in the context of national power, idiosyncratic notions like leadership, national character and morale are elements that can propel a nation. History has repeatedly recorded how the two have combined in prohibitive conditions for socio-economic revolutions. National leadership is not about making fiery speeches and hallow promises; least a game of scoring brownies in meaningless talk shows. It is a serious and delicate business of managing the destiny of a country through vision, selfless devotion, mental resilience and team building.
Abraham Lincoln was a self-educated person with no physical charisma. A novice in military strategy, he taught himself the subject during his presidency; he could guide his generals leading a technically inferior army. The American civil war is a splendid case study of 'leadership. To begin, Lincoln was actually a one man lonely team swarmed by experts, who wished to capitalise on his popularity. Towards the end, he had nurtured his own team to finish the job.
Charles De Gaulle, a loner, brilliant French military strategist was denied his day in preparations against the Germans. He fled France the day Paris fell and was sentenced to death for desertion. He was back in the middle of Normandy Landings. To begin, he just had two other men in the team and had to struggle through many years to deliver. He led and inspired France to become a great nation once again.
Japan and South Korea; two countries rose within a few decades to become global actors. Societal ethics and character aside, both were fortunate to have an occupational administrator like General Douglas McArthur. Like a true leader, McArthur went through reverses, defeats, victories, criticism and resurgence to fulfil a promise he made to his defeated soldiers in battle. He won the war both from military and economic perspectives.
Though much has been written on the Chinese Revolution, China actually turned the corner under Chairman Deng. His policies with a small team in due course transformed the country into an economic juggernaut.
Malaysia is another success story. Dr Mahathir Muhammad was able to infuse a new spirit and ironically exploit the same Chinese social capital that once fought an insurgency against the state.
Post Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistans leadership crises are perennial. Fate denied Jinnah the time to forge an efficient team for nation building. He himself referred to his team as khota sikkas (worthless coins). His August 11th Speech to the Constituent Assembly was completely blacked out by vested interests. Muslim Leaguers, who inherited his party, were never diehard and ideological members. The merry-go-round alternating between military dictatorships, civil rule and sometimes joint suzerainty over Pakistan (we do ours, you do yours) with bureaucratic oversight did not work. Within 24 years, Pakistan was reduced by half. What remains has remained in turmoil, insurgencies and militancies. This Achilles heel is like an octopus tentacles that never allowed Jinnahs Pakistan to grow.
Bhutto could have turned it round. He was young, educated, charismatic and a visionary rebel. Lamentably, he was a product of the system. Despite his vision and charisma, his nationalisations, isolation of the sub nationalities and political victimisations became his stumbling blocks. Justice, sincerity and good governance were never the forte of the first or any of the later PPP dispensations. The lesson learnt was that a true vision if adulterated is no vision.
Nawaz Sharif was a handpicked blue-eyed. He could never grow out of the biases induced in him. Being a successful industrialist, people expected him to deliver with singleminded devotion to development. He chose foraying into systemic changes and played into the hands of elites and power politics. Nothing has prevented his party from showing Punjab as a model of development and good governance. Yet, unlike his previous tenure, Shahbaz Sharif has been constrained and tentative in his imposing demeanour.
The present dispensation is a domestic cum international political compromise based on a shady agreement never made public. Having ceded initiative on major policy issues, there is nothing worthy of the credentials to describe it.
So, who can steer Pakistan out of the crises towards a strong, self-reliant, economically prosperous and a proud Pakistan?
First, all successful leaders have been men of intense concentration. They have spent years in the wilderness before their time came. They commanded charisma, demanded attention and earned respect. They were adorable, imbued with sincerity, integrity, selfless devotion and a doer attitude. This leader unlike the past has to be a new one; unconventional, with proven personal character traits, ability to resist praise, down to earth, visionary and nurtured in the wild, rather than the establishment.
Secondly, the leader must internalise the Lahore Resolution and Jinnahs speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, as flawlessly as Jinnah did. He has to be acceptable to the entire range of diversity inside Pakistan. Such a leader must possess the twin attributes of knowledge and wisdom, proud that he has learnt so much, humble that he knows no more.
Thirdly, this leader must seize the moment to inspire his people.
For long, I have been an advocate of a new social contract. I take the liberty to indicate such a leader from within us.
For a long time, he remained an in-out member of his team. He used the time of his exclusions to concentrate and meditate. He was never considered leadership material and was handed the captaincy when no other alternative existed. He rallied an army of aging men, unproven youngsters and fearless boys into a world winning combination. His leadership skills still dominate the captaincy debates the world over.
He visualised a hospital and accomplished much more. He visualised a university and it became the best education environment in Pakistan. He went into the floods and returned with a bumper wheat crop. Despite no parliamentary strength, he is dominating air time and headlines the world over. Four successive international surveys have declared him the choicest for Pakistan. He has remained the establishments wonder boy for over 15 years, but has resisted the devils temptation.
Even his personal foibles have not deterred his resolve. He knows he is vulnerable on his off stump, but has taken his guard determinedly against some very hostile bowling. Like ever, his team is a blend of experience, youth and vigour. He knows that he is the indomitable kaptaan with traits to steer the country out of troubled waters.
Is Imran Khan the Godot we have been waiting for?
n The writer is a retired brigadier and a political economist.