The grave misconception that Davos is only a rich man’s club is sheer nonsense. A unique once-a-year opportunity Davos brings together the world’s most prominent politicians, Heads of State and/or government, business and industrial leaders, policy makers, academics and scholars, scientists, philanthropists, social workers, media personalities, etc under one roof to discuss and shape global and regional agendas relating to economics, health, environment, media, security etc.
The overwhelming consensus among the world’s rich, powerful and/or knowledgeable is that the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting at Davos truly remains the most important economic and socio-political event in the world calendar. WEF’s mission to “improve the state of the world” means engaging top global leaders to collaborate in shaping the global, regional and industry agendas. Davos gets your narrative not only heard but understood. Going there is important, to make it happen you have to be heard in public sessions.
Xi Jinping became the first Chinese President to come to Davos, and that also with the largest delegation ever. Having less than quarter of Chinese net worth, India had been monopolizing and exploiting Davos for over two decades. Coming of age in the world economic order, its good to see the Chinese flexing their potential. With US President Trump in an isolationist mode, they will have many markets to themselves. Calling for more substantive inclusive development and cooperation in the face of US President Donald Trump’s protectionist threat, President Xi Jinping defended economic globalization at Davos. China’s most successful entrepreneur, Alibaba’s Jack Ma chided America for wasting billions on its military and very little on its domestic infrastructure.
WEF invited Gen (Retd) Raheel Sharif at short notice to participate in their Annual Meeting 2017. Other than the PAKISTAN BREAKFAST, PAKISTAN LUNCH and PAKISTAN DINNER, WEF gave him an unprecedented three important Sessions on the record and two off (not only Chatham House Rules but the names of participants not made public). He effectively countered the anti-Pakistan and anti-Pakistan Army propaganda in an emphatic manner, truly a game-changer for Pakistan’s beleaguered narrative.PM Nawaz Sharif individually held very important bi-lateral (and one believes productive) meetings with world and business leaders, very necessary considering our circumstances but public sessions are more useful.
Having earlier ignored my invitation to the PAKISTAN BREAKFAST, Ms Anusha Rahman Minister of State for IT then repeatedly requested us at the well-attended Abraaj dinner on Wednesday evening for the PM if she could come and speak. Having another engagement after 45 minutes she spoke at the very start. When subsequent the former COAS started to speak she abruptly got up and left much before the 45 minutes were over. The nearly 200 participants were taken aback by this rather churlish behavior. Worse she started propagating to the official Pakistan delegation in the Congress Centre that the PAKISTAN BREAKFAST was only meant to project the Pakistan Army and not the govt. While I make no apologies for praising the Army, as a govt minister why was she objecting to it? Both my son Zarrar Sehgal and daughter-in-law Kashmala (Masood Sharif’s daughter) remonstrated with her that this was blatantly wrong, that if she had stayed she would have seen that no self-respecting patriotic Pakistani would ever ever wash our dirty linen outside the country. All of us without exception, particularly Raheel Sharif, publicly proved the political dispensation for the Nawaz Sharif govt created for the military for “Operation Zarb-i-Azb” and Karachi, leading to the economic game-changer CPEC. The video-evidence available is good enough to refute Ms Rahman’s immaturity.
The deliberate anti-Pakistan Army agenda set by certain motivated elements within the PML (N) hierarchy is condemnable. Such malafide acts of individuals unfortunately only deepens the misunderstanding between the govt and the Army, this inadvertently creates bad blood for no reason whatsoever. The latest misinformation planted about Raheel Sharif’s laid down entitlement of agricultural land (being allotted by the Border Area Committee for decades) on retirement is part of the same dirty campaign by those who deliberately planted the fake “Cyril Almeida” story. Not punishing the culprits was a major mistake. Supporting and preserving democracy is commendable but allowing such people to plant fake stories will allow more Cyril Almeida-clones emerging to malign the Army. What “coincidence” that their venom for our soldiers coincides with the modi-led adverse Indian propaganda.
Comparing terrorism in the digital age to a deadly cancer, Raheel Sharif warned that terrorists today can act swiftly due to existence of digital platforms. “Recruitment can now be done very effectively using the social media, the financier, abettors, facilitator and sympathisers are all involved in this,” Projecting a positive image of Pakistan praising the civilian govt, Gen Raheel Sharif graphically symbolized the tremendous sacrifice rendered by the soldiers of the Pakistan Army. An unofficial straw poll showed that he was one of the five most sought after people in Davos.
Raheel Sharif said that synergy at the global community level is required combating terrorism by sharing real-time intelligence. Only a coordinated and joint approach involving sharing of experiences, resources and technology can wipe out this menace. Raheel Sharif emphasized that intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan must play a key role to address mistrust between the neighbours because their eventual fate is together. Movement across the porous borders pose challenges for both nations that must be tackled. Knowledge sharing was basic for crushing the danger of fear-mongering becoming a big obstacle.
Notwithstanding the persistent adverse propaganda against the Pakistan Army, the invitation extended by WEF to Pakistan’s former Army Chief is an acknowledgement of the success of our soldiers fighting terrorists. With limited resources and facing an invisible enemy having material support from adjacent regions, their sacrifices are something that other countries of the world now acknowledge.
Pakistani political and business leaders must seriously rethink the importance of participating in the WEF Annual Meetings. The global village has become increasingly inter-connected and fast-paced with technological breakthrough, demographic shifts and political transformations having far-reaching societal and economic consequences. With the world becoming so fluid and changeable, leaders will have to share real-time insights and innovations on how to best navigate the future and inter-act positively on a plethora of issues.
Oliver Cann, Head of Media Content at WEF, says that the Annual Meeting is not just a talking shop, “it is a working meeting for dozens of different communities from all regions of the world, all ages and all sections of society”. Future material and intellectual investment in Pakistan is only possible getting our country’s narrative publicly right in Davos.
(The writer is a defense and security analyst).