Pakistan’s leadership crisis

That Pakistan has failed to strengthen institutions to produce good leadership is obvious. Robert I. Rotberg in his book “Transformative Political Leadership” states, “Accomplished political leaders have a clear strategy for turning political visions into reality. Through well-honed analytical, political, and emotional intelligence, leaders chart paths to promising futures that include economic growth, material prosperity, and human well-being. Alas, such leaders are rare in the developing world, where often institutions are weak and greed and corruption strong…” Pakistan lays claim to be a democracy. Based on a multi-party system, political parties in Pakistan are in most cases reliant on individuals who become the face of the party. The face becomes dynastic rule. Robert McFarlane, advisor to Reagan described Pakistan as a democracy “a feudal cabal.” (Page 304, Magnificent Delusions: Husain Haqqani) This phenomenon can be said to be common in India as well.
Democracy is not about holding elections. Simply because both are not synonymous to each other as mistakenly perceived. Democracy is about a series of steps, of which elections is only one step in the series. Holding in-house party elections is one. There has to be a year (s) count beyond which a candidate at a party position may not be allowed to contest to the seat. This will lead to better in-house accountability. The party, of course, wanting to stay in power, will then groom leaders, not followers. The individual must not strengthen himself at the expense of the institution. The question then arises, how does one define leadership? According to Forbes (4/09/2013) “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”
NOTA (None of the Above Available) is another step. It is in line with democratic norms, giving the right to the common man to determine whether or not he should vote for any of the options on the ballot paper or reject all options available for political parties to put up alternate candidates. This has been incorporated in the ballot paper by India, unfortunately ECP did announce including NOTA pre 2013 elections to retract the decision-pre 2013 elections! J. Venkatesan in his article states, “In the existing electoral system, a dissatisfied voter does not turn up for voting and this provides an opportunity for unscrupulous elements to impersonate him/her. But if the option of ‘none of the above’ candidates is provided, even reluctant voters could turn up at the booth and press the NOTA button in the electronic voting machine, the Supreme Court said.” (The Hindu September 28, 2013)
What indeed is democracy the reader may ask? Though there is no universally accepted definition of democracy, two principles are broadly accepted as the basic ingredient to any democracy, these being: equality and freedom. These principles mean that all citizens of a nation are equal before the law, without any exceptions and have equal access to power. It also means that the legal rights and liberties of the citizens of a nation are protected by a constitution. This explanation raises many questions: Do our political parties within their cadre, allow its workers equal access to power? Can a worker within a party structure have the opportunity to rise to the status of the Chairperson of that party, in due course of time? Lady Warsi’s appointment as Conservative Party Chairperson and a full cabinet minister reflects on the progress the UK has made in terms of maturity in their political sphere. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we remain stuck in the groove of dynastic dynamics and have not progressed from this point in over 63 years of our history.
The second part of the definition deals with the right of citizens that is protected by the Constitution. These rights are determined from Articles 8 to Article 28 in the Constitution and deal with various rights of the citizen of Pakistan, for example, Article 25 professes that all citizens are equal before law and have a right to equal protection of law, so on and so forth. However, words on a piece of paper without implementation loses any standing.
Ideally speaking, democracies must be based on broader participation of the masses. It implies a system that ensures rights to its citizens. These may include civic rights, social, economic, political, educational rights to name a few. If we apply the general principle to Pakistan, we see, in all fairness that democracy has failed to take off in Pakistan. There are many reasons; weak party structures strengthening individuals, not the institution itself, lack of accountability, both internally (within parties) and externally(nationally) of individuals who are generally considered above the law, giving space to certain parties and groups based on sect, religion, ethnicity to operate….the list is long. Many want us to believe that the present state of affairs is a temporary ‘phase’ a transition to a ‘better ’democracy per se. They are of the view that if allowed to continue the chaff will eventually separate itself from the wheat. I respectfully disagree. What this has produced in more inefficiency, more chaos, more mediocre floating up and more lack of accountability; simply more of the same. It is this lack of accountability, failure of betterment for the common man as a result of elections that has led to disenchantment within the people towards the process. Despair that for them; nothing will change; an exact opposite reaction of what democracy should achieve!
Behjat Gilani, a veteran and extremely senior broadcaster and host of her daily programme on Voice of America, in an exchange of views on Twitter last week, made a beautiful distinction between politicians and leaders, “The day when politicians become leaders then there would be change. Leaders would try to lead with a direction instead of politicizing the situation.” Analyzing these words presented made perfect sense. A politician need not necessarily have the vision of a leader to give cogent direction to a nation. A leader in the purest sense may not be a politician at heart and vice versa.
In Pakistan success of democracy is also tied in to the acknowledgement and development of diversion of her sub-cultures within and their richness. To appreciate and understand, to develop and to gel these cultures by virtue of the magic ingredient; ‘solidarity.’ Solidarity can be developed by leaders having a vision. Leaders are sometimes born but usually groomed by strong political institutions. If we look at the western democracies, we see many such examples. To our tragedy, this institution is weak in Pakistan.
Policy decisions must be taken by leaders to address specific issues. President Obasanjo of Nigeria made a very bold policy decision when he decided to retire 149 political-senior military and police officers. The purpose here was to clean the act. To remove those who had been instrumental in playing a strongly negative role in the regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha. Pakistan too, needs many policy decisions on many levels. Waiting any more is an ill afforded luxury. These decisions should have been taken yesterday!
Pakistan can no longer afford to lose time in dillydallying while the party goes on. The economy is in doldrums, the extremists have unleashed havoc in the country; two recent high profile cases; one is the 15 year old Aitzaz Hasan who sacrificed his life at tackling a suicide bomber, saving his school in Hangu and hundreds of schoolmates within. The other case coming at the heels of Aitzaz Hasan’s shahadat, is that of SP CID Chaudhry Aslam. Recent killings in Mastung is a case in point and one more in line with innumerable such cases.
As Pakistan awaits deliverance, the glaring question is: whither the leadership?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.

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