Javed Hassan |
“We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror.” ~ Measure for Measure
When a small band of zealous Israelites revolted against the Empire inspired by ‘religious fervor’, Rome responded with an intensity rarely witnessed in ancient history. The campaign against the uprising reached its final stage in AD72 in the province of Judea with the Romans advancing on Masada – the last bastion of resistance of the insurgency. Against a fanatical but ragtag band of nine hundred and sixty-two terrorists, the Romans deployed a crack army of fifteen thousand.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare an Empire at its zenith with an enfeebled democracy running from pillar to post to shore up its finances.
Army engineers assembled a giant ramp of earth and timber that rose hundreds of feet into the air. As the feat became visible to the Jewish defenders, they realized the full might of the Empire and their zeal dampened. Masada’s walls began to crumble before Roman siege engines and all but seven noncombatants committed ritual suicide. The Romans, through this one act of overwhelming might, forever subdued Israelite insurrection. A theatre of indomitable might was put on a show for any who dared to threaten Pax Romana.
The Empire chose to direct disproportionate resources even against the most marginal of targets, not simply to get rid of insignificant religious fanatics camped there, but to demonstrate it unyielding will to deter any potential insurgency. Here was an operation that stressed governmental legitimacy and the absolute writ of the Empire at any cost.
Such is statecraft. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we seem to be in the habit of entering into negotiations with an assortment of lawbreakers, which does not only enhance the stature of the miscreants but even sometimes provides financial compensation for their troubles.
Maybe disproportionate force was never possible to quell the disparate but highly charged protestors inspired by the colorful firebrand leader, Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Maybe it’s unfair to compare an Empire at its zenith with an enfeebled democracy running from pillar to post to shore up its finances. The quick order capitulation to fanatics might have come to pass irrespective of what the administration had done.
A Prince must not only demonstrate guile but ensure his words matter: failing to do so he might as well rule a sand castle. As TS Elliot put it, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper”.
Although the government has had at least a fortnight to prepare itself and the public for Asia Bibi’s Supreme Court verdict, maybe it was not possible for it to have fully anticipated the fiery reaction to her acquittal. Maybe it is too early to suggest that there are amateurs at the helm of affairs of the state, or that a more experienced team that would have handled the set of events any differently.
However, given that everyone knew exactly when the court decision was due, should a competent and forward-thinking regime not have used that time induce and coerce Tehrik-e-Labaik leaders to cause dissension in their ranks. Shrewdness might have dictated anticipation of what the other side might do, and thereby diminishment, if not elimination, of their potency. Does statecraft not require proactivity rather than being reactive at each turn of event?
We have become used to accepting mediocrity in our polity, but not from Imran Khan. He towers above the rest of midgets scattering the political landscape. His brave speech was one that no other ruler has had the courage to make in our dismal history of surrendering to religious extremism. But, should this not have been followed by a concrete plan of actions that was well thought out in advance.
What has come to pass dismays all well-wishers of Imran Khan not simply because the writ of the state appears to be slightly more in tatters than it was before, but more seriously it has the potential to dent his credibility. Where so much is dependent on his exceptional reputation, few would want any waning of this to adversely impact desperately needed inward investments.
A state that does not establish its writ, cannot expect investors to have confidence in it. More importantly, a Chief Executive whose words do not match his actions cannot expect investors to trust his promises. Yes, we may get much-needed bailout packages from friendly countries, but independent investors will be circumspect of a state that is easily threatened by the mob. A Prince must not only demonstrate guile but ensure his words matter: failing to do so he might as well rule a sand castle. As TS Elliot put it, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper”.
Javed Hassan is a graduate of Imperial College London and an MBA from London Business School. He is an investment banker who has worked in London, Hong Kong, and Karachi. He tweets as @javedhassan. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.