In a make-believe world of politically mature

The word politically correct carries interesting connotation. Wise and mature men and women are those who say and do things that are suitable for the occasion, for the majority and for their own popularity. They study the environment, their audience and then adapt accordingly. Such people in organizations and in politics are supposed to be social and political climbers who instead of giving the principally correct opinion, give opinions that most people relate to and thus win the title of a mature person who knows when not to say the unpopular thing. The corporate world disdains such behaviour but ends up admitting that politics is part of living and thus cannot be ignored.

Political parties are in the business of politics and playing politics has taken the widely accepted meaning: the art of saying what you do not mean, and doing what you did not say, is termed as “the art of the possible”. Thus if you can play the make-believe game with your important stakeholders, be it public, other parties, media etc. you will be considered ‘politically mature’.

Then there is another mature saying, ‘in politics never close the doors to anything or anybody’. This means that those you have declared as your enemies may become your best allies if it suits your personal aims. There is nothing wrong with these statements as long as they are interpreted in the spirit for the larger good of the public. However, in our politics it is one’s ability to defy laws, scandals and ethics and still sustain one’s position that has given rise to this falsity.

Though politics all over the world is full of such persons of contradiction, Asif Ali Zardari really reaffirmed this political interpretation. He was admired by most as a man of extraordinary political acumen who for five years of heavy odds against him, played the game so smoothly that no courts, no media, no party rebellions could dislodge him. With such role models of political success in today’s world, anybody who speaks the obvious and does not twist his or her words is termed as immature and at times insane as well.

The leaders of the three major parties represent interesting study. As mentioned earlier, Asif Zardari had a tremendous capacity of listening and dismissing criticism. He was very open about his intention of picking up people who would tow his line amongst family and friends and ensure that they became stakeholders in the process of power perpetuation. In a parliamentary system, the prime ministers were just pawns in the game. He was adept at parrying off court battles and confrontation with many state institutions. He never made any bones about the fact that politics is a game of power and sources of power can be bought and negotiated. However his ability to appease PML-N and PML-Q ran out of gas in the elections as public anger at the rampant corruption and misgovernance gave way to an elimination of the party in almost all provinces except Sindh.

Nawaz Sharif has always been branded as a mature statesman. His demeanour is stoic and unruffled and his tone normally even. Some say that since his capacity to absorb is very limited, he follows ‘the ignorance is bliss’ adage. Since the Sharif brothers operate in tandem, they have the advantage of playing the good cop, bad cop routine. Whatever needs to be said a bit more aggressively comes from Shahbaz Sharif who is duly reprimanded lightly by the elder brother for being emotional. What the Sharifs have learned is the art of packaging themselves as a cleaner or a ‘lesser evil’ option. Their ability to develop a couple of more visible projects that give one an illusion of progress in the form of a motorway or metro bus takes attention away from the miserable governance and economic performance they have displayed every single time they were in government.

Their ability to do compromising deals with external as well as internal players behind the doors while keep on giving the stance of the aggrieved party is what pundits term as ‘political maturity’.

Imran Khan has been branded as politically immature or naive. He is too open, blunt, rigid and emotional in his rhetoric and action. His stance and posture lacks the double-edged games politicians are adept at playing. His stance on dialogue with Taliban, on the US drones, on no alliances and the latest on barricading NATO supplies are all being dismissed as a man who talks without thinking of the consequences of that action. According to the definition of tact, diplomacy and choosing his words carefully, yes, there may be areas of improvement. However if Imran also becomes the politically mature guy who manipulates and twists statements, events and postures to suit his own purpose, giving the same “we are looking at all possibilities” statements, taking the tested and tried routes, how is Pakistan ever going to get out of this mire of years of politics based on personal gains and traditional policies?

Everybody agrees that if we keep on going the way we have been, we will be history. So we need to challenge the status quo and take a different route. We have taken the war route, the IMF route, the US dependence route and it has taken us to destruction.

Everybody agrees that there is little to choose between the economic and political policies undertaken by PMLN and PPP. So if their leaders are “politically mature” why have their multiple terms in governments not made them take different initiatives than the ones that brought economic failure. It could be attributed to as the country’s fortunes plummeted, their personal fortunes multiplied. For us to expect them to think differently, and experiment with non-traditional initiatives is almost asking for the impossible.

If we agree that this country needs some novel and audacious approach to reassert itself internally and externally, the logical thing is to try those avenues that are not traditional. Putting pressure on US through condemning their act is the tested tried and failed avenue. If US can hurt our interests, then we need to make them insecure by putting pressure of blocking NATO supplies and taking to UNSC and making it difficult for them to take us for granted. We as a nation must decide that do we need the traditional politician who will do what has always been done leading to the same results and then award him the degree of “political maturity” or do we need somebody who can be bold and audacious enough to choose the untraveled road; for to get results that we have not got before we need to do things that have never been done before.