Pakistan, my (our) beloved country is older than me. It is only with great reluctance that I placed ‘our’ within brackets in the opening line, the hesitation in using “our” emerges out of the desire to feel and say that I ‘alone’ own the country.
It is so seductively attractive to make this claim. As a single owner (leader), I would have the privilege to do what pleases me — be it violation of traffic light signals or the sacred constitution; the perk of not having to wait in long queues for any service and for the submission I would get from the masses, who would most willingly (‘troublemakers’ are few always, who can be ignored’) wait for my royal cavalcade to pass through the most busiest streets in any city of the country without having to encounter traffic jams.
The few ambulances who won’t be able to meander through resultant clogged traffic will render the occupant to his/her ultimate end, without having to cause any inconvenience to the doctors in the emergency room — they merely would sign ‘dead upon arrival’. This is done with ease. Not much effort required. The life so extinguished will not be any source of guilt to me, for it is the ambulance driver who will and must take the blame for not having the ability to do daredevil driving (this is despite what appears to be true, that most ambulance drivers are trained to drive, firstly, in the well of death).
Titling this piece was kind of difficult; was difficult to make up my mind on whether we have a leadership crisis or there is crisis in leadership. The latter may be more apt and true. I settled however for what it is now captioned, because since my childhood, I have read so many articles titled in the very same manner. I am, by nature a traditionalist.
After our founder M A Jinnah, his able deputy Sahabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and a few more, that can be counted on fingertips, there has been a serious lack of leadership. A visit to the past is imperative for understanding the present.
With all the prejudices and biases that I have been fed with by the massive arsenal of the weapons of mass propaganda, the only leaders (political , including lateral entrants from within other state institutions) that seem to have passionately served the cause of Pakistan are President Ayub Khan, Prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (tarnished by his handling and active participation in the East Pakistan crisis), President General Pervez Musharraf (sucked into dirty democratic politics of authoritarian politicians and a wily banker) and prime minister Imran Khan who is currently in political wilderness.
One common thread between them is that they indulged in no personal financial corruption, for them it was always Pakistan first, their nemesis lies in their inability to control, suppress and eliminate corruption, in all its formats and manifestations. Together, they meant well for Pakistan. They were gullible to surround themselves with opportunists, essentially court jesters.
Leaders are born or are made has been the subject of enquiry by management gurus and scientists, with no conclusive conviction. Consequently, there has been hair splitting of the concept of leadership, to the extent now we have ‘transactional, transformational, situational, spiritual, moral, quiet and to beat it all, authentic’ types and versions of leadership.
No man is born to office, nor should any man be allowed to buy office. By the age long virtuous standard of equal opportunity must any person hold political office, that reflects his/her gifted or acquired qualities that distinguish them from the rest. Pericles had said, ‘when a citizen is in anyway distinguished, he is prepared to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as a reward of merit. Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever maybe the obscurity of his condition’. Our politicians of all hues and shades have heirs apparent — could be ‘prince’ or ‘princess’ of Wales. Even the Maulanas have ensured succession from within the family. Democracy of this nature surely is the best revenge.
Blessed by nature, to have been in leadership positions in the corporate world, I have come to realise that while the buck stops at one’s desk, leadership is not about one single individual it is all about the ability to surround oneself by honest, talented and competent people. For the public eye, and for the purpose of responsibility and accountability there is a single leader, but he or she has a battery of followers (leaders in their respective fields), who eventually go to create distributed and participative leadership.
Again, learning from the corporate sector (leadership here is not much different from political leadership), a leader needs to have foremost a vision, followed by two things, knowing how to head towards objectives and thence possessing the ability to spot talent that will help deliver the results in the short term and ensure realisation in the long term of the vision. Devoid of these qualities, no person can claim to be a leader.
How does one become a leader? A person entitles himself to the position if he or she has followers. It is by deduction necessary for leaders to have followers. How does one become a follower? Followership is the consequence of accepting, supporting and/or admiring a particular person for a set of values, or idea (ideology). A political disciple who demonstrates adherence to an ideology without leadership is an inconceivable thought. Leaders, hence, are required to check every now and then if they are still being followed. Imran Khan has done this multiple times in the last three months. He did it with resounding success. Followers give the stamp of approval to leadership.
Leaders cannot afford to live in palaces or be in ivory towers when followers are sleeping on streets and footpaths. Those leaders who are a contemptible lot will not be moved to see poverty while they relax in luxury and wealth. Unbeknownst to themselves (none of them reads history, I claim) they are subscribers to Napoleon Bonaparte’s proclaim, “Power is my mistress”. Most leaders, be it politics or business, have a strong tinge of the parvenu about themselves, and hence act as royalty to mask the inner condition of their being.
Plato had said, “Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich”. If we replace the word city with country we prove Plato’s words to their truest context as a nation.
In societies where there is use of deceit and deception as a tool for politicians to hoodwink the populace; who should be blamed? Leaders or followers? Negligent submission to a person or thought is the most heinous crime against society. We are a nation of more than 220 million people, and each of them is both a leader and follower. In this quagmire of thinking lies our problems. If there is deficient political leadership, it is the followers who must take the blame on themselves squarely. In the past three decades the people of this hapless nation have come to accept corruption (all facets) as a way of life. The “fruits of corruption” are also like all other legal benefits distributed and shared most unequally; even poverty is therefore not distributed equally.
Most people (followers), however are honest, sincere and pure. They are a hardworking lot. It is the lack of education that has made them dumb and muted. The growing illiteracy (let’s be clear that college or university degree alone does not bestow any to be recognised as a literate being), which is represented by the continued prevalence of feudal mindset, reinforced by heightened intolerance, prevents creation of middle class, from where leaders are expected to emerge. The middle class by weapons of inflation and a ruined economy have been silenced. They had limited voice; now their vocal cords have been enucleated. Authority is not gained from the barrel of the gun but by existence of knowledge. This fact dawns much later in life, be it an individual, society or country.
Pakistan is in the swamp of economic mess for the last 15 to 20 years. Leaders help the economy or they wreck it. Ours have been doing the latter. We are witnessing both political and economic instability. Leaders do not have to be good economists, just as they are not expected to know the intricacies of nuclear technology; however, if possessed of some grounding in finance and economics, it is certainly helpful in the formulation and execution of an economic vision. Mao Zedong was the visionary; the principal architect for execution was Zhou Enlai; he never did or attempted to cross paths with the great helmsman. A case of excellent partnership between “thinker” and “doer”. Mao was the leader; Zhou, a politician and prime minister of world standing, was his follower.
Economic stability cannot be achieved without political stability. China, which is a world economic power today, had stable political conditions with continued leadership coupled with competent followers on an uninterrupted basis between its independence in 1949 to 1976, when both Mao and Zhou passed away; a good 27 years of continued leadership. Our neighbour was fortunate to have the socialist-oriented Jawaharlal Nehru rule India, again uninterruptedly for 17 long years. He gave his country an economic direction and provided for political stability. Politics and economics are intertwined; any variations in its stable status causes great havoc. We are living through this twin havoc for the last 75 years.
Achievement and glory must belong to the people (followers not leaders). Pakistan has produced and continues to produce people with excellence and distinctions in a variety of fields. Leaders must find them and entrust them with responsibility. A leader is good, only when he knows when to take a back seat and when to take the lead. The pretensions or attitude of being “know all” is the nail that will drive itself as being the last on the casket. Politicians usually learn of this once inside the teakwood.
Political inheritance is possibly the most vulgar inheritance in the present day and age. There is no blue blood in the world of democratic politics. Dynastic approach to democracy is the major malaise of this political environment. Here, competence is compromised and buried; and a galore of incompetence is thrown up for all to witness. The setup is akin to ‘spaghetti’ with 13 different toppings; each more sour and bitter than the other!
Our country has no crisis of leadership. We only have crisis in leadership.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022