NationalVolume 14 Issue # 03

The crisis in political leadership

A bus carrying a hundred politicians crashed near a farm. The farmer dug a mass grave and promptly buried them all. The police chief asked him, “were they all dead?” “Some said they were not. But you know the way politicians are”. The quip is American. But on this side of the world politicians are equalty perceived to be liars, with more cause.


There was a Persian poet by the name of Anwari. One day he heard someone reciting his poems in public. He was amused, “but the poems belong to Anwari”, he intervened. Yes, the man replied, “I am Anwari”. This is subcontinental politics. Mendacity knows no bounds.


Was Jinnah a typical sub-continental politician? He was not like Gandhi and he was not at all like Nehru. There was no one like him even in his own party. Gandhi and Nehru went to the people, worked Khadi, “wore Khadi”, and became one with the common man. Jinnah did not seek people. He made them follow him. Calling him a politician was a misnomer. He was a statesman of the highest order. It was his compelling sincerity, unquestionable integrity and, above all, an acute God- consciousness that guided him to achieve his sacred mission. The mission was holy and blessed as it was assigned to Jinnah by no less a person than the Prophet (PBUH) himself, when he was fully awake or he (PBUH) had appeared to him in his dream. “It does not matter” as either way it means the same, says Dr. Allan Keislar.


Politicians in Pakistan were a disappointment from day one when Jinnah termed them as “fake coins in my pocket”. Liaqat Ali Khan never seemed to trust them either. That is why, perhaps, he intentionally delayed the constitution. The draft constitution proposing parliamentary democracy moved by Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra was angrily rejected by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad. His decision was challenged in the Apex Court. The plea was rejected.The 1956 constitution presented by Ch. Muhammad Ali was a muddled mix of a parliamentary democracy with unprecedented and uncharacteristic powers for the president. It was readily approved. In the 1950’s, all the bigwigs appeared to firmly hold Charles de Gaulle’s view, “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians”.


Ghulam Muhammad, the governor general, Iskandar Mirza, the defense minister, the Army Chief Ayub Khan and even the chief justice who had turned down the case of Muhammad Ali Bogra all seemed to be convinced that the politicians needed a check on their activities. That is why the 1956 constitution was considered workable.


When Ayub Khan took over he brought in the presidential form of government. His impression of the politicians’ ruthless, unscrupulous and inept behavior in and outside the parliament from his East Pakistan exposure to politics had been negative. He abolished the political parties in October 1958, promulgated “Elected Bodies Disqualification Order”, EBDO, in August 1959, and disqualified about 6,000 persons half of them from the Eastern Wing. It included at least 75 prominent politicians from both the wings of the country.


One can remember the politicians of those days as a bunch of untrustworthy squabbling men and women, ruthlessly in pursuit of power by any means in a cutthroat and relentless competition. They never had a sense of direction or political purpose except gaining and retaining power by hook or crook. There were some honorable exceptions though, lost in the crowed of a corrupt and mediocre majority.


Muslims have produced some great personalities, but very few. Their virtues were larger than life. Their faults insignificant by comparison. The historian in reverence for them has refrained from judging them.


We have created a good number of holy cows, who have had faults of a fundamental nature. Holy they are nevertheless.


Some of them opposed the very idea of Pakistan. Immediately on independence they assumed its full ownership. This atrocity is now being perceived as the most legitimate claim. Their “forefathers had laid untold sacrifices during struggle for independence” ­__ a preposterous claim, indeed.


They are others who gained power, but lost half of Pakistan. This uncontrollable greed for power also took so many lives. Some of them are now legends with their lofty ideologies which are too spurious to be dilated upon publically.


Some came to power by gate-crashing. We have their names on the honor boards and their portraits filling the national galleries. We never question their method of coming to power. We condone their usurpation and, thus, become a party to it.


The Elections 2018 have thrown up unusual circumstances. People fed up with abject poverty and gross injustice have voted for change. Imran Khan has started with strict ideas. His austerity drive will be hard to swallow even for his own party mates. Hundreds of cars and thousands of servants are being surrendered along with other royal perks. An across the board justice plans to make no distinction between the high and lowly thief.


The defeated lot is pestering Imran Khan to fulfil his promises immediately. They conveniently forget that the promises made by them and their grandfathers have yet to be fulfilled despite being in power several times.


It is time for the politicians of the traditional type to get their act together. They should now leave their heavenly niches and come down to earth to face the ground realities. Old mantras, including the Charter of Democracy (read kleptocracy), have failed them. It only behooves them to learn to act as a constructive opposition.


IK and party have a Herculean task ahead of leading the nation out of the woods. The opposition, in way of asking God’s forgiveness, must help them deliver.