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January 14, 2019

The djinns of Banigala


January 14, 2019

It is a national calamity. The djinn millions of Pakistanis trusted appears to be failing and we are back to building the Temple of Solomon through begging and borrowing.

Four decades ago, one Pakistani scientist is believed to have presented a paper, complete with equations and formulas, on how to harness the power of djinns to produce electricity. Imran Khan had presented a much bigger plan, of producing everything in abundance, by putting to work the djinn of his honesty and integrity. The poor scientist had failed to find many takers for his project even in the Zia era, while Imran Khan has been handed an economy of $300 billion to double and quadruple in no time with the help of his djinn.

As Imran Khan explained it over two decades, his djinn was both a demolisher and a builder. As a demolisher, it was supposed to vanquish and annihilate all the corrupt from the land of the pure. As a builder, it was supposed to build a brand new Pakistan, not through any development or economic theory but through honesty alone. It was supposed to bring hundreds of billions of looted money back in no time – just the kind of thing we have seen in Disney animations. And it was supposed to work as a magnet to foreign currency and talent, sucking in the wealth and talent of desis and wilayatis in equal terms.

As a demolisher, it has proved tricky, picking and choosing Imran Khan’s political foes and making alliances with many of those it was supposed to finish in the Colosseum. As a builder, it is proving weaker than the dishonest workers it has replaced. Its own magical incantations are not working and it cannot build using the age-old techniques because it has no clue about architecture, designing, plumbing, painting or interior design. It appears to know only one thing – cursing and chasing the political rivals of its master and it appears interested in nothing else.

A large and popular elected political party must have a way out of this situation. It has all the talent that Pervez Musharraf commanded and all the ideological wealth that Ziaul Haq owned. Is it worried that it commands the destiny of 220 million people who are fast turning into the dregs of the earth in every way? What should it do? Here is my unsolicited advice.

‘Ghairat’ has remained the ruling sentiment of the PTI revolution – and it was supposed to be the defining emotion of the Naya Pakistan. Unfortunately, ghairat and begging don’t go together. Until we resolve our balance of payments problem, the PTI needs a different emotion to define itself.

The most dangerous thing in Naya Pakistan is not the lack of experience. It is the lack of humility. My first and foremost advice to the PTI is to make humility the starting point of changing itself before it changes Pakistan. As a writer once put it: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less”.

Imran Khan must admit, at least in his heart of hearts, that he and many of his crucial team members, particularly the finance minister, lack any experience of statecraft. The experience of running a province is not helping because it is a different team and a different level of challenge. For example, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa they were not worried about resources as almost all resources were provided by the centre. Corrupt Ishaq Dar had doubled their development funding in five years, which has been almost halved again in the first year of the revolution.

A green-horned finance minister was a huge gamble at such a crucial juncture and it has failed spectacularly. What should the PTI do with the genius who is known for selling fertiliser to poor farmers at exorbitant rates? In my opinion, he should be made the minister for bizarre narratives or governor of Gilgit-Baltistan.

In the world of the arts, you have to first master the prevalent traditions before you digress, invent your own techniques and prove your genius. It cannot be any different in statecraft. The PTI must learn to do things normally before it introduces something radically different.

Since Imran Khan himself is indispensable – ie till he is dispensed with – he should consider taking a deputy prime minister to deal with day-to-day governance. In the deputy PM, he will also get a scapegoat to sacrifice every now and then. Whenever things go wrong, he can fire the deputy prime minister and move on to deliver more of the same.

In my opinion, Parvez Khattak, who won him this election, deserved to be the first deputy prime minister of Naya Pakistan. As a former government contractor and chief minister of KP, he knows the ins and outs of the system. He should be able to transform Imran Khan’s imagination into something more tangible.

Language and mannerism should manifest humility more than anything else. The PM should invite Maulana Tariq Jameel, who has recently endorsed the PM’s ideology, to a cabinet meeting. The Maulana should focus his bayan (sermon) on ‘hifazat-e-zaban’ (the art of guarding your tongue), one of the favourite topics of maulanas at the Raiwind Markaz of his Tableeghi Jamaat.

Second, the PTI government must learn to plan. At the moment, its planning looks like a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. In fact, we have landed in this situation because the PTI failed to plan for its new role while it had already made the previous government dysfunctional. It must now go back to the drawing board and start with planning about planning. Its current model of planning through advisory councils and committee does not appear to be working.

Like any democracy, the PTI must open itself to consultation in both advisory and confrontational modes, listening to both friends and foes. Parliament and its numerous committees are the most crucial forums for planning and democratic oversight. By ignoring parliament, the PTI is depriving itself of the crucial compass.

Third, the PTI must focus on what can be achieved. For a change, it should take a break from picking fights, chasing shadows and tilting at windmills. If the PTI succeeds in delivering, Sindh can be conquered more easily than Imran Khan could imagine – and without any speculations of help from the FIA or NAB.

My last point is about honesty itself. In the world of economy and sociology, honesty translates into trust and social capital. It is a wealth that social groups and societies possess. The PTI should be worried about losing trust so fast. It should focus on being consistent, fair and a follower of rule of law.

In order to promote trust in economic transactions, we need political stability and consistent policies. To develop trust in the market place, Pakistan needs to reform its system of civil justice and the police. The current system of justice benefits rule breakers and punishes those who follow rules and norms. No society can develop trust in such a situation.

Djinns are such tricky creatures, aren’t they?

The writer is an anthropologist and development professional.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @zaighamkhan