Demagogues and delusions

Politicians are like sand-dunes, which face the way the wind blos

Article 63 (1-a) of Pakistan’s Constitution says, inter alia, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if:-(a) he is of unsound mind and has been so declared by a competent court; …”. The behaviour of some of our politicos creates doubts about the soundness of their minds. It appears they are megalomaniacs (suffering from folie de grandeur) “obsessed with the exercise of power”.

They have “the delusional belief being “important, powerful, or famous”.

A “demagogue” is generally perceived to be a person who panders to sentiments, desires and prejudices of ordinary gullible people. He avoids rational argument and dialogue with adversaries. To exploit an issue he makes use of various forms of media particularly social media, press conferences and “address to the nation.

Pakistan has many demagogues but few leaders. One lives in a sprawling 300 kanal estate, gifted to him in a “benami transaction”. The construction over it “regularised” for paltry Rs 1.2 million while pauper huts were demolished .

A proponent of Medina State suffers from “persecutory delusion”. Without corroborative evidence, he is haunted that ubiquitous plainclothesmen around him want to kill him. There were 10 plots to exterminate him.  He fears being “suffocated with gas in his room”, poisoned to cause a heart attack. “Asif Zardari gave a contract for my murder to two people in FATA.”

The British created a class of chieftains to suit their need for loyalists, war fundraisers and recruiters in the post-’mutiny’ period and during the Second World War. A gubernatorial gazetteer states: “I have for many years felt convinced that the time had arrived for the Government to try to introduce some distinction for those who can show hereditary services before the Hon’ble Company’s rule in India ceased. I have often said that I should be proud to wear a Copper Order, bearing merely the words ‘Teesri pusht Sirkar Company ka Naukar’ (Third generation Company’s servant). Peep into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the patrilineage of many of today’s Tiwanas, Nawabs, Pirs, Syed, Faqirs, Qizilbashs, Kharrals, Gakkhars, and their ilk.

Some pirs and mashaikh (religious leaders) even quoted verses from the Holy Quran to justify allegiance to the Englishman (amir), after loyalty to Allah and the Messenger (PBUH). They pointed out that the Quran ordained that ehsan (favour) be returned with favour. The ehsan were British favours like titles (khan bahadur, nabob, etc), honorary medals, khilat with attached money rewards, life pensions, office of honorary magistrate, assistant commissioner, courtier, etc. A Tiwana military officer even testified in favour of O’Dwyer when the latter was under trial. Ayub Khan added the chapter of 22 families to the aristocracy, a legacy of the English Raj.

Islam does not approve of unearned wealth. We know of the decision by Hazrat Omar (May Allah be Pleased with him) in regard to Fai lands. He disapproved of land as maal-e-ghaneemat (booty) because it would create generations upon generations of wealthy landowners.

Bolman and Deal say `Great leadership begins when a leader’s world view [Weltanschauung] and personal story, honed over years of experience, meet a situation that both presents challenges and opportunities’. They add, `Great leaders test and evolve their story over time, experimenting, polishing abandoning plot lines that don’t work, and re-inventing those that do.  Bad stories often lead to disaster, but good ones conjure magic’ (Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E Deal, How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing, 2014).

Weltanschauung is a German word which literally means `world view’. The word combines Welt (“world”) with Anschauung (“view”). It is a particular philosophy or view of life; the world views of an individual or group. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.

Why housing and multiple plots only for judges and bureaucrats? Why not the same pay-scale for all grades 17-22? Hopeless, when an avatar, a visionary of the Medina State, utilises his fedayeen as a human shield to evade arrest, and banks on “mother-in-laws” to flex judicial pens and pans. Why does his legal team never have time to defend have-not kids in prisons? Study Precariat and Occupy movement. They have helpline advocates to protect the helpless wherever they stage a protest.

Study of leadership styles across swathes of literature indicates that the two traits, a `world view’ and a `story line’ are common in all business leaders (Steve Job, Penny, Eisner, Ford, and Rockefeller). Or in political leaders like Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Lincoln, whether you abhor or adore them.  Some management texts sum up leadership styles (Robert Blake and Jane Mouton) through grids of `concern for people’ (country club, human orientation) and `concern for results’ (task orientation).  The leaders share their `world view’ with people who fall in line to leave behind a legacy, a story.

Hitler, otherwise viewed as a psychopath, explains his `world view in Chapter 1 of his autobiography (Weltenschauung and party, page 298) Mein Kampf (My Struggle). He says `Thus we brought to knowledge of public those first principles and lines of action along which the new struggle was to be conducted for the abolition of a confused mass of obsolete ideas which had obscure and often pernicious tendencies’.

Napoleon’s `world view’ (like Julius Caesar’s) is less pronounced than his lust for `power’ and contempt for `constitution’ (a la ZA Bhutto, Zia, et al). Pakistan’s prime ministers and prime-ministers-to-be forgot French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum `majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects [is] unrestrained by law’ (Roedad Khan, Pakistan: A Dream Gone Sour).

Napoleon told Moreau de Lyonne, “The constitution, what is it? But a heap of ruins. Has it not been successively the sport of every party?” “Has not every kind of tyranny been committed in its name since the day of its establishment?”

During his self-crowning in 1804, Napoleon said, “What is the throne, a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet? I am the state. I alone am here, the representative of the people”. Take General Zia. While addressing a press conference in Tehran, he said, “What is the Constitution?  “It is a booklet with ten or 12 pages.  I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system.  Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead them.  All the politicians including the once mighty Mr Bhutto will follow me with their tail wagging (ibid. pp. 87-88). Dicey said, “No Constitution can be absolutely safe from a Revolution or a coup d’etat”.

Today, we have no leader, like the Quaid-e-Azam, with a `world view’, no `story line’ of sustained committed struggle. MJ Akber rightly observes `The [Pakistani] political leaders act like sand dunes. They move in the direction the wind blows’ (Akber, In Pakistan Today). John R. Schmidt agrees, ‘The mainstream political parties in Pakistan can best be viewed as patronage networks, whose primary goal is seeking political offices to gain access to state resources, which can then be used to distribute patronage among their members’ (The Unravelling, Pakistan in the Age of jihad).

Why it is so? Stanley A. Kochanek unpuzzles the conundrum by pointing out `Parties in Pakistan are built from the top-down and are identified with their founders.  The office holders are appointed by the leader.  Membership rolls are largely bogus and organizational structure exists only on paper’ (Interest groups and Development, 1983). `Most political parties are non-democratic in their structure, character and outlook. The process for leadership selection is not by election, but by nomination.  Political parties have no links with the policy process as personalities rather than issues matter’ (Saeed Shafqat, Contemporary Issues in Pakistan Studies).

Let’s pray our sand-dune rulers come up with at least a uniform education, healthcare and housing policy. I, for one, am plot-less flat-less despite 39 years’ provincial and federal service. Why housing and multiple plots only for judges and bureaucrats? Why not the same pay-scale for all grades 17-22? Hopeless, when an avatar, a visionary of the Medina State, utilises his fedayeen as a human shield to evade arrest, and banks on “mother-in-laws” to flex judicial pens and pans. Why does his legal team never have time to defend have-not kids in prisons? Study Precariat and Occupy movement. They have helpline advocates to protect the helpless wherever they stage a protest.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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