Davos upstaged - Ikram Sehgal - Thursday, February 03, 2011

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

“Shared Norms for the New Reality,” the theme for this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the beautiful ski resort of Davos-Klosters, very aptly mirrors the topmost concern of many leaders today. The erosion of common values is growing in a world that is increasingly becoming more complex and interconnected, as well as undermining public trust in leadership, future economic growth and political stability. The rapidly developing events in Egypt emphasised the importance of the four thematic clusters under consideration, aiming to provide each participant with strategic insights: (1) responding to the new reality, (2) the economic outlook and defining policies for inclusive growth, (3) supporting the G20 agenda and (4) building a global risk-response mechanism.

Contrary to common perceptions, far from being a get-together of global leaders with a club of rich people to exchange notes in the daytime and have a ball at night, Davos provides a unique platform for leaders of governments, civil society, industry and the media as well as a wide spectrum of decision-makers to trade ideas on how to solve common pressing problems.

Describing all the 200-plus sessions crammed into four or five days would take more than a book. A sampling should capture the tone and tenor of the discussions.

“Insights on China” was moderated by Victor Chu. As panellists it had Liu Jiren, chairman and CEO of Neosoft Corp, Wang Boming, editor-in-chief of Caijing magazine, Wu Zhipan, executive VP and director of Peking University, and Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO. Various political priorities, economic realities and business issues that would shape China’s growth and social dynamics, as well as various dimensions, including indigenous innovation, legal reform, real estate and the role of the media were discussed. Sessions were addressed by many heads of state and government, among them Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel. Former US president Bill Clinton and Microsoft’s Bill Gates were among the hundreds of celebrities who chaired discussions.

I surrendered my slot as a panellist on the “New Reality of Terrorism” session, along with Audrey Kurth Cronin, professor of strategy at the US National War College, India’s Home Minister P Chidambaram and Minhaj-ul-Quran International’s Muhammad Tahir-Ul-Qadri, for Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan to more effectively represent Pakistan’s political stand on the subject of terrorism at its present “ground zero” location. Moderated by John Chipman of the IISS UK, terrorist methods and threats evolving nine years after 9/11 and lessons learnt thereof were discussed, revisiting root causes, new incubators and challenges.

Predictably (but disappointingly, given his Harvard education background) Chidambaram’s mindset had a single-point agenda: to focus only on religious terrorism, “cross-border terrorism” being the Indian catchword for Pakistani-based terrorist groups. A terrorist has no religion: which religion encourages killing of innocent people? Unfortunately, the Indians live in deliberate self-denial about their own home-grown terrorists: Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has described the Naxalite menace as the greatest single threat to India.

The “India Inclusive” initiative of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) dominated proceedings this year. The Chinese were low-key, but their presence in ever-increasing numbers, reflects their growing economic clout. The Indian private sector must be admired for leveraging the business magic of the Davos network to the hilt. It has paid rich dividends over the last two decades with Indian companies competing equally now with others on the global stage. In contrast, Pakistan had only four businessmen present and did not even send an official delegation. Even our embassy in Bern did not bother to give Davos any importance. They were probably too busy covering up the remaining evidence of the “Cotecna” case.

The Indian business community are ably supported by their government, with at least half-a-dozen ministers and Union Secretaries taking part. By being absent, our government represents its general apathy and ineptitude towards everything, except when it comes to its leaders making money for themselves.

The enduring disgrace is the private sector comprising our many rich Pakistani businessmen. While not paying taxes is a national pastime, symbolised by billionaire leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, they must contribute part of the enormous profits they pocket towards the general good of their business community brethren, emulating their Indian counterparts. WEF members like Arif Naqvi, Husain Dawood and Zakir Mahmood cannot shoulder the burden forever (Mian Mansha seldom bothers to come or send anyone).

Attempting to keep the Pakistani flag aloft with my traditional Pakistan breakfast, I hosted instead a Pakistan lunch. With neither the president nor the prime minister gracing Davos, Imran Khan graciously represented Pakistan’s viewpoint, the discussions being moderated by my son, Zarrar Sehgal, a WEF Young Global Leader (YGL). We were honoured by the presence of Ross Perot, Jr, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, Frederick Kempe and a host of academics and billionaires, including many Indians like Nand Khemka, the Godrejs, the Bajajs and Dhruv Sawhney among them.

Imran spoke passionately and with fervour, even though I disagree with him on some issues, particularly with respect to the “war on terror” and how to deal with terrorists (only in the brutal language that they understand), the audience responded positively. While fielding questions in the Q&A session well, Imran could not really address the question of what he would do on “his first day in office.” Blessed with plentiful charisma and untainted by corruption, Imran must now concentrate on revamping his organisation. Very few one-man shows can translate their leaders’ genuine popularity into votes.

Parents must have reason to be proud of their children/ Zarrar became a YGL on his own merit as an outstanding lawyer, not relying on the family fortune and/or heritage. Express TV anchor Manizae Jahangir did Pakistan proud by making it on her own as a YGL, not because of her mother. The first female president of SCBA, Asma Jahangir has every reason to be proud of her. Many Pakistani young men and women with merit and accomplishments are waiting in the wings to join this fairly select group, among them Mir Ibrahim Rahman, who excelled during his year at the Kennedy School of Government. Hopefully, he will become a WEF YGL soon. Our hopes rest in such young men and women. They have their work cut out for them to rescue this country out of the murky depths our generation have sunk them into.

Davos this year was upstaged by unprecedented events in the Middle East. Tunisia provided the backdrop for a people’s uprising that sent Zine El Abedine Ben Ali and his Mafia-like family scurrying for cover, the street revolt in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak was astonishing and revealing. People’s angst against the corruption that had made “either beggars or thieves” out of the great silent majority manifested itself in raw street power. The Egyptian army’s stance was a revelation. “We will not fire on the protestors. They have a right to demonstrate for their legitimate demands.” With this astonishing statement, barring the formalities, the revolution was complete. Yemen is next. Jordan could probably follow. Will the seething anger sweeping the long-suffering populations of the Muslim countries bypass Pakistan?

Asif Zardari is too smart to hang around (and that is a pun) and wait for the streets to propel him into history. Our Supreme Commander well knows, unlike Hosni Mobarak, who found out too late, what attitude the armed forces would adopt against a similar street protest.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

No comments:

Post a Comment