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The order of the day

Khurshid Akhtar Khan

Donald Trump was despised by the establishment, the media and many of his own Republican Party stalwarts. He was arrogant and even obscene at times during his election campaign. His agenda was deemed unworkable and divisive by most analysts. Yet, he swept the US presidential elections against all these odds.Since then, he has defiantly stuck to his campaign promises and his unconventional style of cutting red tape, as he signed executive orders for immediate action. He has constantly sparred with the powerful establishment and the media, both at the same time. In an unprecedented confrontation, he took the incompliant and hostile media head on, by banning a few prominent news channels from his press briefings. He has preferred for his cabinet non-political billionaires and Generals, who are Washington outsiders and inexperienced in political statecraft but are pragmatic. He has shunned the usual academics and intellectuals. In short, this enigmatic individual has singlehandedly declared a war on the status quo. How did he do it? Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth to a millionaire father. Wealth and success have embraced him with little struggle. He multiplied his inherited fortune by taking risks in real estate and (rather sleazy) show business deals. He flies in his own well appointed private jet and has lived in immense luxury during all his colourful life. In short he had everything. He achieved the ultimate prize that had eluded him so far – the US presidency. Why should he change now after he has won the mandate to conduct the American (and the entire world’s) politics, as he deems fit. Back home, we have a few similarities – and a few glaring anomalies! The two dynasties of Sharifs and Bhutto/Zardari are also scions of wealthy families. They also bear the brunt of hostile press and unduly critical establishment and equally hostile opposition parties scheming to engineer some excuse to justify dislodging them. They also have their own distinct methods of governance. That is where the similarities end. These dynasties have exhibited little leadership, boldness, any agenda or vision illustrating the direction they wish to guide the destiny of the nation. Their fortunes mysteriously rose spectacularly while they ruled the country. They have timidly followed the antiquated status quo (that is in urgent need of a massive overhaul). All of them are fully cognizant of the ills facing the nation. Yet, they have lacked the courage to confront them and find solutions. Or perhaps the decadent system suits them as a favourable instrument to prolong their rules.
This is what separates the first and third world nations in the quality of leadership. People in the West take up politics when they have little appetite for money. They seek glory in public office by bringing change commensurate with their convictions or ideology, in the service to their nations.

Here, politics serves primarily as means to fulfil an insatiable desire for riches and the power to oppress the weak. Many in the west are also accused of corruption and nepotism and are not infallible to human weaknesses. But they endeavour to devise and implement checks and balances. Our leaders introduce innovative methods to evade them.

Our politics revolves around concrete and steel, patronage and biradari. We do have left, right and centre parties but their ideologies waver with the tide. The left leaning parties are known for stuffing government related departments with party favourites in government jobs in violation of rules and utter disregard to merit, thus damaging their financial sustainability. The rightists have been known to submit to fundamentalism. Provincial acrimony has been allowed to rise unchecked by everyone while armed groups have taken the nation as hostage for their own nefarious designs. None has worked for the people.

The phenomenon of the charismatic and upright Imran Khan kindled the hope of a new breath of fresh air. His call for change brought an overwhelming response with an unprecedented passion and vigour that enveloped the indifferent and excluded educated middle classes, disgruntled youth and females into the arena of politics. However, his party meandered to the disruptive politics of agitation, seeking quick succession to power. The agenda of reforms and change was lost in this struggle.

Donald Trump has infected an era of nationalism and anti Muslim tirade in the western world. Following the US election, there has been a surge in the popularity of the rightist leaders such as Marie Le Penn in France and Geert Wilders in Netherland (Luckily, he failed to get majority in this week’s elections). Both are advocating similar inward looking policies in a reversal from their nation’s liberal and tolerant traditions. Rest of Europe seems to be trailing the same trend with a focus on preserving their Christian identities. Muslim religion and its culture are perceived as a threat to the western civilisation.

Most of our leaders have established shelters for themselves and their families in the west and in the gulf, where they spend significant amount of their time and have the opportunity to interact with world leaders. Somehow they remain impervious to comprehend or to learn from these developments. Nor the capacity and determination of such leaders to change the course of their nations in their own way has rubbed on them in any way. Our leaders return to the native land and get engrossed to their decadent behaviours and their usual personal axes to grind.

Donald Trump wooed the blue collar workers as his power base. He now plans to implement his promises and do away with stringent regulations, lessen bureaucratic interference and cut taxes to promote the stagnant businesses. We also have a business tycoon as the head of the ruling party, whose constituency is also business and industry. Unfortunately this business friendly regime has been a silent spectator while our small and medium enterprise that is the backbone of the economy has been run to the ground and our trade deficit grows to an alarming level.

Contrary to popular belief, large production houses such as cement, fertiliser and sugar are not the major employers. Small businesses employing from several to a few hundred workforce constitute about 90% of the economic activity that engages the largest manpower. The unsustainable trade deficit and millions unemployed is due to lost production and shutting down of SMEs throughout the country. Trump is going to revive the US business sector of the US. Our leadership should follow and concentrate towards reviving national industrial production.

Historically, our economy has been dependent on a single donor. The Chinese have now substituted the American funding. Our industry lacks the foundation to compete with the uncontrolled flood of lower priced Chinese imports. It is imperative that a negative list of imports is introduced. Further, an agreement must be reached with the Chinese and other governments to make the menace of under-invoicing a punishable crime on all sides.

Free trade benefits the developed nations. We must not buckle under external pressures. Our industrial production must be given protection for at-least a decade to become competitive in the world market. Nationalism must override all other considerations. We need strong leaders to fight the social evils and to build the nation. That is the order of the day.

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