By F.S. Aijazuddin
January 28 2016
THE Saudis had a choice of Sharifs: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or COAS Gen Raheel Sharif. Being prudent, they followed the example of the man who, when informed that his mother-in-law had died, was asked whether he wanted her body buried or cremated. He replied: “Do both. Take no chances.”
The Saudis took no chances. They invited both Sharifs to Riyadh to meet their King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Sharifs were photographed seated beside him, flanking him like a suited Gog and a uniformed Magog. Presumably, what they discussed was the ongoing Armageddon in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and that menacing cloud with a nuclear lining — Iran.
To persons living outside these countries, their conflicts are simply local wars, fought between local factions, with unfortunate but local collateral damage. That is what the rest of Europe thought in 1914 when the Balkans burst into flames that were not to be extinguished for another four years, and again in 1939, when Czechoslovakia first and then Poland fell victim to Hitler’s rapaciousness.
No war is ever a local war. Every war is a world war. Ask any Iraqi, Libyan, Lebanese, Syrian, Afghan, Palestinian and Israeli family. Ask the survivors of the Peshawar massacre and the Charsadda attack. They are all hapless victims of a world war, for it is their world that is being destroyed — callously, needlessly, wantonly, and without remorse by nations that invade in the name of democracy, destroy in the name of homeland security, and devastate in the name of reconstruction.
The Greeks and the Romans invaded to expand their empires, the Spaniards for gold, the Belgians for minerals, the Japanese for landmass, the French for France, and the British to fortify their commercial interests. Only in the 20th century have wars been started not because neighbours bickered with each other but because defence industries in developed countries needed a playground in which to try out their latest toy.
Problems wait for the PM like crouching predators.
One would have thought that world leaders who collect annually in Davos to attend the peaceable World Economic Forum would have noticed that their host Switzerland adheres to a policy of prepared pacifism. It may not have a standing army but its civilians are trained to don uniform when called up and to fight as soldiers, just as underground train stations in London and Moscow can double in wartime as bunkers.
At Davos, platitudes scattered by speakers sink in its soft, pure snow. They will have left no trace by the time the spring thaw arrives. Leaders talk to each other during the WEF conclave, they preen and posture before television cameras, but they are aware that they are there primarily to socialise. Davos is a soignée New York.
Delegates avoid raising contentious issues lest these pollute its pristine atmosphere. Instead, attendees imitate the cuckoo clock, trilling on time, on cue. By contrast, in New York, the United Nations serves as a modern Coliseum, where trained gladiators combat until someone outside the arena dies.
Shakespeare through his character Polonius once advised: “Neither a borrower nor lender be.” His motto is followed at Davos. Davos does not encourage borrowers or lenders. If you want to talk money, you are clearly in the wrong place. Better reroute your ticket to Washington, D.C. or London or Beijing. However, if you want to discuss the power of money, book a room in advance at Davos, for that is where, if you think you matter, you will meet people who do matter.
Once the Davos retreat is over, world leaders retrieve the cudgels they had surrendered at the Swiss Customs, and then return home to sink conscience-deep into the mire they had left behind.
Now that our prime minister is back refreshed from Davos, he will undoubtedly have the energy and the time to confront our problems, for they wait like crouching predators, ready to ambush him — if only he would come within their reach. His protected sanctuary at Raiwind lies beyond theirs.
A granddaughter’s wedding was not the right time to remind the prime minister of his official duties to the Pakistani public. The prospect of his future great-grandchild is. That child will be one among millions who crowd our overpopulated country. That child will have to elbow for a place in schools that offer an addled education. On the tiny shoulders of that child will descend the chafing yoke of debt servicing and defence expenditure. And what if that great-grandchild should choose a profession, say law or politics?
The Pakistan Bar Council has decided that the remedy for poor legal education is to extend the period of graduate study from three to five years. Is that a coincidence? Isn’t five years the term an elected government takes to learn responsible governance?
F.S. Aijazuddin is an author.