Monday, 21 May 2018
As Nawaz Sharif fights an existential battle, can he draw upon the wisdom of words written 2,500 years ago in China?
is an ancient Chinese military treatise authored in 5thcentury BC by military strategist Sun Tzu. Through the ages, the book has inspired generals and leaders across the globe — shaping their minds and policy stratagems as they went about ruling, fighting and conquering opponents.
In the same spirit, here’s what Nawaz Sharif could possibly draw from the lessons of Sun Tzu as written in : (headings extracted from a blog ‘10 Practical Life Lessons from Sun Tzu’s Art of War’ by Patrick Kim)
1. Choose your battles
“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
Nawaz may have calculated that this battle is worth fighting for, but he may need to factor in the wisdom of the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach when clearly there are alternatives available. A close reading of the political terrain may suggest that the ‘winner-takes-all’ environment not visible to the discerning eye.
2. Timing is essential
“The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”
Is this the right time — on the cusp of a critical election — for Nawaz to burn his ships and take on everybody else? The answer may depend on what will constitute a victory for him. If this victory means winning the coming elections, then perhaps the timing of his frontal attack on the opponents may lead to limited options in case outright success eludes him. The PML-N as a party is still strong, still sturdy and still filled with winning candidates in Punjab. It can fight the electoral fight. But it needs time and space to fight this fight; to negotiate tactical manoeuvres and motivate its electoral warriors with hope of victory. An ill-timed do-or-die strategy by Nawaz may starve his political army of all options except to go down in a blaze of glory.
3. Know yourself, know your enemy
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.”
Information is power. Nawaz has access to this power because his party is ruling at the centre and in Punjab. In another ten days it will not. This access to official reports, to Intelligence Bureau briefings, to the movements of his opponents, etc, will be cut off. Nawaz will be at a severe disadvantage on the battlefield which is already skewed against him. If winning the election is his foremost priority, this squeezing of the information pipe may not amount to much, but if the priority is a larger battle, then he might want to take stock of his strengths and weaknesses in order to take prudent and rational decisions.
4. Have a unique plan
“All warfare is based on deception.”
Which means being predictable is a liability. So far, Nawaz’s game is sounding predictable: take a swing at the establishment every which way you can. It’s bordering on a ‘scorched earth’ policy where he seems bent on burning everything down in a bid to emerge victorious. This predictability — which is coming at the cost of deft and nimble politicking and strategising — is making it easy for his opponents to plan their manoeuvres. When the Lodhran victory took his opponents by surprise, they rolled out Plan B within a short time. Their offensive against his government in Balochistan was followed by yet another successful ambush in South Punjab. Nawaz was caught unawares. He needs to stop being predictable and start practising a bit of deception.
5. Disguise your plans
“When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
Perhaps Nawaz is disguising his plans and indulging in some delicious deception. Perhaps he and his younger brother have it all figured out and are using their dual narrative as a means of deception to keep their opponents guessing. Perhaps his raising the temperature to boiling point is part of the strategy to disguise his real plan of suddenly mending fences with the establishment through back channels and pulling a fast one on Imran Khan. Perhaps allowing Imran Khan to cement his position as a is part of the plan, as is baiting the Judiciary and NAB to go after him and consolidate his narrative of persecution. Perhaps he’s not really this angry, this reckless and this brittle but in fact is putting up a deceptive act. Perhaps. But what if he’s not?
6. The best way to win is not to fight at all
“To win 100 battles is not the height of skill, to subdue the enemy without fighting is.”
Often the threat of a fight, and the perception of one, can achieve more than the fight itself. Can the PML-N gain more by deft belligerence than by being belligerently daft? Nawaz has proved to the world — and to his nemesis — that he’s no walkover. But by not agreeing to roll over and play dead, he has defied expectations of those who thought they had him on that day in July when they disqualified him. With each act of defiance, he has strengthened his negotiating position — and that of his party. If his definition of success is his party returning to power despite all odds, he can pivot back to the table and make gains without the battle — gains that he may not achieve if he goes through with the battle.
7. Change represents opportunity
“In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.”
Nawaz is swimming in a sea of change. In the last two years the entire political landscape in Pakistan has been upended and the hunters are now the hunted. Nine weeks before elections his party is shedding electables like bad skin and the noose seem to be tightening around the party’s electoral prospects. And yet the situation is as fluid as can be. Nine weeks can be a shortcut to oblivion or a long route to salvation. Nawaz can, if he wants, ride the change instead of being devoured by it. This may require pulling a rabbit out of his hat and snatching an electoral victory from the jaws of defeat. This in turn may require recognising opportunities in the midst of chaos; providing space to Shehbaz Sharif to untangle some knots and weave a tapestry of possibilities that bypass the laid-down path of Imran Khan.
Success is relative, unless it is clearly defined. The candidate needs to know what he is campaigning on, and the voter needs to know what he is voting for. The problem with the PML-N today is a growing lack of strategic clarity.
Sun Tzu would not have gone to war armed with such ambiguity.
Nawaz Sharif the ghaddar, Yasser Latif
Only democracy can deliver us from the ills that plague us. Nawaz Sharif, the so-called ghaddar, stands for constitutional democracy. He has learnt his lessons well
Was Nawaz Sharif once the ladla of the establishment? Yes. So was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when he was dispatched by Field Marshall Ayub Khan to dissuade Maulana Bhashani from joining the ranks of the combined opposition united under Fatima Jinnah’s heroic candidacy for the office of the president. Yet Bhutto’s government was ultimately overthrown by the same deep state for having become too strong a civilian leader for his own good.
It is true that Imran Khan is the new ladla of the establishment but if he were ever to come into power, he would soon realise why Bhutto and Nawaz before him had to engage in course correction. Given his personality, Imran Khan’s alliance with the umpire would prove to be shortest in our history. That is if Imran Khan ever makes it to power. There are very good reasons why that should never happen, not the least because Imran Khan is reportedly relying on the supernatural to deliver him the coveted throne in Islamabad. Those familiar with American TV show Game of Thrones know the script already. Imran Khan is Pakistan’s Stannis Baratheon. Fantasy meets reality in Pakistan all too often.
The military academy at Kakul does not train its recruits in political administration of the federation. Why then should they be trusted to run the country?
News from Bani Gala is at once bleak and hilarious. The red priestess has brought with her as pets two of her most favourite genies to Islamabad. Very unsportsmanlike of Imran Khan one must say. After all this is the same Imran Khan who won us the World Cup by relying on hard work and a never-surrender attitude. For him to now seek supernatural intervention is just a sad state of affairs. More importantly, it does not bode well for a nuclear-armed nation with the fastest growing stockpile to be led by a man swayed by such superstition and mumbo jumbo that defies all rationality and common sense.
Nawaz Sharif’s stance of civilian supremacy represents, at this point in time, the most important turn around by any politician. His interview in daily Dawn spelt out something that many in Pakistan have been saying for a while. This is what he said, that has caused so much offence: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”
The answer is simple. No, we should not. We should complete the trial and bring those responsible to justice. We should show the world that we are a responsible nation state based on rule of law and have not allowed our country to be overrun by non-state actors. Those who are opposed to this policy are the real ghaddars. Paragraph 45 of the Judgment by the Indian Supreme Court in Ajmal Kasab v. State of Maharashtra should give us Pakistanis a reason for pause:
“It is reported that it was at the Taj Mahal Hotel ballroom that, on February 20, 1918, at her eighteenth birthday party, Ruttie had accepted Mr Jinnah’s hand in marriage while the band was playing the Chopin tune, So Deep is the Night. It is also reported that both Mr. Jinnah, the creator of Pakistan, and Mrs Sarojini Naidu, the President of the Indian National Congress, often held court at Taj Mahal Hotel. Mr Jinnah also had an intimate connection with Mazgaon, where the bomb planted by two terrorists in a taxi exploded, killing three (3) and wounding nineteen (19) people. It is reported that Mr. Jinnah devoted Thursday afternoons to visiting the grave of his wife Ruttie at the Khoja Shiite Isna’ashri Cemetry, situated at Mazgaon, Mumbai. One wonders what Quaid-e-Azam would have thought of the terrorist attack on his favourite city in the subcontinent and especially on Taj Mahal Hotel, with which he had a personal relationship of a very intimate kind.”
We did not make Pakistan to wage perpetual war on our neighbour to the East.
At an Iftar party recently, an educated young critic of Nawaz Sharif told me that even if we have done it, we should never admit it. Why not? Since when did expediency and a false sense of nationalism trump truth and the right thing to do? Nawaz Sharif is not the ghaddar. Ghaddars are those who have led Pakistan on to such a perilous and self-destructive course. It would have been one thing if these so-called patriots had limited their operations to attacking legitimate military targets in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Attacking Bombay — I will call it Bombay, not Mumbai — or Delhi or any other place within the Indian union is beyond the allowable theatre of war. Yes, we want Kashmir to be free of Indian occupation, but we do not want to make permanent enemies out of our neighbours. This idea of a 1000-year war against India, planted by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and coopted by the Pakistani military establishment, must be put to rest once and for all. Pakistan’s military is our pride and joy. We salute their sacrifices in safeguarding Pakistan’s borders, but foreign policy must at all costs be the exclusive reserve of Pakistan’s elected civilian leadership. There can be no occasion for allowing their meddling in civilian affairs. Pakistan was created by civilians and it must be run by civilians. The military academy at Kakul does not train its recruits in political administration of the federation. Why then should they be trusted to run the country? Pakistan’s first military rule led to the departure of East Pakistan. Pakistan’s second military rule gave us Deobandi religious extremism, heroin, and Kalashnikov culture. Pakistan’s third military rule weaponised the once peaceful Barelvi sect. How has military interference in governance helped the country?
India’s democracy, deeply majoritarian and casteist as it is, has an inbuilt mechanism for correction. The results from Karnataka show that BJP is on the wane. Do not be surprised if the people of India boot out Modi in 2019 elections. It may happen, or it may not, but the fact is that there is today a greater opposition to Modi’s heavy-handed tactics than ever before. We must learn a lesson from this. Pakistan must put its faith in constitutional democracy and never waver from it. Only democracy can deliver us from the ills that plague us. Nawaz Sharif, the so-called ghaddar, stands for constitutional democracy. He has learnt his lessons well. For the first time in our history, the GT Road belt has risen up against the deep state. These are revolutionary times for our country. Therefore, every true patriot of Pakistan must stand with Nawaz Sharif in finally ridding Pakistan of the aliens that have presided over its destiny, so that no future elected leader has to ask mujhe kiyoun nikala.
The writer is a practicing lawyer and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School in Cambridge MA, USA. He blogs at http://globallegalforum.blogspot.com, twitter @therealylh
Published in Daily Times, May 21st 2018.