Political Musings

Spearhead Opinion – 14.11.2017

Pakistanis like many other people facing challenges tend to wait for a crusading leader to come and lead them to stability and prosperity. This dream lingers in spite of many past disappointments that dashed their hopes to the ground. In fact, such a transformational event rarely works out—unless it is something out of a transformer’s movie.

The problem starts when a leader is built up as some kind of a super strongman blessed with all the virtues and talents for leadership. This inevitably leads to the ‘man on a pedestal’ syndrome as the leader proceeds to consolidate and centralize power by forming an inner circle based on professed and demonstrated loyalties that in turn proceeds to insulate him and keep him happily in cuckoo land while they reap the benefits. Merit is ignored in forming teams for governance and in extreme cases the leader eventually brings in his family members to ensure continuity of the good times. There have been, and still are. many examples of such situations all over the world.

People yearn for democracy—the kind of democracy that will empower them, protect them and encourage liberal values. Every time a dictator has been ousted this is what people have wanted but have never got because elections do not necessarily produce leaders—only people who are voted into leadership positions. True leaders with great ideas seldom win power on the basis of their ideas and intentions.

Two points are significant. A leader is the product of the system through which he has progressed and therefore he has and will exhibit all the characteristics of that system. Once in power he will proceed to shape the country according to his experiences and to ensure his survival. The country then takes on his characteristics. The process or system that produces the leader gets reflected in the leader so if the process is flawed then even good leaders falter but if a leader fails to change or fix the process then he has truly failed. Change has to come from the lower levels to the upper levels if the system is to be corrected for the future. This is what good leadership is expected to do.

We have the example of Imran Khan—a new political leader who has been eminently successful in leadership positions and is now vying for national leadership. His heart is in the right place. He is saying the right things and his good intentions are not in doubt. People want to believe him and in him. But the system is slowly taking over. It is said that he is getting tarred by the ‘establishment’ brush like the other leaders. He is taking on board politicians with varied past experiences and affiliations. Will they shape him or will he turn them into a team that can fix the system and reshape the country? Right now he is saying and doing exactly what his competitors are saying and doing and that is a pity and a disappointment. He has to end the corruption mantra because the highest court in the land is handling that issue. He should get off the criticism and mud-slinging band wagon because that does not become him. He should talk of his plans and ideas for the country, its economy, its foreign relations, about human security, about education, about the health system, and above all, reforms that will change lives and empower people. He must break free of the political strait jacket into which he is being slowly pushed and tower above others on the basis of what his government has delivered in KPK. He has to talk of tolerance and harmony and steer clear of bigotry, intolerance and radical thinking because that is what is expected of him. Will he do all this?