All wars are miscalculated

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif takes oath from President Asif Ali Zardari in 2013.

No one knows where they lead

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been on the warpath against his political rivals since taking oath of office. He has been relentless in his pursuit of the Sharifs and Zardaris, and has promised no let up. While the economy falters and the problems of the common man intensify by the day, the big question is: can a Prime Minister who campaigned in poetry (albeit a significantly virulent one) afford to continue governing in the same poetry, instead of in the more time-tested prose? Will relentless attempts to eviscerate the political future of its rivals translate into this government solving the problems of the common man? Will the common man’s problems of rising prices and economic hardship be assuaged by the incarceration of the Sharifs and Zardaris?

Prime Minister Khan, who from his political journey and speeches appears to be an avid reader of history, may well be advised to take out a very important leaf from history. Negotiations, comprise and reconciliation to achieve the greater good is always a path preferable over wars and destruction.

The Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) signed the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah with his arch nemesis, the Quraish. Although some companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had various reservations about certain concessions made by the Holy Prophet (PBUH), this Treaty restored peace and paved the way for the spread of Islam, and therefore provides a masterclass of statesmanship, wisdom and supreme negotiating skills exemplified by our Holy Prophet (PBUH). More importantly, this Treaty reaffirms the point that skilful negotiation and diplomacy (as opposed to relentless war) is the way forward towards peace and as an antidote to, and for avoidance of, conflict and turmoil.

As Imran Khan’s government’s and our nation’s winter of discontent followed by a stormy spring now turns into a potentially blazing summer, he can do worse than use the time-tested antidote of reconciliation. He should certainly pursue accountability, but not selective accountability

Abraham Lincoln chose a team of his political rivals to be a part of his cabinet in order to hold the Republican Party together and to have the ablest men run his government. He had the sagacity to overlook political enmities and reconcile with his nemeses to achieve his goals in governance. Nelson Mandela, rather than unleash vengeance on his apartheid tormentors, set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the way forward to minimise the turmoil that could have been a natural consequence of reversal of the centuries-old repressive status quo against the coloured people of South Africa. Dr Mahathir Mohammad, whom Prime Minister Khan cites as an inspiration, was instrumental in finishing off the political career and personal reputation of his arch-nemesis Anwar Ibrahim 20 years ago. The same Dr Mahathir Mohammad has now become instrumental in reviving the political career and personal reputation of the same Anwar Ibrahim and is paving the way for him to succeed him as Prime Minister of Malaysia soon as he considers such collaboration better for Malaysia, instead of allowing Najib Razzak to take the country further into turmoil. At the time that Dr Mahathir was on the warpath against Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia had already turned into an Asian tiger and that is perhaps what afforded Dr Mahathir the luxury of about 20 years to reconsider his position against his nemesis. On the contrary, can the current challenges that beset Pakistan provide Prime Minister Khan with the same luxury of time to reconsider his own position?

A piece of humble advice to Prime Minister Khan: as his government’s and our nation’s winter of discontent followed by a stormy spring now turns into a potentially blazing summer, he can do worse than use the time-tested antidote of reconciliation. He should certainly pursue accountability, but not selective accountability. But he must also sit down with his political rivals. He must utilise any positives that they may have to offer from their experience in government to tackle the current challenges besetting our country. He should adopt the bipartisan approach to get his legislative agenda through. And equally importantly, he must try to rein in his poster boys from spewing open vitriol against the opposition, as well as sections of the media. Only then will he truly practice what he has been preaching all along: all wars are miscalculated and no one knows where they lead.