Don’t fight the whites | Shahzad Chaudhry


Whites here are the pages on which is printed a state of play in a game including politics, war, disposition of forces, morale, and economic impact of the war impinging on society, along with any other essential information relative to the stage of war.

This is to inform the participants, usually two independent sides gaming against each other, about the results of their actions, enemy response and its effects, and any other variable that the umpires, called the control, wish to interject. Depending on how vast the area of operation and its complexities are, there could be multiple interventions meant to test all aspects in a simulated war. In an actual war, the process remains the same.

The response time to the participants varies, sometime permitting only a couple of hours to reformulate a strategy and produce a course of action. Each response is then discussed threadbare between those presenting and the ‘control’ where the rationale of their action is put to test based on actual on-ground factors mapped in detail. The war may be a simulation but is built around real terrain, opposition, environment and climatic conditions. It is perhaps the closest one can get to a war without fighting one.

Since the first casualty of any war, along with the truth, are the plans – replaced instead with variables after variables – it needs an accompaniment of constant adjustment to the plans to attain the final objective. A commander thus must be ready for the unexpected. Those who remain fixed and are unable to respond to the variables lose. Those who possess a good mind and can perceive comprehensively, and are rational in their actions come out better.

Gaming is spread far and wide as a tool to test strategies – whether business, corporate or war. In military though it remains the kernel against which doctrines, notions, concepts and strategies are tested; that aspect of military science which prepares commanders for the dialectic of two opposing wills. In a time-constrained environment, before peers and a bevy of illustrious faculty who form the control, it is also a test of character. The presentations are adversarial and the ‘control’ will deliberately test the presenter on his rationale. People wilt at times or fumble and choose wrongly. If strong of character and clear about their purpose and the means to those, they will successfully stand the test of rationality.

Variations are not easy to handle. You first have to accept those as such because they interfere with prepared plans. Sometime the process can be as grievous as the Kubler Ross model. This is when the participants attack the whites. They question the suggested state of the game by the ‘control’. This is also when the darker side of a player’s character begins to make an appearance. Instead of playing the hand, one begins to fight the draw. This is when failure strikes. There is thus an edict in this decades-old practice of gaming in the militaries around the world, ‘Don’t fight the whites’. In doing so one would only be fighting the wrong war and surely end up on the losing side.

Transcend the world of militaries into politics, and Pakistani politics being played out in the courtrooms by the incumbent prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in response to multiple petitioners alleging misconduct in accumulating unaccountable and undeclared wealth by the PM and his family. These have multiplied a few hundred times by some reports during the period of his three premierships of the country. He seems to be in deep trouble explaining such stupendous progress. He has hired the best legal minds but lawyers can only be as good as the case itself. The courts should soon decide if there exists a certain leeway for them to bail the PM out, and it is better that we wait for the judgment but I have trouble with his strategy and approach. He is ‘fighting the whites’.

Were he to be nailed, he will have a lot to introspect. He has been poorly advised. There were many options in the political domain which he could have resorted to when first faced by the situation evolving out of the Panama Leaks. He could have admitted a possible wrong of the early 1990s when the economy was in a flux and the foreign exchange rules were being relaxed and some members of his family may have erred. The PM could have taken responsibility for those omissions. He could have then left the matters to parliament to decide either way to whose direction he would have submitted. Parliament and the people might have then found a way out for him, and his government.

If faced with an uncooperative parliament, if indeed that would have been the recourse, he could have easily opted for snap elections. Around his declaration of omission, seeking forgiveness of the people against an unforgiving opposition could have given him the necessary fillip and resurgence of support for an underdog that is quite special to how we as people react. Strange but true; we think with our hearts mostly. And I have never seen a loser among those who have decided to stick to the truth. Liars have a hard time changing narratives, a web that ultimately surrounds them in their misdeeds.

He missed this opportunity and ended up before the courts; now before a three-judge bench in whose hand lies his own fate and that of his progeny’s, hanging by a thread and unsure which way will the courts go. This could have been avoided. The court formed the JIT which took the entire family through a press, squeezing the misstatements out and sifting facts which belied the story as well as some of the evidence which has failed to stand the test of authenticity.

Cornered, the PM’s team – legal and political – have no option but to first demolish the JIT. Their next step was to attack the process that the JIT employed to unearth the evidence that belied the Sharif story. Some more evidence in support of the Sharifs is said to be in the works. If indeed all of it stands admitted, the facts might just become disputed enough in the case to ward off the threat of a declaratory decision. This will throw the case wide open once again before a trial court. It will be that desperate reprieve the Sharifs will be hoping for to get off the hook. If not, and there are equally strong reasons to so suggest, the court could go back to its original five-judge bench for final judgment. This is when the minority decision by the two who declared Nawaz Sharif disqualified begins to get counted again. Just one more judge against Sharif will mean curtains for his premiership.

Rather than salvage what can be, they only ‘fight the whites’. Maybe that is all they can fight against with what they have. But saving the day will make him and his children fight another day. It may also help salvage a fledgling democratic process in Pakistan. Otherwise, the Sharifs will have only themselves to blame.