The deficit of leadership | Pakistan Today

The deficit of leadership

  • The fight for CM Punjab reveals shortage of leadership material

The deliberations by PTI to decide upon ministerial positions from within the party reveal a lack of grooming of people within the cadre to take on positions on merit. It has been 22 years to Imran Khan’s struggle yet the party is struggling to find the right candidates not just for the CM slot in Punjab, reportedly for which an in-party tussle is taking place, but also for other slots.

This reflects upon the inability of the party to groom leaders within. Not only PTI but all other party leaders have followed short-sighted goals. To maintain a grip on the party and thereby their own control ignoring democratic norms that should be followed, either their siblings or offsprings and spouses have been allowed to come forward or their blue-eyed have been allowed to stand on the second rung of the political ladder drawing perks and benefits. The bug of dynastic politics has eroded the very fabric of the democratic political landscape of Pakistan. This strategy has back fired. It always does in the long run.

One reason for lack of grooming of leaders was the strike against the core of democracy by General Zia ul Haq. On 9th February 1984 he killed the nursery of politics. The student unions were banned nationwide. For the record, in Sindh it was illegal to form student unions since way back in 1979.

By this one single step, General Zia shutting off the door of political legitimacy allowed undemocratic tendencies to make space in the system. The younger generation is no longer exposed to the understanding of responsible governance. The student unions played a great role for inducting the younger generation into welfare projects, political training and norms of good governance based on accountability.

How long can Pakistan continue with this third rate structure? Is not the ignoring of the very basic democratic norms and merely labeling a party as being democratic enough?

What this had led to has eroded our national fabric of the society. It has created identities that are based on ethnicities overriding the national identity. Somewhere along the line, the sub-national identities were allowed space to take over.

Efforts by Benazir Bhutto, who wished to revive the student unions, did not bear fruit. ‘The order was rescinded by the late Benazir Bhutto in 1988; however, in 1993, the Supreme Court imposed a ban on unions on the grounds that they contribute to violence on campuses.’ (Dawn: August 22, 2017)

By banning student unions all shades and hues of religious hatred, fundamentalism and extremism have bred causing rot in the society. The political parties opened way for student leaders from the college/university unions to start their political career with them. This has also negatively affected the culture of dialogue and ability of listen to another point of view with a counter narrative.

It is the “Pakistani Identity” that suffered due to the ban by General Zia. The Pakistani Identity must be seen in a bigger context as opposed to being relegated to religious, linguistic, or similar levels to the exclusion of other elements at play.

Pakistani Identity evolved in 1947 as a political statement. It is composed of different ethnic groups and different religious groups; further sub-divided into different sects within these different religious groups. Pakistan was and is created for each one of these groups as clearly enunciated in Jinnah’s speech of 11th August 1947.

“In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”(Jinnah in February 1948 address in US)

In the present day scenario sans the student union nurseries; many think “election” is synonymous with “democracy”. One often hears that once the system is “allowed to continue” it will lead to a “better democracy”. Those advocating this thought process fail to appreciate that there are elections is a step only in the process of democracy. It is not democracy itself.

The first step that must be taken is to conduct in-party elections on three yearly basis. However, merit must govern, not heredity. No one must be allowed to contest more than twice for a party seat. The same must hold good for the MNA and MPA elections as well as seats for senators.

Parties in different nations determine upon different degrees of say in the process of the selection/election. However, few democracies of the world (barring India) can match Pakistan in the dynastic nature of their politics that less democratic and more dynastic and/or centers around one individual. The relationship between a leader and his/her party is more of a nature that subscribes to death does us apart or a Panama does us apart.

The second step must be ‘None of the above’ option (NOTA) on ballot paper thereby giving an option to voters to reject all contesting candidates in a constituency. Many who oppose this concept state that it as a step against democracy. Is it?

If the voters are allowed the chance of rejecting all, it offers them a broader base than to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Centralisation, participation and meditation play a role in deciding upon a leader for a party. In Pakistan nothing this is envisaged. The question of an indefinite continuation of a leader and subsequent choice is never questioned.

How long can Pakistan continue with this third rate structure? Is not the ignoring of the very basic democratic norms and merely labeling a party as being democratic enough?

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: [email protected] and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

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