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Sincere Leadership?

Pakistan’s problem is a lack of sincere, sensible leadership. The country is facing a multitude of problems. Its law and order situation is in a dire state, it lacks basic amenities and infrastructure, its people are fractious and with no leader to unite them.

Pakistan is on the brink of anarchy and possibly headed towards civil war.  The government bombs its own people. Oh, wait, that is not the official statement! The bombs are dropped on ‘terrorists’ and Pakistani citizens killed in such operations are ‘collateral damage’. That is what happens during war!

While all this is happening the country’s  “leaders” do nothing to improve the situation. They are busy chalking out their interests and planning to find ways to get the biggest slice of the pie when the time comes. Pakistan is heavily in debt. It is borrowing Rs 800 billion to meet it s budget deficit. How can we ever repay this debt if our top leaders do not change their lavish way of life?

The leaders are having the time of their lives at the moment. After all, this might be their only shot at going on all those foreign tours on government expense.  In the current budget 2011 -2012, Rs 2.60 billion have been allocated for the President and the Prime Minister for foreign tours. How can they justify this extravagance? What of the country they took the oath to serve? The country where 72 million people are living below the poverty line?  Well, what of it? There is a public health system and a public education sector, isn’t there? What more do the people want? What could they possibly want?

And the people? Their income does not match their expenses.  They can barely afford to pay the bills.They pay taxes, at least some of us do, but where is all the money going? We are a state rich in natural resources, extensive natural gas reserves, iron, copper and gold deposits at Saindak, and limestone and rock salt to name a few . We also have enough facilities to generate electricity from hydro-power, then why is it that the public has to suffer hours of electricity shortage in the scorching heat of summer? And now to top it all CNG load shedding is being implemented in certain areas? What is the reason of our poor infrastructure? And it’s best not to say anything about the quality of roads and bridges in the country! Just one drop of rain can make parts of our newly constructed roads look like ancient public baths!

We failed to meet our millennium goal of eradicating polio not because we didn’t have the medicine and the know how of meeting that goal but because we failed to store that vaccine properly. But yes, we do have a public health system and government hospitals where a lucky person might get some sort of medical treatment. It’s not because the staff there is incompetent but because they lack sufficient funding to operate properly.

As for the public education system, the least said the better.  Apart from little or no funding, ‘ghost schools’, absentee teachers, and lack of discipline are endemic problems.  I am sure that if we tried to we could also find other reasons for the spectacular failure of these institutions.  The quality of education in public schools is appalling and then there are around 24 million children who never have a chance to attend schools at all.  The public and the private sectors of education are almost incomparable in Pakistan. What chance do the children educated in these underprivileged Urdu medium institutions have of coming up and leading the country? Practically none.

The Supreme Court’s decision of April 21 2011 on Mukhtaran Mai’s case is a mockery of the judicial system.  If Mai has lost her faith in the judicial system she has every right to do so.  Most of us are disillusioned by the blatant disregard for truth and for giving in to the power of the tribal and feudal system.

Human rights violations are rampant and no one dares to raise a voice. And what happens if you do raise your voice is this—you risk losing everything and maybe even pay the ultimate price. Journalist, Saleem Shahzad paid for his convictions with his life. And even though a lot was said and promised, his killers haven’t yet been apprehended.

The law and order situation leaves one speechless at times. Target killings and bombings are at an all time high. When people go to work, schools, universities etc. in the morning those at home worry about them constantly and pray for their safe return. The anxiety, which lasts till the last member of the family is back at home, is alleviated only for a few hours till the next morning arrives and the cycle starts again.

No place is safe, not the shrines, not the mosques, not the hospitals and not even schools! No one knows where the next attack will be or who would the next target be.

In order to thrive as a nation we need to have quality education, a system which will allow the children to compete across class barriers, a strong and fair judiciary system, a better medical system and better infrastructure.

The people are suffering and trying to voice their discontent in extreme ways. A father of two  sets himself on fire after fighting with poverty and failing to find a job for a long time. A 70 year old man  died while waiting in line all night to collect his pension! The current government has clearly failed its citizens.

Where is the visionary who will find a solution to these problems?

Let’s take a look at the leadership available. There is Nawaz Sharif, whose past is an open book, and he is no worse or better than any of the ones he hopes to replace. He seems to be using the current chaos in Pakistan to get back at the army that dethroned him.

 

There is President Asf Zaradari; but there really isn’t much that can be said about his leadership skills. Bilawal, the President’s son hasn’t done anything yet and probably doesn’t even merit a discussion at this point.

Altaf Hussain, the MQM leader who once had the chance to bring a change with all the talented youth and experienced intellectuals did nothing with the chance he was given. Well he is truly an immigrant or Mohajir now! Living in England, giving telephonic addresses, he hasn’t announced a plan to abandon his comfortable existence abroad and come to face the hardship of living in Pakistan and being a real leader.

 

Then there is Imran Khan. He is a conundrum. And it’s true that he seems to be the only voice we hear voicing concern about the problems Pakistan faces. But in what way? Once I had hopes that maybe he could lead the country but I guess leading the country is not the same as leading a team. Listening to him address the students at South Asia University in Lahore on June 11 2011, I couldn’t make up my mind if he was trying to inspire the students to realize their potential or wooing the mullah’s support for elections! Really with all his talk of ‘think tanks’, analysing problems and finding solutions I expected a bit more.

Once upon a time Pakistanis respected their Armed Forces. They were a venerable institution and people looked up to them as the last resort to help stabilize the country and to keep them safe. We appear to have a really short collective social memory or else we wouldn’t be shocked at both the incompetence to prevent attacks at themselves and the atrocities the armed forces have committed against the civilians. After all it hasn’t been that long since 1971.  And really what can we expect from those security forces who cannot even keep themselves safe! Once they had discipline and unity; today they have factions and are unable to control their officers. The chain of command is either broken or is non-existent at the moment. Another spell of Marshal Law or army governance is now not an option either. Not that it ever really was but I guess even the illusion of stability it once promised is now shattered. General Musharraf has had his turn at running the country. Now he is a General no more but should we be giving him another chance?

We have all that is needed to become a great nation: resources, talent, youth, and hopes. What we lack is a leadership that will bring a change of system and not just a change of faces.  We still hold a naive  belief that we can overcome the odds and ‘”take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them”. But we need a leader with a vision who can take a stand for the interests of the country, who can restore peace and law and order, and who has the vision to make Pakistani people realize their potential. A leader who not only orates, but works with the people to achieve their vision. A leader who can truly make a difference for Pakistan and lead the country to take its rightful place as a respected nation on the world stage!