tapped to provide both formal and informal assistance in facing off some serious challenges to our nationhood. They should be discovered and put to use for nation-building. Power is blind and usually misses out on such critical supporting resource. Let Imran’s era not be as blind.

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