Yet another political gimmick?


After enjoying power for three and a half years, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has finally reached out to the intelligentsia for advice on his next year’s plan of action.
Socio-political scientist Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi calls the initiative a positive development although he believes it should have been taken much earlier. Rizi, however, remains sceptical about whether the prime minister is really serious about seeking intellectuals’ advice in policymaking.
Keeping in view political and economic challenges the government is confronted with, it looks quite a farfetched idea,” Rizvi told Pakistan Today. The veteran analyst fears it could turn out to be a public-relationing exercise on part of the prime minister.
Interestingly the first phase of the dialogue, first of its kind launched by any political leader, brought some surprises for the prime minister as the participants talked to the premier in a free and frank manner while the host kept taking notes.During the discussion, a writer from Balochistan told the prime minister that he was expelled from a meeting hosted by former dictator Ziaul Haq for asking him some difficult questions. He praised PM Gilani for putting on a brave face despite some hostile remarks about him.Eminent poet-cum-drama writer Amjad Islam Amjad quoted Chairman Mao Tse Tung who advised politicians to “go to the people but don’t teach them. Rather learn from them”.
The prime minister must be wondering how to execute the idea, put forth by the participants, of putting in place a uniform syllabus across the country, since he knows well that the PPP-led government has devolved education to provinces who want to introduce separate curricula as per their own needs. The worried prime minister, however, assured the intellectuals that he would convene a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to discuss the matter.The participants also urged Mr Gilani to take some drastic measures to infuse the fast-fading spirit of nationalism among the nation.
The idea of going to the masses and seeking their input in policymaking is a step in the right direction. It suggests that the people at the helm are now feeling being alienated from the masses at large and they are beginning to realise the intellectuals, poets and writers have a role to play in shaping government policy.
As Herbert Hoover once put it “Words without actions are the assassins of idealism.” Therefore, it would be very unfortunate if nothing comes out of the initiative and the prime minister only uses the input in his speech to be delivered on Pakistan Day as a political gimmickry and no practical follow up is made to implement these ideas.
Let us see what the next three sessions of the series of ‘dialogue with the nation’ bring for the good of the nation. We can only hope that this exercise is neither a PR job nor jugglery of words.