-By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
As PM Imran Khan finished his 77 minute inaugural address to the nation, one thought crossed my mind!
Where does one position “The Speech”?
I don’t know. I don’t know, because it’s so different and so refreshing. Simple in content and delivery and so matter of fact, with every word and syllable coming from the heart that it seemed almost anticlimactic !
It ranged from the really Big Picture to the fireside chat format of sharing deeply touching details of stunted growth in Pakistani children to the heart wrenching intimacy of the widow’s letter to him, written in her blood.
Did it belong to the Churchillian *”……We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender….”*
Or John F Kennedy’s *”….Ask not what your Country can do for you, ask what you can do for your Country…..”*
Or Martin Luther King’s stirring *”….I have a dream….”* speech
Or Quaid e Azam’s 11th August 1947 speech
*”……. You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state…..”*
Or Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s *”……We will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own (nuclear bomb)…. We have no other choice!…..”*
I saw and heard it twice to get a sense of the genre and then it dawned on me that Imran had actually created a new genre of inauguration addresses by Heads of States and Governments! At least those I had heard or read, in our part of the world!
It was unlike any of the above or what we had heard from our past rulers.
No stirring phrases, no hyperbole, no fiery phrases, no lofty sermons!
It was an intimate, one on one, from the heart, fireside chat, directly to those who matter most to Imran. The most deprived segments of our society for whom he had fought for and struggled for and sacrificed everything for.
And who didn’t like it and silly picked and said?
What no foreign policy? Nothing about India, Afghanistan, USA, China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia etc. And nothing on terrorism. And what blasphemy! Not a word about Kashmir or CPEC? Yes. Correct. He covered them in two words. Peace and National Action plan, having earlier expressed his thoughts on these issues in his victory speech, just after the elections. I’m sure he will address them later as well!
On this occasion his message and vision was not for the pudgy fingered, 1% fat cats who had lived off this raped, looted and plundered land.
This time it was for the other 99% of Pakistan. The poor, the weak, the dispossessed, the socially and economically disadvantaged and the most at risk. The struggling lower and middle classes desperately trying to make ends meet and fighting a losing battle to keep their self respect, intact.
And boy oh boy, did his words resonate with them as he peeled back the layers of hypocrisy and hyperbole adopted by former rulers, and said it as it is, straight from the heart. He told us what was wrong, symbolically giving examples of the hypocrisy and ugliness and the pomp and show of past governments of this impoverished nation. And laying out his plan of how to fix things!
And yes it did not resonate with the rich, the well fed and those who’s lives and lifestyles don’t change a whit, irrespective of who is in power!
These sharks continue to encircle and enrich themselves, taking advantage of their social, economic and political status, their network of connections and their wealth to get their work done.
Whether it’s a military dictator or crooks like Nawaz and Zardari or charlatans and frauds like Diesel or Asfandyar or Quislings like Achakzai who acquire power, life goes normally for the privileged elite!
When they fall sick they buy the best health care. They and their children attend the best schools and universities inside and outside the country. A phone call to a friend gets their children the choicest jobs! Another phone call hushes up a legal issue! What a wonderful life!
And when the going gets tough this same group of the rich and the famous, including crooks, criminals, corrupt businesspeople, over and under invoicers, tax evaders, crooked politicians, generals, judges, bureaucrats, all with their destination weddings and expensive vacations and millions stashed away in off shore accounts, escape to safer pastures in Dubai, Europe, North America.
It’s not surprising that many amongst the rich and the privileged found his speech uninspiring, because hidden behind their veiled cynicism lies a bigger fear.
How will I survive in this new world that Imran envisions? How will I continue to make 50% to 60% financial returns per year? Will I now have to pay my due share of taxes? Will I still be able to launder my wealth? Where will I hide my ill begotten wealth skimmed off government contracts and dubious business dealings? How will I buy and sell government officials, judges, generals and politicians at will?
These groups can’t relate to these issues except in an abstract and theoretical way as they continue to enjoy the best privileges this country offers!
And what of the poor?
These wretched souls live a life of terrible poverty and sub human existence, pining away miserably and finally helplessly crumbling away, unable to withstand the cruelty and the injustice of this terrible system that prevails in PAKISTAN!
And in all this, another brilliant segment of Pakistanis silently leaves the country to seek safer futures for themselves and their children. People who can’t join the loot and plunder or do not have the social and economic advantages of the others. But have the skills and opportunity to escape what seems to them a certain death trap!
These are some of our finest. To them Imran’s words hit home! To them it spoke of a Pakistan where they could return and become highly effective and productive contributors!
Imran had a very clear and loud message for those he had fought for, struggled for and sacrificed for!
Folks we are changing the rules of the game. We are changing the entire context and operating framework in which Pakistanis will operate. We will change our behaviour by policies, procedures, systems which are merit driven, authentic and transparent.
We are creating an environment where good is rewarded and evil punished.
We are creating a Pakistan where every citizen will have equitable fair and transparent opportunities and access to public services, to safety and security, to clean drinking water, to health care, to education, to employment and to speedy justice and to respect and dignity!
A Pakistan, where one day, in the not too distant future no person would require Zakat!
But it’s not an on off switch. The harvest comes when it comes in its ordained time after the seeds are planted. It will not blossom earlier, however much you increase water, fertilizer and effort.
Give him and all the good people working for a better Pakistan, time!
Insha Allah, Pakistan will become a model country and Insha Allah, as the good man said, one day our Zakat will go to other countries!
I think it was an outstanding speech. An absolutely extraordinary speech!
I think it was the speech of a man on a mission!
Pakistan Zindabad! Ilahi Aameen!
*Salaams and Prayers*