Leadership in Wilderness

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Leadership in Wilderness
Leadership in Wilderness

Leadership in Wilderness

The most imperative need for the political stability of any country is to have politicians, who must, foremost, be stable themselves, in all facets of public life. Doubt, suspicion or clouded mind do not make fit for any to qualify as a politician or a leader.

The massive misuse of the idiotic idiomatic phrase, that politics is “the art of the possible” isn’t only in the realm of political thought but is actually entrenched and subscribed to fullest extent, covering all areas of a Nation’s concern.

Since the departure to the yonder of Jinnah and Sahibzada Liaquat Ali Khan, no politician has emerged on the political horizon of Pakistan, who could claim to having, if not all, but at least, to a large degree, the necessary traits and abilities, to be called a “Political Leader”, in its fullest and truest form.

Recently, when I read a clipping from the past, about the presidential elections following the 1965 war with India, I was aghast to realise that the current malaise in the political field is nothing new, it has existed, since our gaining independence. Regrettable. Most politicians had then ganged up against Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. The inconceivable happened. The unthinkable was said, against a grand lady, who also happened to be the sister of the Father of the Nation. She was labelled as traitor.( This accusation of being traitor is generously bestowed upon many; it is a title or item for wholesale application).

Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah was called naively native because she wore no Fendi scarves. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), my all-time hero, even now, despite, me being, beyond the maturity age, stooped to the lowest level, embarrassing even the current best practitioners of boot licking — he reportedly said, she (Ms Jinnah) is an “old and obstinate women”. A remark like this to please “Daddy” coming from a gentleman, who had a great legal brain, a sense of history and destiny, alongside, a good degree from Berkeley, is most shocking.


ZAB, after Jinnah, was the first and the last, till date, the most educated and well-read politician, Pakistan has ever produced in the last 75 years. He succumbed too, to the language of the street. The leaders are expected to display class and charisma, he had both oozing and overflowing from his personna, but the occasional emergence of the ‘feudal’ in him, always got the better of him and undid his otherwise graceful demeanor.

Repartees and rebuttals, dipped in arsenic acid and garnished with wit and humour, used to be the hallmark of the political leaders, even in the subcontinent. Maulana Maududi ( no fan of his breed of politics) had a sense of satire too — when Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, lost elections to President Ayub Khan, he is said to have remarked, the only positive strength Ayub Khan has, is that he is a man and the only thing that Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah lacks is that she is not a man.

Well-crafted comment, where decency is not lost totally. As against this, just listen to any politician speaking, informally or formally, and note the similitudes they chose to address or describe their opponents.

To ensure, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah’s loss, edicts were issued by scholars, regardless of their otherwise deep divide, with some venturing to say, that, it is dishonourable in our religion, for a woman to be in politics.

This was 1966. Now, fast forward the clock, to 1988/89, Benazir Bhutto, faced similar scathing attack based on gender dominance, or still better, on gender inferiority. The current coalition lead partners were involved in making these insensitive remarks in public; they maligned her in the most uncouth manner and language, till recently, when they joined hands against their nemesis, President Musharraf — thus, proving to all the students of politics, the validity of the idiom, that reads, “politics make strange bedfellows”.

Seeing the young Bilawal Zardari, in their company, fans of ZAB, wonder, if he has been told or he himself has cared to read the comments these people made of his mother. Despicable were the remarks.


Undoubtedly, politics is dirty, globally. But in this land of the pure, it is essentially the dirtiest. To be a politician requires no academic qualifications or even any certification of technical proficiency in any economic skill that is viable and productive. Politics has moved from being a service to the masses, to being a tool, more for exploitation of the underprivileged. Those who make fool of others, think of themselves, as the best political entities.

Many haven’t read yet, Abraham Lincoln’s words, that you can fool some people for some time, but not all the people, all the time. Destiny boomerangs the wrong done to the innocent very fiercely. The shining lacquer, which is the thinnest, wears off, at the first provocation. The capacity to absorb dissent is absent.

The magnanimity required to accept a differing point of view or even the need to revisit a position taken is missing. Being adamant to uphold values, beliefs and principles is laudable; but it requires a different steel of nerves, for adopting it obstinately, to commit and pursue, and this is the nth level of honesty, again lacking, in the political arena more than other segments of the society.

The leaders ought to be the best teachers. They must possess unquestionably the best communication skills so as to be able to sell their vision for progress and emancipation to the man on the street. This is possible only where there is a “Vision!” Instead, there is wholesale market, nay, a loot sale, of selling depression, despair and despondency, by the current crop of politicians.

Firstly, they communicate with arrogance and treat with disdain, as The Royals would do, with their subjects (read, slaves, who are the electorate) and these hapless and less than second class citizens of the country, vote (select or elect) enthusiastically, for them, to go and sit on their behalf in the assemblies.

And once they become parliamentarians, what do these politicians do? If the readers of this piece are seriously interested to know — switch on the TV, any channel, between 6:00pm to midnight; you will get to know, what they do for you… The electorate.


Any parliament is a fine place of assembly when good parliamentarians are occupying the cushioned and high back seats. Through their detestable, reprehensible and loathsome utterances, they make the devils dance and rejoice. These tale tellers run the tale as it pleases the listeners, present or otherwise. No scruples and no remorse. Political expediency is their foundation of thought and action, call the bear ‘Uncle’ till they are safe across the bridge to…. (Turkish proverb redone).

My father made all of us siblings an ardent fan of Sir Winston Churchill. He would narrate at the dining table, Churchillian jokes, witty remarks made on the House of Commons, anecdotal incidents, etc. This interest has been so far, life lasting.

Taking a leaf from his narration made many decades ago to us, by our father; An American student, among the exchange students batch that came to meet Churchill in 1953, asked him, how to prepare to meet challenges of leadership. “Study history. Study history”, he said vehemently.

Our politicians are so well read that they are unable to identify, which part of human anatomy is used for thinking !!

Why can’t they read biographies of great men (to do so requires humility of being ignorant), so that they can make their lives sublime and in the process of the electorate. The politicians are public servants; hence, must remain in submission and in subservience to the desire of the masses; if they demand fresh elections, let there be elections — the best would win, so what’s the fear? Since, they wish to Lord over people, they care less, about what people think of them.

Lee Kwun Yew, the architect and builder of the present day economic miracle, that is Singapore, had only public service, as his political manifesto. He spoke: “Politics demands that extra of a person, a commitment to people and ideals. You are not just doing a job. This is a vocation; not unlike the priesthood. You must feel for the people, you must want to change the society and make lives better” (Speech in Parliament).


Why can’t we have a Lee Kwun Yew of ours? Why? Are we less intelligent? Are we less hardworking? What’s is it, that’s wrong with us!

The breed of politicians produced from the decade of the 1970s to present times lack substantially, the ingredients, that go to create a leader, who is simultaneously a politician and a Statesman.

Budding politicians, are essentially people who must act like a bridge between past and the now; and later must have the dream to Shepard and cross that very bridge into the future. But to do this requires assiduous hardwork — from reading voraciously to working tirelessly.

Mao Tse Tung had no clock in his office. The heavy drapes on the windows were deliberately chosen by him, it is believed, so that he wouldn’t know, if it is daytime or night.

Leaders operate within the consistently changing forms and systems of politics and governance but this fluidity is not meant to grant license to also change customs, traditions, beliefs and norms of the society. Character and reputation has to be the marketing hallmark of any politician… their insignia of recognition. This includes proprietary in relation to moral, social, financial and intellectual, boundaries, of what is accepted as a norm of a decent society.

The politicians must define their impact through ideals and values that must remain in the realm of the visible for the scrutiny by the masses. Exploiters, launderers, tax evaders, law breakers, promoters of nepotism and economic parasites, cannot, or rather should not be allowed to claim, political status.


The politicians need to have in them, what Thomas Jefferson, had aptly coined, “the merging of virtue and talents”. Character without education or education without character, makes for no politician of substance. The one per cent elite, as defined, by Miftah Ismail, belongs to the later class, “educated but short on character and reputation”.

Is it too tall an ask, to expect that our politicians, young and old, who can rise to the challenges of these most dynamic times in human history, with a sound moral and strategic vision for the country. Is there any among this class, who is thinking of what will be the quality of leadership of our political or otherwise too, of any other sector, when in 2047AD, our country will be celebrating 100 years of independence. Are there any takers to such thinking and attitude? My guess is no better, than yours.
Hope, is both an intoxicant and a great deception. That’s a grim reality.

(The writer is a freelance columnist)



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