Pakistan is far from being a failed State, it simply is in a state where its leaders have made it a habit of making their fortunes at the expense of an unfortunate people. Addressing the National Seerat Conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, the Chief Executive (CE) lamented that no one now wanted to be truthful, honest and follow moral principles, “there is a difference in our words and deeds. There is corruption and “sifarish” (recommendation) reigned supreme and there was no merit. The poor are being subject to tyranny”, unquote. More than halfway into the Supreme Court (SC) allotted time period (36 months) for military rule, was he serious that “sifarish” has been stopped and only people with merit are being promoted or did he mean it the other way around? However, it was very perceptive of Pervez Mosharraf to mention all this, he is a person who, according to those who know him, is incapable of speaking a deliberate set-piece lie. The problem is not the CE’s credibility, what he preaches or what he practices, the problem lies in our leaders practicing fully what they preach, applying the same moral and ethical standards not only to friend and foe alike, not selectively but equally, first to oneself and then to one’s colleagues and associates. LeaderS cannot live in a cocoon, facts do not matter, what matters is what the public perceives to be a fact. And where is the public perception taken from? The actions of leaders can never be shoved under the rug, public cynosure is a constant, demanding process that dissects not only leaders but focuses on their brothers, cousins, in-laws, out-laws etc. And when you have a society so corrupted as in Pakistan, then the tools for demolishing someone’s public image are always readily available to those who have made it a profession to ingratiate themselves with leaders of regime after regime, badmouthing each of them in turn as their sun sets, as it always does and will always do. As a matter of routine, we only worship the rising sun.
Rich with human and material resources, Pakistan is extremely poor in the quality of its leadership through the whole spectrum of governance. We do not have poor people but unfortunate people driven to poverty and misery thereof because of poor leadership. The CE is right when he speaks of irresponsible leaders who create a myth of their credibility in developed nations at the expense of this country. Leadership from the lowest rung of the ladder raised to that of the national level have many traits in common, it assumes the dimension of responsibility, of sacrifice, above all of example and sincere intent. The agenda a leaders preaches is for all the people including himself, his relation and his associates. This puts his own persona subservient to the needs of the people, not the other way around, i.e. of promoting self at the expense of the people. The element of sacrifice includes simplicity, to shun the luxury trappings and comfort of office that even today’s royalty in developed countries cannot afford. The mandate of governance is a trust endowed by Providence for the sake of the people, how many of our leaders have been faithful to that trust? As much as one likes the fact of the CE in simple uniform and combat boots rather than expensive suits, we are still waiting for him to shun some of the luxuries and trappings that came with his inheriting the PM’s Office. Junejo was neither a great politician nor the greatest of Prime Ministers, yet he is remembered for his symbolic example of putting all VIPs and sundry, generals included, in 1000 cc Suzukis. Is there any shame in that, particularly for the leaders of a country that cannot afford to even annually service its multi-billion dollar payments on its debts?
Leadership is all about management, management by design and intent. Good managers, as defined by the standards of East India Company, conceivably the world’s first multi-national company (MNC) even if it was not actually one, focus on the strengths of their organizations and exploit them for profit. What separates the brilliant from the good is that brilliant managers will always tend to take calculated risks to lift their organizations (or their nations) out of the routine and into the extraordinary, force-multiplying their performance by innovation and anticipation of the needs of the future. Good managers seldom buck the trend, integrity does not only mean honesty, it means putting the good of the nation above everything else. The modus-operandi of the routine leadership is designed to ensure their own longevity, the brilliant ones seldom give any thought to their own survival, they take satisfaction in the success of their organizations and are willing to pay the price of failure with their own careers and future. In choosing their own future over that of the organization, the “good’ manager breaks a golden rule that must govern genuine leaderships at various levels, viz top executives, senior bureaucrats, generals and admirals, etc.
Given that principles and pragmatism can never go together, pragmatism is in fact the adjustment of reality to principles. While leaders have to have principles, they need also to be pragmatic there being no such thing as an ideal state in real-life. Whatever way one views the integrity of the pragmatism, the acid test is whether the interests of the nation and the people are kept paramount. This adjustment has to be positive, we must adjust real-life situation to our principles, not subvert our principles to cope with real-life situations unless absolutely necessary. Good managers will always try and optimize for the sake of their organization, will compromise on principles to keep the profits flowing, not so the brilliant. The brilliant ones will invariably uphold principles in supercession of pragmatism and strive to make profits challenging the status quo with innovation based on logic, by going contrary to the norm and routine, by risking their careers for the future of their respective organizations.
Every country has its share of problems, Pakistan is no different from every other country of the world. If there is corruption in almost every walk of the life, are the US, UK and the European countries free of corruption in every walk of life? The difference is at a pro-rata level, in developing countries it is more endemic here than in the developed countries. Most of our problems stem from the world perception that our leaders provide bad governance because they are busy providing for themselves, and they are right. While our leaders excel each other in pontificating about how corrupt their predecessors were and how honest they are, ultimately all end up on the pedestal of being “the most corrupt of this Earth”. Every ruler has some “talented cousins” who apply their talent to looting the nation treasury, the modus operandi is different, the end result remains the same. And along with some “talented cousins” will come some “talented associates” who also may have “talented cousins” and so on and so forth. Bad governance comes from involving family, directly or indirectly, in national affairs. This elite swarms like bees drawn to honey in cocooning the ruler from hometruths, it takes a very perceptive ruler to find out who is responsible for the rot within his domain, and it takes a even greater one to not only take them to task but to publicly ban their association with any of the departments of governance.
Nobody rules with the conscious thought of looting the nation, yet once settled in power the same person seems not conscious of his (or her) conscience. Will Mosharraf leave the portals of power known for having put the nation above his self? Only time will tell and that also after his successor carries out accountability in his (or her) turn. In the meantime the unfortunate of this nation live in hope. Dun Spero Spiro, Latin for “While I breathe, I hope!”. To put it bluntly we do not need hypocrites, we need brilliant leaders who are ready to take calculated risks, putting their future and even their lives at stake, for the sake of the nation. We need leaders who will not posture to be what they are not, but have the courage to be what they are. We need leaders who will put the nation before their pockets. Above all we need leaders with integrity, with sincerity of interest and purpose, leaders who will take this country blessed with human and material resources to the greatness it really deserves. Is that too much for the unfortunate to ask for from their leaders?
Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan). He was Chairman APSAA for the year 2000, now acting in adhoc capacity pending elections for the year 2001.