Imran Trumps Trump

Links of Published Versions of Article:

By:

Omer Zaheer Meer,

CFA (USA), CPFA (UK), FCCA (UK), ACA (ICAEW – UK), AMLE (UK)

Even before Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan sat foot on the US soil, his charm offensive began. Undoubtedly it was a difficult trip. USA and Pakistan had grown apart over the years with the mistrust increasing by the day. From Salala to Aafia to Shakeel Afridi to nurturing the “eternal enemy” of Pakistan to siding with the Afghan Taliban, it was a downhill journey filled with complaints by both sides. Trump took office, believing he can do what none other could and make Pakistan dance to his tunes, even at the cost of our national interests. As the time passed and the global geo-political landscape started shifting, perhaps so did the advice he received and his perceptions.

Still, it was the Pakistan that India was up against and mind you, India has the economic “might” and swayed USA to its ways. Narendra Modi spent over 2000 crores building a campaign of “global isolation” targeting Pakistan with all his political experience, “wisdom”, economic might and strategic alignment with USA.

Then, along came Khan and it all changed. He delivered for Pakistan what no Pakistani Prime Minister before him could, even in more conducive circumstances and he did it with dignity and poise.

Then, along came Khan and it all changed. He delivered for Pakistan what no Pakistani Prime Minister before him could, even in more conducive circumstances and he did it with dignity and poise.

The first master stroke was delaying the IMF program and strengthening ties with Turkey, Kuwait, China, Iran, KSA, UAE, e.t.c. showing the USA that Pakistan can survive sans its aid and influence and will only talk on equal terms without having to compromise on its national interests for peanuts.

The next outstanding and brave move was to hold a public gathering in an arena in the USA, something that no Pakistani Prime Minister had ever done. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did it with extensive resources and PR machinery. Khan did it better without any of that. He took commercial flight with a small team, stayed at Pakistan’s embassy and his party PTI organized the public gathering on its own.

This was not all. Khan used the opportunity brilliantly to pre-emptively counter the narratives of the opposition by highlighting his anti-corruption drive back home as well as his vision for a rising Pakistan. The results were astounding. Trump in his meeting, wished him success for his anti-corruption drive and couldn’t help but keep using the term “very popular leader” for him. Trump seemed to have been trumped by Khan. The opposing narrative built carefully and with the help of expensive PR firms died before it could even begin during this trip.

Put simply, Imran Khan won over the United States of America even before he and Donald Trump spoke about the key issues facing both countries and laid the groundwork for a proper and long-term bilateral relationship. In the words of Adam Gerry:

In a country (USA) that since 9/11 was programmed by the controlled news media to hate Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in the same country where Islamic societies are often misunderstood and in a country where arenas are usually filled with sporting or music events rather than anything remotely political, Imran Khan stole the show. Even if his rally was played for few seconds on America’s notorious television news programs, this has been a great victory for Pakistan. Because all it takes are a few seconds of footage from that Imran Khan rally to change perceptions of Pakistan from one that is wholly negative to one that is self-evidently optimistic and indeed one that is truly inspirational.

Prime Minister Khan has done something for Pakistan that let alone his countrymen or contemporaries, even the European allies of the USA find hard to do. He conquered the heart and soul of America with his charm offensive coupled with his dignity and topped up with his poise and sincerity.

Even forgetting Khan’s confidence and poise or even wearing of the national dress of Pakistan and the game-changing public gathering in USA, the way he put forth Pakistan’s case and advocated for us all was heartening.

He was put a tough question on Iran and handled it intelligently, keeping a balance and pushing forward the case for peace in the region. Faced with the question about 3000 American deaths in Afghanistan, he reminded the world of over 70,000 Pakistani lives lost. Asked about Shakeel Afridi, he raised the issue of Aafia Siddiqui just as he had promised to do.

That was not all, faced with questions, planted to attack the institutions, he brilliantly defended Pakistan. On the issue of PTM activists, he highlighted the initiatives taken for FATA including the mainstreaming and the breach of law by PTM activists. It was not just that he did it all without any paper slips but that he did it in a manner which reflected his sincerity, confidence and conviction. And these were what won over the Americans just like they won over the Pakistanis.

Some critics pointed out that he did not get any “money”. They’re right. Infact he openly shared that he didn’t even ask for any aid but he won something much greater for Pakistan. He won the respect of the global super power and the western world with a seat for Pakistan on global stage ensuring Pakistan is both heard and respected. And let me share, if handled properly, this foundation laid by PM Khan during his maiden USA visit can lead to a dynamic and successful foreign policy leading to long-term economic and trade benefits for Pakistan.

The writer is a leading economist and experienced tax expert who holds five top professional finance, investment and accountancy qualifications CFA (USA), CPFA (UK), FCCA (UK), CA (ICAEW) & Anti-Money Laundering specialization along-with substantial international exposure and represents Pakistan on Global Tax Forum while sitting on the boards of several think-tanks. His profile can be accessed at: https://omerzaheermeer.wordpress.com/about

PTI, PAT vs PML-N: Sagacity in short supply

The following article has been published in the Sunday Edition of Pakistan Today, dated 24th August 2014
(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/08/23/featured/pti-pat-vs-pml-n-sagacity-in-short-supply/ )

(For Published Version, Page 9:   http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_38/9?e=3820687/9038422 )

PTI, PAT vs PML-N: Sagacity in short supply

Take the third umpire’s advice seriously

Prof Dp

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

A small problem that could’ve been resolved easily has been turned into a national crisis. It’s often said that to understand complex issues one should go back to the root-cause of the problem. The current political crisis began with Imran Khan’s very reasonable demands of investigating four selected constituencies for rigging and taking corrective action for the shortcomings. The government logically asked for same number of PTI won constituencies to be investigated too and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) readily agreed to that. Unfortunately there had been no concrete development on the issue since which has led to the stance of PTI getting much more stiffer with the ultimate demand now of PM Mian Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and mid-term polls under a reformed Election Commission after the alleged “culprits” of rigging in 2013’s General Elections are punished.

The government on its part was worried that if there were any issues to be found in the four constituencies, it may lead to the calls for mid-term polls as the legitimacy of the set-up would be called into questions. However the crisis has lead to exactly that situation and this could’ve perhaps been averted had the Government took positive actions before. What’s been interesting is the changing narrative of the incumbent Government which claimed that it was not authorized to and cannot open up the four constituencies after Chaudhary Nisar, the Federal Minister for Interior agreed to open up “40 constituencies” in National Assembly. However as the crisis peaked, the same Government proposed asking Supreme Court for forming a commission to investigate the allegations of rigging while there were also proposals of bringing “Ordinance” to open up the four constituencies initially selected for audit and verification by Mr. Imran Khan’s PTI.

Certain quarters claim that atleast some of the four key ministers, Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Mr. Ahsan Iqbal and Federal Minister of Defense Khawaja Asif did not wish to let their “victories” be examined and as such used their influence to push the PMLN Government to a harder line by selling the above narrative within PMLN in order to ensure their own seats were not in danger.

It wasn’t as if the pressure of the campaign re four constituencies by PTI was sufficient to bring matters to the current boiling point. If we recall, things were actually looking quite comfortable for PMLN Government until that fateful incident of Model Town slaughter. Operation “Zarb-e-Azb” was announced, differences with Military Establishment were substantially reduced, public opinion was against protests during such an important operation, PTI had already announced cancellation of its Bahawalpur Jalsa while Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was about to do so. Than somewhere, someone decided to “teach a lesson” to Mr. Qadri and set an example for opposition as accepted in less straighter words by ex-Minister for Law (Punjab) Rana SanaUllah during television programs. However the operation on Minhaj-ul-Quran cum PAT secretariat to remove barriers backfired and gave blood of unarmed civilians to the opposition. From there on, the anti-government movement gained momentum culminating into “Azadi” and “Inqilab” marches.

That momentum should make one wonder that how the opposition lost the steam going into the marches. PAT was always going to be the determined religious cult beefed up by the Minhaj associated youth and workers. It was PTI who was deemed the bigger player, the game-changer on its own. However over the past eight days what we’ve witnessed, though unprecedented in terms of the determination and zeal shown by PTI supporters, has left many surprised by a less than expected show of power by PTI. So let us examine what exactly went wrong?

Firstly the administration was ill-planned and organizational communication minimal if any. The arrangements were redundant. Several PTI’s office bearers left Islamabad on 15th owing to a lack of even basic arrangements, non-presence of party representatives/organizers and no-communication from party as to the expected arrival of the main procession led by Imran Khan. A prime example of the mismanagement was that despite the extreme weather forecast, the organizers didn’t bother to arrange for even a basic and cheap item like umbrellas which would not only have protected the participants from elements but also provided shade and sense of safety without the need to hold sticks. Furthermore post the infamous intra-party elections, the losing party workers who are in majority as only one of the five to ten contestants won, feel disgruntled. This majority was not taken on board or reached out to. As a result they didn’t attend or work for the success of the “Azadi March” nor did they ask their supporters to do so.

Against all mainstream analysis and despite all the internal setbacks and unprecedented failure of march organizers, Imran Khan’s own determination, resilience and charisma has done wonders in not only getting a very decent number of supporters out but motivating them enough to stay on the streets for an unprecedented eight days till now. Most of the analyst believed that PTI’s supporters were too soft to stay on roads for long and that too in extreme weather conditions. However the determination of highly motivated PTI cadre has been no less than PAT’s religious zealots.

This whole situation, however, has serious implications for the country. The pride and stubbornness of the Government has resulted in missing key moments for resolving the conflict. For fourteen months PTi kept asking for audit of just four constituencies which was ignored, the deadline by Imran Khan during Ramadan was also brushed aside and more foolishly instead of capitalizing on an initially weak show by PTI on arrival in Islamabad, PTI by mocked by key ministers of PMLN. PTI has since gained much of the lost ground. Khan has now repeatedly stated that he won’t accept anything sans PM’s resignation while PM is as likely to resign as Imran is of backing off his own words. The negotiations ended in cruel joke when Government suddenly decided to put up containers back and IG Islamabad was transferred for allegedly refusing to use force on protestors.

While PMLN rightly states that majority of the parliamentary parties are on its side, this stalemate virtually melting down the economy cannot go on forever. If this situation is not resolved amicably, the army will intervene which may even lead to wrapping up of the whole system. The responsibility for such a disaster would lie more with the incumbent government as not only it has the power, authority and responsibility but also more on stake than the protesting parties. It should therefore act more magnanimously to accommodate rather than ridicule PTI and PAT. Letting loose its own workers would only exacerbate the situation more. As the “third umpire” recently said let sagacity and maturity prevail.