Last night saw the launch of Shaukat Aziz’s book From Banking To The Thorny World Of Politics at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. It was an illustrious occasion as people from all walks of life came to pay the author the tribute he deserves. Here is my short address to celebrate the occasion. 

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I’m delighted we are here to mark the publication of a book of memoirs about a man who has distinguished himself in two particular areas where responsibility and a quick mind were indispensable to maintain a clear perspective and an unusual courage of conviction.

Such a man is Shaukat Aziz, the author of From Banking to the Thorny World of Politics, who has proved to be ideally suited to engage in two fields that could be described as remotely different yet intrinsically intertwined. One dealt with the means to help provide companies and individuals with the required finances, and the other to use his acumen politically to guide his nation to economic stability and introduce reforms destined to improve its standing and prestige in world forums.

Shaukat rose admirably to both challenges and emerged with a level of success where others have failed. He left a 30-year career as a senior city bank executive to join a military regime in Pakistan, following a coup in 1999. Two years later 9/11 made Pakistan a vital strategic ally in the War on Terror.

His book is an insider’s account of what it was like to hold office in a nuclear power in one of the most challenging and perilous parts of the world. First as finance minister, then prime minister: Two appointments that demanded political skills and a steely determination not to waver in face of disparaging resistance and discord. Aziz steered a major economic turnaround and negotiated Pakistan’s aid package with the United States.

In his tenure in the political arena he survived a suicide bombing by Al Qaeda, which made him more determined than ever to fight against global terrorism. His life could be annotated as a mosaic of adventures that gave him a sharp insight into a troubled world full of contradictions.

For historians, as well as politicians, his memoirs are a must read, especially today when a wave of instability and strife are causing a fearful escalation of more discontent and disorder in almost every fabric of our society. To ignore the signs would be a global disaster waiting to happen.

As lengthy introductions are notoriously unwelcome in gatherings of this nature, I will end this brief address by urging everyone here to arm themselves with a copy of Shaukat’s book and to tell their friends to do the same. 

In the meantime, I would like to pay tribute to Anna Mikhailova, the co-author of this remarkable book, who throughout the process of working with the publisher displayed a flair and professionalism of the highest degree. She is undeniably a talent to watch.

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