High Noon | Pakistan Today

High Noon

In its battle for survival, this nation needs a Man

For those young (sic) enough to remember, High Noon is an epic 1952 American Western film starring all-time greats Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly (later Princess Grace of Monaco) that won four Academy Awards and many others. In a close to real time scenario the movie is about a long-time town marshal forced to face a ruthless gang of killers alone. The movie transports one through intrigue, drama, coincidence, commitment and personal resolve, courage and determination as it evolves.

A criminal, Miller, put away by Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is released on an unspecified legal technicality and prepares to return to town for revenge. Kane who has recently married a pacifist, Amy (Grace Kelly) and resigned is preparing to leave town when he hears of this. He decides to stay and do battle. Tension develops as the town is not ready for the showdown and wills him to leave, thus leaving him alone to fight.

Kane guns down two members of the gang as they attack but is wounded. His wife Amy who has boarded the train to leave town gets off it on hearing gunfire. She chooses to save her husband’s life over her religious beliefs and shoots one criminal in the back. Miller grabs her and takes her hostage to force Marshal Kane into the open. Amy attacks Miller suddenly giving Kane a clear shot for a brief moment. Kane takes the shot, killing Miller. As the town folk emerge from the shadows, Kane stares at the crowd, throws his marshal’s star contemptuously in the dust, and taking Amy by the hand, leaves town.

The object lesson derived is that there comes a time in man’s life when the courage of conviction and commitment drives him forward even though those he has carried, protected and nurtured do not rise to return the support in the hour of need. Left alone, there are two options, run or face Goliath. Both carry probable dire consequences. It’s a moment when man must reach out to faith and belief and stand tall. Life is secondary; victory over evil primary. Resolve brings victory but deep within contempt for those who readily share the spoils but are unwilling to sacrifice. These situations are the defining moments in man’s life.

In this battle for survival, this nation needs a Will Kane. There are countless fronts open demanding concurrent and immediate attention. With limited resources, both financial and human, available it is indeed a monumental task but a challenge that needs to be met head on. Another five years of gerrymandering must spell doom. The buck stops right at the top. If solitary will needs to provide the remedy then so be it. This is why I have always supported presidential democracy over the parliamentary dispensation. Consensus must be sought to a point, when it fails there is right to action, with accountability of course.

Terror, fanaticism, extremism per se must be eliminated. Politics has to take a secondary role in this aspect. Fact, there is no such thing as a good terrorist. So those advising any political leader should consider this and the leader must know this. The fear of a political party hijacking this vote if action is taken rather than overtures is not necessarily correct. First, terrorists cannot be trusted and second they are not a vote bank. Electoral results are proof. Importantly they are no friends of Pakistan. They kill Pakistanis and attack Pakistani assets. They have tasted blood and know only terror as a form of governance. We, Pakistanis are witness to two decades of their relentless drive of subjugating and abusing human rights, first in governing Afghanistan after the Russians and then the recent past. Tragically the Pakistani terrorist takes a foreign terrorist leader as his Rehbar (leader).

What we need is a tacit rejection of terrorism. No political party should even touch the leper. They should have no home to rest in. Therefore, this desire of certain political forces of being first past the post to welcome the ‘good’ ones is filled with flaws. In any case, it is common knowledge that one is an ‘umbrella’ group and there are plenty of other ‘groups’ that may or may not operate entirely under the control of the umbrella. With the quality of intelligence available, who knows!

The Americans have historically been talking to the “wrong guy” despite having massive intelligence resources available. Why is the government so confident it will be talking to the ‘right’ guys? Especially when America’s myth of asking Pakistan to “do more” has blown up in everyone’s face after the Sikander saga in Islamabad. “More” of what, that? So, yes consensus to deal with terrorism is fine, to a point. But when terrorism loops out of control, as it is right now, especially with the ‘secondarys’ flaring in Karachi, where graveyards are full to the brim with more bodies arriving daily, it is time to flex muscles.

This dithering is the most significant cause for the paralysis that reigns. The people are impatiently demanding denied delivery. The results of the past week’s bye-elections provide tangible proof of their thinking. Despite the trumpeted victories, the loss of Imran Khan’s seats in Peshawar and Mianwali and Shahbaz Sharif’s seat in Lahore are no small matter. Papers moving at snail’s pace, pronouncements are irrelevant in the long run to the poor and needy. Prestigious projects are meaningless to them. Yes, some are nationally important but they must move side by side with the basics, not in exclusion. Nawaz Sharif got it right, when he told a committee in Balochistan, I heard it personally on TV, that two years means two years when completing projects. Not Pakistan’s history of endless unfinished projects. That must be finished too.

The FDI has suffered due to rampant extremism and has not been helped by court decisions that are not conducive to investment bonhomie. To give investors comfort legislation ten years ago provided sanctity to foreign investment from lower courts that had plagued it for years. The superior courts have not been excessively supportive either with some decisions, killing projects and development. Cases in point: Reko-Diq and Pakistan Steel. The courts need to decide where and where not to exercise “jurisdiction”.

The PM’s interest in Balochistan must inspire confidence. A Hong Kong-like status to Gwadar, if well conceived and put together is workable. Balochistan government’s equity stake in a mega 6,600 MW power plant is again very positive. But they need to ensure ground broken and implementation began. Nawaz’s visit to Sukkur to see for himself flood damage is encouraging to say the least and will go some way in allowing the people of Sindh to not feel isolated.

There is undoubtedly a panacea for all these ills, complex as they are. In simple words just get on with it. Don’t let Machiavellian political agendas either deter or drive the objective. God has been kind to Nawaz Sharif. The PM has had both a glorious and an inglorious innings but history will eventually judge him for what he delivers in this unprecedented third term. The resources at hand should not restrict him; he should seek the best knowledge. If it is not locally available go abroad. The lemmings can be parked gainfully but they should not hold monopoly on policy.

Governments are tied down to political ideology normally. Here there is a complete absence of that on the political scene. Therefore government should cash in on it. Begin grass root delivery and earn votes. Making absolutely certain that there is equitable distribution in all four provinces. It is very important for the PML-N government to remove the stigma of being Punjab-centric that it suffers from. Taking a lesson from High Noon, it is a lonely walk yes, but a brilliant one if you are faster to the holster than the others.

The writer can be contacted at: [email protected]