COMMENT: Crisis of leadership —Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Source :\03\22\story_22-3-2011_pg3_5

The current PPP government seems to be moving from crisis to crisis. There is no coordination between the executive and the judiciary. The legislature and executive do not collaborate to create a national agenda

Pakistan is reeling under many crises but the one that will define its future is the crisis of leadership. Until 1945, Muslim leaders negotiated for a union of autonomous states within united India but the lack of cooperation from Indian Congress leaders forced them to seek a separate state. One unintended consequence of this was that they were not able to draft a constitution, which had profound consequences for the newly independent state of Pakistan.

Immediately after independence, the leadership found itself struggling on many fronts including the settlement of borders, adjustment of new immigrants, scarcity of economic resources and annexation of Kashmir by India. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was too sick to lead the formulation of a constitution. The first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, failed to achieve the most important task of drafting a constitution for four years until his unfortunate assassination in 1951. He did create the Objectives Resolution as the starting point for a formal constitution but it was not sufficient to provide a durable foundation for democratic institutions, decide the division of rights and obligations between the centre and the provinces and demarcation of boundaries to create a balance of power between various state institutions. That political failure created an opportunity for the civil and military bureaucracy to plant the seeds of interference that are still haunting us to this day.

From 1958 to 1969, the country was subjected to the martial law of Field Marshal Ayub Khan. The military ruler, for lack of political mandate, resorted to the tactics of rewards and social division. This sowed the seeds for the creation of a political class that maintains its grip on political parties through hereditary politics. The elections of 1970 by all accounts are considered fair and impartial. Those elections produced a divided parliament, mostly on ethnic lines. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Mujeebur Rehman, founder of the Awami League, had many qualities that attracted huge followings but both of them had one fatal flaw: blinding ambition that ultimately sealed their fates. Since Mujeeb won the majority of seats in parliament, he could afford to be magnanimous and conciliatory. Bhutto, on the other hand, an impatient politician, was not willing to sit on the opposition benches until the next elections. From press accounts, it is clear that Bhutto manipulated the situation to delay the opening session of the new parliament. Once it was announced to be held in Dhaka, he threatened those of his elected party members who wanted to attend of dire consequences. This stalemate provided an opportunity for non-political forces to intervene, ultimately resulting in the break up of the country. Probably, the separation of Bangladesh was inevitable but it could have been less traumatic and painful. That scar starts bleeding again and again in the form of the ethnic card whenever there is a political crisis.

1n 1971, a demoralised nation endowed Bhutto with unchallenged political power to take them on the path of healing and progress. Bhutto’s two major achievements were the creation of the 1973 constitution and initiation of the nuclear programme. On the other hand, his suppression of political opposition and nationalisation of industry proved disastrous. The executive being in close cooperation with the judiciary and legislature can create a barrier against the intrusion of military adventurists. Bhutto failed to create that coalition among the three branches of the state to ensure continuity of the political tradition. Once again, the fault can be traced to his blinding ambition, which instructed him to create oppressive institutions like the Federal Security Force (FSF) to punish political opponents, thereby alienating them to seek refuge elsewhere.

General Ziaul Haq, who ruled as Marshal Law Administrator from 1977 until his death in 1988, had no moral and legitimate political mandate to rule and was on the defensive throughout his term. He adopted all conceivable means to lengthen his tenure including using religion to legitimise his presidency, using Pakistan as a frontline state against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to gain international acceptance and encouraging ethnic divisions to break the influence of the opposition. Benazir Bhutto was a political amateur in her first term and struggled to learn the ropes of government, while her second term was cut short by one of her own party, President Sardar Farooq Leghari. Nawaz Sharif, mentored by the military ruler, was never fully conversant with the political realities of the nation. Both of them got two chances to rule but were thrown out within three years of their terms.

General Musharraf was on the defensive from his first day in power because of a lack of moral and legal authority to rule as questions were raised about his bloodless coup to depose Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999. As destiny would have it, 9/11 would provide him with international acceptance and aid dollars to survive. We can give him credit for opening up the media but no considerable progress was made on strengthening political institutions.

The current PPP government seems to be moving from crisis to crisis. There is no coordination between the executive and judiciary. The legislature and executive do not collaborate to create a national agenda on which there can be a consensus among majority and minority parties. So we are back to square one. The state is still weak because the three pillars of the state are tilting where it favours them rather than standing firm to hold the roof on solid foundations. What does all this mean for the nation? What kind of leadership do we need? These are the questions we need to be asking and exploring.

Pakistan’s geopolitical location is such that it sits in the middle of two aspiring superpowers, i.e. China and India, one aspiring regional power called Iran and an Afghanistan that has been the gateway of foreign invading forces for over 2,000 years. In this volatile region it is only natural that competing forces will not only try to gain a foothold but also try to create divisions within the country to exploit them for their strategic advantage. Domestically, the country is divided along ethnic, religious and linguistic lines. Repeated interruptions have considerably weakened state institutions and created chronic imbalances in the balance of power among them. State instruments are being weakened by the appointment of political cronies.

The complexity of Pakistan’s internal and external predicaments demand that any future leader must have specific qualities that build a coalition among all segments of the nation: a diplomat with a deep sense of history of the region and the world to form relationships of mutual respect and cooperation and a manager that can delegate responsibility to a capable team. Many analysts list personal qualities of integrity, honesty and character in a leader, but these qualities should be the norm of a civilised nation rather than an exception for its leaders.

Pakistan has a cadre of leadership that has the capability to manage the current crisis but they are not able to find a crack in the status quo to ascend to the top. After every political crisis, we expect a leader to come riding in on a white horse to save the nation. But we forget that the history of other nations and the recent events in the Middle East make it clear that change is initiated from below and percolates to the top. All of us have to make a choice between keeping the status quo or bringing change through the ballot box in the next general elections.

The writer is Chairman Council of Past Presidents of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA. He can be reached at

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