When a leadership loses its moral compass | Pakistan Today

When a leadership loses its moral compass

Candid Corner

  • The nation is stripped of honour and direction

“The foundation of leadership is your own moral compass. I think the best quality leaders know where their moral compass is. They get it out when they are making decisions. It’s their guide. But not only do they have to have a moral compass and take it out of their pocket, it has to have a true north.”

– Les Wexner

Volumes have been compiled on the centrality of an ethical code as integral to sustenance of the life cycle. Arguably, much may have gone wrong, but it must be conceded that the nations and states which have made quantum progress in the recent or distant past have all had an ethical base as pivot to work by.

Since we decided early on that an enlightened, progressive and egalitarian Pakistan was not an objective of its creation, we started demolishing its foundational pillars, replacing them with a culture of crime and corruption which we have since developed to near perfection. The sordid effort continues to find ever new ways and mechanisms to denude the state of its assets and the marginalised of even their right to breathe.

This is a contagious malaise that we live by. It brooks no space for truthfulness, justice and merit. Instead, it promotes a culture of deceit and deception in our undertakings. Along the way, we bludgeon many a life, many a soulful call, many a dream, many a future, without even a hint of remorse or consternation.

Perversity is the other key constituent of this attitude. We deliberately distort a given reality to construct an alibi and engineer a false narrative. We don’t shy of using any instrument for doing this, be it religion, history, culture, traditions or innumerable scars of shame. All these are used as combustible ingredients to raise the fire of fabrication and falsehood. Let the heavens be burnt as long as our wicked objectives are achieved.

What we require are leaders with a moral compass and a firm conviction to abide by it. A non-conforming leadership can only breed characterless and soulless generations, bereft of honour and direction. That’s exactly what we have ended up with. The palpable reality is that we are sinking into a deepening morass of conflicts and contradictions which shall take us farther from the truth. This is a harrowing prospect for us to see – unless, we may have our eyes closed!

In doing so, we overlook the fact that a whole nation is being infected with a false construct that they shall adopt as their own and feel no regret in using it to their advantage whenever they may have an opportunity. They’ll be inclined to choosing the easy and the fraudulent way rather than the straight and honourable path that promises success with dignity.

Such are the wobbly edifices that we have raised over seven decades of our existence. In spite of a history replete with disgraceful setbacks, we have refused to correct our path. Instead, we have continued pursuing the course of adding to the piling stocks of shame that we have accumulated, be it so in the personal domain, or as part of building a national character.

Lying, cheating, looting, plundering, distorting, casting aspersions, whispering innuendos, or fabricating vile conspiracies– all these are key constituents of the misleading narratives which are promoted with remorseless frequency. There are no shades of repentance that this can bring harm to innocent people. It makes for a perfect playing ground to derive vicarious pleasure by some sick minds.

It is not so much an issue with the ordinary people as it is with those who lead them in multiple domains which are all infested with a peculiar mindset that lives by abnegating the moral compass and forging pathways that relentlessly multiply a cancerous growth. There is no escaping its pungent bite.

Selling religion as merchandise is a common practice, and being judgemental is a key constituent of this malady. Branding some as non-Muslim and others as heretics is a most favourite pastime. This is exclusively meant to perpetuate specific interest-related cults which don’t serve the cause of religion. In fact, these gruesome practices only take people away from their faith. Over time, these followers, too, become active carriers of a lethal virus. That is how the disease spreads its poisonous tentacles to infect a whole society.

Mixing religion with politics has been a core cause of conflict and regression which has now spread through multiple echelons and layers of the society. This has denuded people of their right-thinking mind as they go by the self-righteous diktat proclaimed by leaders of their respective creeds. Yardsticks are enacted making the followers of a certain religion more equal than the practitioners of other beliefs who are discriminated against in every walk of life. Even their upward mobility is restricted. This inequality and inequity run deep in the national psyche which is perpetrated with unbelievable zeal and vindictiveness. Consequently, instead of giving everyone a compatible chance to become a vibrant tool in the progress of the state, some are left out licking their wounds of being the less equal.

And there are those who are constantly and vigorously engaged in pontificating, forever justifying these degenerate practices. In certain instances, the pressures grow beyond the human constraints. The consequent options for the outcasts are stark: either convert, or be prepared for some dastardly treatment, including rape and murder.

We have gone far on this path and people are not even looking back. They have become so used to living by these regressive standards that they have forgotten the true ethos of the state that Pakistan was to become. It is a whole new world that they inhabit– not the real one, but one which is imagined and which they have imbibed from countless self-sanctifying sermons they have been hounded with.

Tutored by these myopic leaders, the people manifest a state of suspended animation between the real and the unreal. They have been exposed to grave distortions. Instead of having learnt from the true knowledge of their peers, they have been fed with deadly and poisonous potions which only promote false narratives meant to serve individual agendas and fancies. This is a damning reality whereby everyone has a right to say what each of them may wish to, without a care to abide by the yardsticks of truth and fairness.

The instruments that the state designed and integrated as manipulating tools have become bleeding wounds. These are mortal inflictions which cannot be cured by administering disprins. These are cancerous growths which require comprehensive surgical procedures. But, who has the grit, the character and the courage to first acknowledge that we made mistakes, and then get on with the arduous task of curing the lesions and lacerations?

What we require are leaders with a moral compass and a firm conviction to abide by it. A non-conforming leadership can only breed characterless and soulless generations, bereft of honour and direction. That’s exactly what we have ended up with. The palpable reality is that we are sinking into a deepening morass of conflicts and contradictions which shall take us farther from the truth. This is a harrowing prospect for us to see – unless, we may have our eyes closed!

In the inimitable words of Kahlil Gibran, such a nation can only be pitied:

“Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,

Whose philosopher is a juggler,

And whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.”

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.



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