Wednesday September 22, 2021

The last man standing

July 30, 2021

A few days ago, I was talking to my friend Agha Ghazanfar, a retired federal secretary par excellence, and a former principal of Aitchison College who was ousted within a mere three months by moribund vested interests for not doing their bidding.

He is currently based in Oxford. He reminded me of a conversation he had some time ago with Imran Khan, during the course of which he had projected that the manner in which things were deteriorating rapidly in the country, a time may come soon when “you will be last man standing”. In the midst of adversity, Khan has fought his political battle with unbelievable courage and tenacity.

The political extermination of the opposition in the recently-held elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) must have recompensed to a great extent the vituperative onslaught which the person of Prime Minister Khan had been systematically subjected to all along the campaign trail. The entire narrative the opposition propounded was buried under on the day the people of AJK voted overwhelmingly for the PTI to form the next government without any coalition support. This is, indeed, a unique honour bestowed upon Prime Minister Khan whom the people trust intensely as their ambassador.

But this dimension of success has not come about without unprecedented hard work and single-minded dedication to the cause of Pakistan. This has not been a journey of a politician for political success. This has been a journey of a dreamer and a philanthropist for winning glory for his country. While others were stripping the country of its assets, Khan was transferring his earnings back to invest in public welfare. While others were rooted in promoting the concept of hierarchical despotism, Khan was breaking the shackles of family fiefdoms by granting every person a right to lead.

While others were sold to the motive of their personal aggrandisement, Khan was calling upon people to become partners to define their fate. While mafias were let loose by their patrons to destabilise the government, Khan remained resolute in chasing them to ensure their elimination. While his predecessors raised deceptive slogans only to win votes, Khan remained deeply committed to the causes that he promoted encompassing accountability of the corrupt, lifting people out of poverty, compassion for the downtrodden, improvement of the justice system and bringing in electoral reforms.

While others wagged their tails to the dictates of their foreign masters, Khan stood up to them for the cause of Pakistan, be it Kashmir, war in Afghanistan, correcting the fallacious projection of Islam, Palestine, or any other issue. Under unceasing pressure, he neither flinched nor faltered. Instead, he became ever more determined to take Pakistan further on the road to breaking the chains of slavery and subservience. He wanted to do all this by empowering the people; this is critical for letting them reap the benefits of progress.

This he did despite having inherited a system rotten to the core with institutions corrupted to a state of collapse. Criminals were recruited in the police force while the bureaucracy was given dole-outs in exchange for their conscience which, I must admit, they sold ever so willingly and which they would do again to the next bidder. The stranglehold of crime was deeply dug in and there appeared no way to get rid of it. But his unflinching resolve held forth. Working untiringly and uncompromisingly, Khan has brought about a paradigm shift where change now comes across as a distinct possibility.

His has not been an obsession to rule. His is a mission to salvage Pakistan from the clutches of the tribe of looters, plunderers, liars and forgers who all joined hands to oust him. Over time, he has become increasingly secure in his resolve to keep investing in Pakistan so that it is able to realise its foundational ethos as a welfare state dedicated to improving the life of its most impoverished and marginalised communities. Despite innumerable challenges, that is what he remains steadfastly and uncompromisingly committed to accomplishing.

Now that he has proved his political mettle, the task for him becomes even more challenging. Not only does he need meticulous planning over the next couple of years, he also needs the best of people who come with the desire to serve the masses. Because of low investment in the past in improving the stock of the ordinary people, he has had issues to deal with. This, to a great extent, has been compensated for by his personal passion and dedication. It is through a combination of many such elements that Pakistan is blazing forth. This is a change which, when driven into motion, will be unstoppable. A new Pakistan is, indeed, taking shape which will not be just for a few, but for all the people across all divides.

Much may have been clinched, but there is still more which is to be done. Over the next two years, Prime Minister Khan should ensure that his plans for a beneficent state begin to deliver and people get a scent of what they have invested in. They have been Khan’s most loyal supporters and were not deterred even when targeted by the goons of the opposition. That is why Khan has gained strength with time as he shall continue to do in the future.

Having come this far, there is no looking back. The days of yore have been left behind. Pakistan is today on an upward trajectory, both domestically and on the international front where it is looked upon with respect and deference. It is understood that the country is no longer up for sale in exchange for a few dollars, or some reprieve in terms of facilitating the rule of one leader or the other. Instead of foreign countries dictating its policies, Pakistan is chartering its own course independently which is rooted in advancing its strategic and economic interests.

Agha Ghazanfar’s projection may not have literally come true as millions of supporters joined Khan along the political trail. Yet his indomitable courage and his forever buoyant and elevating spirit are qualities for all to behold. It is fervently hoped that Pakistan never again lapses into the lap of those who held themselves above the state. They skinned it and left it by the wayside to fend for its survival while they went about piling their illicit billions in foreign lands to continue bartering the fate of the country.

That “last man standing” of yesteryears’ projection is the man in command today, forever committed to furthering the cause of a better Pakistan – undeterred, uncompromising and unwavering!

The writer is the special assistant to the PM on information, a political and security strategist, and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute.

Twitter: @RaoofHasan