Leaders Build or Ruin the Country
What our leaders are capable of doing? This question comes to every sane person’s mind when thinking of our history as a nation. Even if one tries to take a positive view of our trajectory from 1947 to this day, some certain unwelcome realities trigger a feeling of despair that, more than often, shakes one’s faith in patriotism and sincerity of the leaders who had the opportunity to rule this country. Our people have faced poverty, misery and powerlessness in the past seventy-two years but never lost hope; never shirked from any sacrifice for the good of the country. They have always risen to the occasion with a renewed faith and vigour. Has our leadership ever matched the nation’s spirit and vitality is the question that solicits an answer from the conscious sons and daughters of this soil.
Countries are set to the path of development, prosperity and stability by leaders. The system of governance is important but certainly not more than the commitment, honesty and sincerity of leaders that account for the successful odyssey of a society from poverty to prosperity, from powerlessness to empowerment, from social injustice to justice, from darkness to dawn, from corruption to transparency, from inhumanity to fraternity. In a society, good or bad governance, peace or chaos, progression or regression, democracy or oligarchy, rule of law or law of jungle, justice or injustice all are dependent on the leadership that takes hold of state affairs. This is where our fortunes have been in a continued declining curve.
Pakistani leadership does not tire of bragging talk of democracy but their belief in vote count is bound by their victory. We lost the bigger part of the country by disregarding the mandate of Bengalis and we plunged the country into a long dictatorship disputing the outcome of the elections of 1977. The post-Zia leadership colluded with the civilian Presidents to outwit each other. The hunger for untrammelled power was stretched to tame high offices of President, Army Chiefs and Chief Justice culminating in their dethronement and self-exile under a deal. When out of power, their sense of political fraternity becomes more pronounced. The signing of the well touted ‘Charter of Democracy’ is the miracle emerging from garrets of such esprit de corps.
When the courts in Switzerland and London were about to deliver adverse verdicts, they had another deal with sitting rulers resulting in the infamous NRO that washed the misdeeds of all and sundry. The general elections of February 2008 brought the Pakistan People’s Party in power under Asif Ali Zardari for the fourth time. The initial bonhomie shown by the main political leaders was highly reassuring. But this euphoric relief did not last long with our leaders lapsing in their previous hostile mode and lunging for each other’s throat. Nevertheless, they deserve commendation for restoring the 1973 Constitution in its parliamentary form and addressing the thorny question of provincial autonomy through the 18th Amendment.
For the first time after 1977, a civilian government completed its term of 5 years and handed power to winners of the 2013 elections. This was a good omen for the fledgling democracy after years of dictatorship despite the endemic corruption and abuse of power both in federal and provincial governments. However, the appointments of the interim Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, members of the Election Commission and Chairmen of the National Accountability Bureau through mutual consultation by the leader of the House and the opposition leader under the 18th Amendment left much to be desired.
The conditions that immediately preceded the elections of 2018 were decked against the Muslim League because of the embroilment of its leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif and his sons in the Panama scandal. The Pakistan People’s Party failed to retrieve its electoral fortunes in the provinces of KP, Punjab and Balochistan after a thorough rout in the elections of 2013. The results were written on the wall. Against all expectations, the Muslim League contested well denying the PTI a comfortable majority in Punjab. Frankly, even the diehard supporters of the party could not expect so large a turnout of their voters. The loss of power in Punjab came as a heavy fall for the Sharifs.
The accountability both in the House and by the law of the land is a sine qua non for democracy. The process of accountability triggered by the Panama scandal has relentlessly pursued the Sharifs. To protest over a legal injustice is understandable but the opposition’s en masse rejection of the process of accountability defies any sensible explanation. Leaders are duty bound to set personal examples of submission to accountability showing faith in rule of law and equality before law. The discriminatory application of law to privileged elite and underprivileged citizens is not acceptable to any civilized society.
They have all the legal avenues to fight their cases. They appear hell bent on upsetting the applecart of democracy bringing in irrelevant questions from the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the introduction of the Presidential system, declining value of the Pakistan currency and rising cost of living in the country. How comfortably they have forgotten their role in pushing the country into this economic quagmire by resorting to heavy loans to meet their extravagant expenditures and budget deficits. Throughout their tenures, the foreign debt was piling up with the Pak currency losing value from Rs.60 to dollar in 2008 to Rs.124 to dollar in July 2018.
Their noise reminds me of the Pakistan National Alliance’s leaders who launched agitational protests against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto accusing him of rigging the elections in 1977, and landed in the dictator’s prison for long years. The opposition is following the PNA by addressing Imran Khan as ‘selected’ Prime Minister. Their real intent is to have a deal for winding up the process of accountability against the senior leaders from both the Sharif and Zardari dynasties. Have the opposition or the PTI regime been mandated for such bargain by the electorate? A big ‘No’ is the only answer.
The bureaucratic and military leaders ruled the country for over 25 years and equally disappointed the nation. The sick Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly and the government of Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimudding. Iskander Mirza managed to rise from Defence Secretary to the powerful Presidency through palace intrigues. General Ayub Khan, though Commander-in-Chief, was appointed as the Defence Minister. In the short years from the dismissal of Khwaja Nazimudding to the imposition of Martial Law by General Ayub Khan in October 1958, five Prime Ministers were in and out of power in quick succession. The political conditions in the provinces were more chaotic than in the centre.
General Ayub Khan’s regime is credited with political stability, economic development and successful foreign policy. Without going into details, it is sufficient to say General Ayub Khan meticulously planned his rise to the apogee of political power in connivance with President Iskander Mirza finally upsetting the applecart and ousting his benefactor. He abrogated the parliamentary Constitution of 1956 passed by the Constituent Assembly substituting it with his own adopted in a referendum with a Presidential form of governance.
He ruled the country with absolute power with the help of a technocrat cabinet, a disciplined and powerful bureaucracy and 80,000 pliable basic democrats who also formed the electoral college for the election of the president. He brought in the ‘Parity System’ between the two wings for distribution of political and administrative positions and divisible economic and financial resources sowing the seed of Bengali nationalism that ultimately culminated in the secession of the eastern wing.
His regime’s economic growth averaged between 6-7% mainly because of the generous foreign economic and military aid from the USA-led Western world for our participation in the anti-communist alliances. His economic policies, steered by Harvard trained economists, resulted in the concentration of the national wealth into 22 industrialists with no expected ‘trickle down’ leaving the masses as poor and powerless as ever. The mass agitation against the growing economic marginalization of the people began rocking his boat from 1967 and forced him to abdicate power in March 1969.
His anti-communist alliances fell apart after the 1965 war with India when the US clamped arms embargo on both the countries. The Western world refused to mediate between Pakistan and India leaving the field open for the Soviet leaders who coerced him to accept the Tashkent Treaty which had no reference to the Kashmir dispute. Though our bilateral relations with the US had all diplomatic trappings, we failed to have the backing of the American leadership for any breakthrough in the Kashmir dispute.
General Yahya Khan conceded to the main demands of the opposition alliance which included the dissolution of the One-Unit; the adoption of the parliamentary form of government; the holding of elections on the adult franchise basis and the recognition of Balochistan as a province. He failed to handle the post- election situation adroitly in the 1971and lost the bigger wing of the country.
General Zia ul Haq pounced on the apple pie in July 1977 when the politicians were squabbling. He promised to hold elections within 90 days and go back to soldiering but ruled the country with an iron fist for 11 years until his death in August 1988. He arrested Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, tried him on trumped-up murder charges and executed him antagonizing Sindhis. He arrested political activists and confined them to dreary dungeons; plunged the country into the Afghanistan war accepting Islamists from all over the Muslim world to train them in the use of modern arms and launch them into the Afghanistan war; countenanced drug production and smuggling of lethal arms into the country. What he left behind were millions of drug addicts, trained militants, Kalashnikov culture, a weaponized society, religious bigotry and sectarian polarization, a corrupt and de-politicized social milieu. He was sustained in power so long by Western and Arab political and economic support. The billions of dollars received in economic aid, however, did not trickle down to ameliorate the lot of the masses.
General Pervez Musharraf was forced to intervene as a result of the shenanigans of Mian Nawaz Sharif who had developed a delusional sense of invincibility after having outdone President Farooq Leghari, Chief Justice Late Sajjad Ali Shah and General Jehangir Karamat. He stumbled while trying to outmanoeuvre his new Army Chief, General Musharraf. The General created euphoria by his seven-point agenda in his first address to the nation. He became the hero of the Western world overnight in the wake of the US decision to attack Kabul seeking revenge for the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, acceding to all the US demands in October 2001.
The ungovernability of Pakistan combined with the bad advice of his Western friends to give a civilian façade to his military regime, General Musharraf was compelled to fall back on the putrefied politicians adopting a King’s party. He got himself elected as President through a referendum. After holding general elections, he managed to coerce sufficient numbers to have his protégé Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali elected as the Prime Minister. He was replaced by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain for an interim 45 days to pave the way for another protégé, Shaukat Aziz to become the Prime Minister. The rest is history. He is now remembered for his quarrel with the judiciary, the dubious NRO and his exit from power.
All the bureaucratic and military rulers left the country economically battered, politically chaotic and socially fragmented. However, they have been successfully outpaced by the new and existing lot of the political leaders in disappointing this poor nation that continues to look hopelessly for a Mahathir Muhammad or Kemal Ataturk.
Top 10 Qualities that Make Good Leaders
- Honesty and Integrity
The 34th US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible….” Honesty and integrity are two important ingredients which make a good leader. Leaders succeed when they stick to their values and core beliefs and without ethics, this will not be possible.
To be an effective leader, you should be confident enough to ensure that other follow your commands. If you are unsure about your own decisions and qualities, then your subordinates will never follow you. As a leader, you have to be oozing with confidence, show some swagger and assertiveness to gain the respect of your subordinates.
- Inspire Others
The most difficult job for a leader is to persuade others to follow. It is possible only if you inspire them by setting a good example. As John Quincy Adams puts it, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” If you inspire your subordinates, you can tackle every challenge easily.
- Commitment and Passion
Your subordinates look up to you and you have to be passionate about them. When they see you getting your hands dirty, they will also give their best shot. It will also help you to gain respect from, and infuse new energy in, them. If they feel that you lack passion, they will not stay motivated to achieve the goal.
- Good Communicator
Until you clearly communicate to your subordinates your vision as well as the strategy to achieve the goal, you would not get the desired results. Simply put, if you are unable to communicate your message effectively to your team, you can never be a good leader. Words have the power to motivate people and make them do the unthinkable. Use them effectively.
- Decision-Making Capabilities
Apart from having a futuristic vision, a leader should have the ability to take the right decision at the right time. Decisions taken by leaders have a profound impact on masses. A leader should think long and hard before taking a decision but once the decision is taken, stand by it.
When it comes to accountability, you need to follow the approach highlighted by Arnold H. Glasow who says, “A good leader takes little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit.” When your subordinates do well, do encourage them but if they struggle, make them realize their mistakes and work together to improve.
- Delegation and Empowerment
Focus on key responsibilities while empowering your followers and delegating tasks to them. If you continue to micromanage, it will develop a lack of trust and will also leave you with no space to focus on important matters, as you should be. Delegate tasks to your subordinates and see how they perform. Provide them with all the resources and support they need to achieve the objective.
- Creativity and Innovation
What separates a leader from a follower? Steve Jobs, the greatest visionary of our time answers this question this way, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” In order to get ahead in today’s fast-paced world, a leader must be creative and innovative, at the same time. Creative thinking and constant innovation is what makes you and your team stand out from the crowd.
Last but not least is empathy. Leaders should develop empathy with their followers. Unfortunately, most leaders follow a dictatorial style and neglect empathy altogether. Understanding the problems of your followers and feeling their pain is the first step to becoming an effective leader. Even that is not enough until you work hard and provide your followers with the suitable solution to their problems.