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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Applying game theory to Pakistan’s politics

It would be fair to say that PML, PPP, and JUI-F are playing a finite game to remove Imran khan from the government and possibly from the political arena. On the other hand, Imran Khan is playing the infinite game of changing the country with his concept of “Naya Pakistan”. Rules keep on changing but his objective remains firm, writes Usman Lashari, a Faculty member at Brown University.

During most of its 75 years of history, Pakistan has witnessed multiple political crises from dictatorial rules to so-called elected governments; hence keeping to our tradition of not learning from it; we are facing another one.

It is pointless to argue whose fault it is. Blaming it on PTI’s governance to the establishments’ encroachment into our political arena or the failure of the system in general. You can pick whatever you like or whatever is close to your heart.

But this article is not about finding where lies the blame in this quagmire. Let’s analyze this by the famous work presented by John Nash almost 70 years ago at MIT and find what lessons can be learned and where the “Nash’s equilibrium” can be found?

Read more: Maulana Tariq Jameel prays for the success of PM Imran Khan

What is the game theory?

For those of you who are not familiar with game theory, here is a brief introduction. In-game theory, people play finite or infinite games. Finite games are with clear interests or objectives like a cricket match which finishes after 20 over or 50 overs with set rules everyone adheres to, and a winner is declared at the end of the game.

In infinite games, rules can be changed, and the objective is to perpetuate the game itself. It only finishes when a player drops out or new players enter with infinite or finite objectives.

It would be fair to say that PML, PPP, and JUI-F are playing a finite game to remove Imran khan from the government and possibly from the political arena. On the other hand, Imran Khan is playing the infinite game of changing the country with his concept of “Naya Pakistan”. Rules keep on changing but his objective remains firm.

The system remains stable when a finite player is playing against a finite player or an infinite player vs an infinite player.

An Inference can be drawn from the Pakistani power politics where the musical chair was played by the military rulers or political parties as their prime objective was clinging to power.

Read more: PM Imran Khan inspects J10C with COAS, advocates say he is not going home

Hence the system remained stable and predictable

The system becomes unstable when you pitch a finite player against the infinite player. This leads to chaos. The same chaos we are seeing in Pakistan today. Here the finite players like PML-N, PPP, JUI-F are caught in chaos and fueling that chaos to our political arena.

Imran khan is driving them crazy hence a poorly timed no-confidence motion was tabled at the same time of OIC conference with the Chinese attendance while Imran being the infinite player is banking on the opposition running out of will or the resources and has confronted them head-on with a long-term vision of “Naya Pakistan”. Imran Khan will fight them forever, if necessary, hence looking so confident despite an apparent defeat in a no-confidence motion.

Imran Khan has even put the political capital of Pakistan’s military establishment on the line and has made it almost impossible for power circles to grant another two-third majority to PML-N like in the 1990s and 2013.

My objective is not to paint a rosier picture for PTI or Imran khan

What Imran khan lacks is the lessons learned from 2nd part of the game theory albeit the prisoner’s dilemma explained beautifully by John Nash in 1949.

In a prisoner’s dilemma, both prisoner A and prisoner B get the best possible outcome if they remain silent and do not implicate each other. Implicating each other will mean getting longer jail sentences.

For movie lovers, this was dramatized in the movie “A beautiful mind where four friends decide to go for the blond or her four friends”(A Beautiful Mind, 2001)

So, where this Nash’s equilibrium lies for Imran khan if he intends to remain in this infinite game of changing Pakistan.

Read more: Imran Khan slammed E.U. Ambassadors for their letter!

The best outcome will be hard to achieve unless Imran khan continues to search for potential alliances. If he can form strong alliances at this point whether with the military establishment or PML-Q or MQM or other power brokers. He will remain relevant and remain in the game infinitely. Winning or losing the no-confidence motion will become irrelevant.

Remaining in government or opposition is secondary to his infinite goal of transforming Pakistan. Imran khan forges strong alliances at this point, he will survive this, and his opponent playing the finite games with either run out of fuel or political will and drop out of the game at some point.

Otherwise, Imran khan risks being a finite player with narrow-minded short-term objectives which will take him out of the game.

 

The author is a Physician residing in the United States and a Faculty at Brown University in Rhode Island. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.