Lead us, PLEASE!

Am I the only guy in this country who is fed up with what’s happening? Then why are we not showing our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff. We’ve got politicians & politically connected gangsters stealing us blind. Our intellectually and financially corrupt bureaucracy is so useless that despite having money they can’t deliver on even the easiest of deliverables. Northern areas were hit by an earthquake in 2005, we got oodles of money, some was to go for 300 schools but what have we to show four years thence – three and a half schools? Is that pitiful or what? But instead of getting something done, the talking heads sit around yakking on talk shows either cursing or admiring their brand of political heirs, religious scam artists, or know-it-all generals. The most famous politicians, bureaucrats, and even business leaders are the guys who ought to be in handcuffs. Just look at the list of NRO beneficiaries.

Oh, what a path we took to get to where we are. I am sick of people who think they are patriots by not acknowledging the warts we have nurtured over the past 62 years and continuing to believe that we are the best in everything we do, be it flying F-16s or getting top grades when pursuing academics alongside Americans or Europeans. Sure, there may be some outliers who can race with the best of the best but most, like you and me, are average or below at most. Look around you. Notice the all encompassing state of regression? Is that the best of what the best of the best can do? I can’t call myself a patriot unless I accept our failings and learn from our mistakes.

‘Know thyself ’– Socrates. Then at least you will know what you are capable of.

Let’s accept it. We have a leadership deficit.

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis and not acquired through inheritance or dowry. It’s easy to hold on to the tails of departed heroes or heroines and bask in their past perceived glories. It’s another thing to lead when the world comes tumbling down. After February 18, 2008, we needed a strong leadership more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes of the dictatorship. A hell of a mess it was and here’s where we stand. We’ve amassed the biggest debt in the history of the country and still continue to add more at an unprecedented rate. That is just the icing. Fuel prices are skyrocketing, electricity shortage is crippling, education system is non-functional, and we keep stumbling from one crisis to another. The middle class is in a daze because they don’t know what hit them. We’re immersed in a bloody war against terrorism which is of our own making and have no plan for winning and no plan for ending it. Our western borders are like sieves.

Is this the promise of Pakistan that Iqbal dreamt of and the great Quaid-e-Azam fought for? We’ve had enough. Don’t you think? These are times that cry out for leadership.
But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: ‘Where are all the leaders?’ Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, and common sense? Name me a leader who has a better idea for the disadvantaged and downtrodden of the society. Hollow slogans and false promises is all they can offer the hapless of this dear country.

We’re spending away billions of Rupees on a coterie of ministers and their associated bureaucracies, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened. Nobody in power has a coherent plan or honest desire to address the issues we confront. Just look at most of our ministers and their portfolios and you will know how misplaced the appointments are. What are they thinking? Can’t they put square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes?

Name me a leader who can articulate an effective plan for tackling the extremism problem, extricate the nation out of the debt strait jacket, or solve the energy crisis, or manage the education and health conundrum. These are the crises eating away the future of our country.

And for the gang in Parliament, we didn’t elect you to sit on your duff, do nothing and remain silent while our opportunity to set out on the path to democracy is being squandered and our expectations of governance set back to mediocrity. The gaggle is annoying. The silence of inaction is deafening. What is everybody so afraid of? That you won’t have a chance to get re-elected. The bad news is that there may not be a second chance. Give us a break. Why don’t you guys stop parroting the party lines? Show some independence of thought for a change?
Haven’t we had enough? Let’s speak out because there is still hope. I believe in us. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Hard work with a lot of sweat is what we are ready for. Aren’t we? No pain no gain.

In my lifetime, I’ve had the benefit of living through some of the worst crises that our country has lived through, the fall of Dhaka being the most painful. In the same lifetime I’ve learnt by watching others pass us by in development, human and economic. The learning is this; you don’t get anywhere by being led by an autocracy whether uniformed or in civvies. You don’t get anywhere with Mir Jaffers and Mir Sadiqs in exalted positions. You don’t get anywhere unless the spirit of Quaid’s message of ‘kam, kam, aur kam’ (work, work, and work) permeates through each and every individual of the society. Whether it’s improving the yields of our lands or manufacturing a better widget or building a better future for our children. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty darn close. So let’s get rid of the BS and go to work. Let’s tell them that we’ve had enough. It’s our country, folks, and it’s our future that is at stake!! We Care!!

Back in 1989 Deng Xiaoping’s advice to Chinese leaders, employing expression from ancient texts, was “tao guang yang hui,” which, literally translated, means “Hide brightness, nourish obscurity” or as the official Beijing interpretation translates the four-character idiom, “Bide our time and build up our capabilities” This is what we ought to do, hunker down and build ourselves. Educate our youth, educate our youth, and educate our youth. But remember, Education of the right kind.
To the leaders I request, “Lead us PLEASE”. Be creative and know how to unleash our true potential. We have a lot of potential. We won’t disappoint you. We have accepted you for better or for worse. We can’t wait forever. Fear the time when we, the people, turn against you.

My father, a proud military officer from the time when as commanding officer of an artillery SP regiment he commuted to work on a Raleigh bicycle, accuses me of being a pessimist. His opinion is credible for he has commanded men in battle and headed organizations that served the people. “It will be all right, you’ll see” he sanguinely says. Regrettably, the evidence stacks otherwise.
But wait! I do see that elusive silver lining for which we should thank Musharraf. He set in motion the process which catapulted the Judiciary to its present upstanding position. The justices, all of them, cease to be ordinary human beings and I Thank God for that. I also appreciate the brave press corps that keeps raising the bar for integrity. Though, still a long way to go.

Pessimist, Optimist or Realist – we still need Leaders who can truly LEAD.

The above is written taking a lead from the introduction of legendry Lee Iacocca’s new book, ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone’. Now 82, he is the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes. I liked his piquancy and ‘no bullshit’ style and acknowledge borrowing some to retain the bite.

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4 Responses to Lead us, PLEASE!

  1. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I am happy that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sheheryar Banuri says:

    As I read this well written and thoughtful piece, my mind started drifting to the best forms of governance. As it turns out, benevolent dictatorship is virtually unchallenged as the best form. The key word in that phrase is not “dictatorship” but “benevolent”, and there lies the problem. Our system of governance has the common problem of misaligned incentives. People engaging in bad behavior (becoming demi-gods in their local basti’s) are elected to office while people engaging in good behavior are sidelined. Out of a system like this, the dregs rise to the top. To expect dregs to be benevolent (or even “leaders”) is asking too much. I agree with you that the focus needs to be on fundamentals (such as education).

    When I think about the Pakistan experience, my mind drifts towards homegrown and imported institutions. Much of our institutions are holdovers from the Brit regime, which have not evolved like they have in the UK. These differential evolutionary trajectories can be explained by a fundamental lack of understanding between the users (i.e. the people) and the (for lack of a better word) producers. The producers have an incentive to keep the institution alive regardless of its utilization. The hope is that over time, demand from the users leads to an evolution of the institution (like it has in the west). The problem is that we lacked a few other fundamentals (such as freedom of the press, which serves to give users a voice) until very recently. Thus, our institutions stagnated.

    Things are looking up though, as you rightly point out. We are inching towards progress, but we are very very slow. This is alright if we recognize that quick solutions and easy fixes are not the answer. With a focus on education, justice, civil rights, and rule of law, we can get there… Thanks for your thoughts; it was great fun to read.

  3. Tauseef says:

    Well written….but frankly dont we all know what’s wrong now and what ‘went’ wrong in the past…so what magic will our leaders use to educate, train and make people work…But i think the answer lies in your article…like the chinese ‘ be obscure and build our capabilities… also remember that Deng Xiao to Jiang Zemin to lee Kwan to Mahatir none were democratic….They simply put their national interest first and their personal to the last….I also notice your admiration for Musharraf in your article on leadership….that’s interesting…but hey our F-16 pilots are still the best…

  4. Qaiser Naqvi says:

    as per Indus Saga written by Aitezaz Ahsan this area i.e the indus valley is void of leadership. As long as the British provided lesdership people of this area did wonders. our region accepted all the leaders occupying this land from Afhanistan and Iran and never challenged them. they were challenged in northern India where three battles of Panipat were fought. So we shd rest assure that we hv to live without a genuine ldr

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