Leadership and development

Holding of free and fair general elections in 2018 will be a test case for the election commission as well as the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the military

Leadership with vision, expertise, integrity and clarity can cause miracles by transforming a backward, volatile and under-developed country to a peaceful, prosperous and stable one. If the leadership is weak, corrupt, ignorant, arrogant and without prudence, the fate of that country is doomed. This is what one can learn from the annals of history.

When Pakistan’s Prime Minister in his address before the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly on September 21 this year talked about the importance of development, science and technology it depicted the truth for the progress of any nation. The reality on the ground is however different particularly when one looks at the year 2017 because of serious crisis in leadership and governance.

Leadership is not only confined to different pillars of government and state, it is also relevant as far as institutions at the societal level are concerned. As the year 2017 is ending it will be interesting to analyse why crisis in leadership deepened in 2017 and how a better leadership can emerge after the general elections of 2018. How human and social development in Pakistan can get an impetus if better elected representatives can reach the corridors of power? How a responsible, efficient, god fearing, honest and wise leadership in Pakistan can transform the country from number 144 in Human Development Index to top 10?

One can be optimistic and hopeful as far as the future of Pakistan in terms of development is concerned, yet based on historical facts there is always an element of doubt and concern about the emergence of leadership in 2018 general elections.

Three major possibilities exist as far as the challenge of leadership and development is concerned following 2018 general elections and how there can be turnaround of Pakistan in improving the quality of life of people, ensuring good governance, eradication of corruption, nepotism and the upholding of rule of law. First, around 10 years of rule by the governments of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has caused a serious thinking to opt for a third force represented by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) because issues of development, governance and the rule of law which should have been the priority of PPP and PML (N) have not been addressed by these two parties while in power for one decade.

In 25 years of their rule, both PPP and PML (N) only focused on consolidating dynastic politics, loot and plunder of country’s resources, promoting the culture of corruption, nepotism and criminalisation of politics. The misuse of power and patronage by compromising on merit caused serious economic and political loss to the country and brain drain as thousands of Pakistanis moved abroad

The perception which prevails in Pakistan is that both PPP and PML (N) have ruled Pakistan for 25 years out of 46 years in the post-1971 Pakistan. In 25 years of their rule, both PPP and PML (N) only focused on consolidating dynastic politics, loot and plunder of country’s resources, promoting the culture of corruption, nepotism and criminalization of politics. The misuse of power and patronage by compromising on merit caused serious economic and political loss to the country and brain drain of millions of Pakistanis to foreign countries. Therefore, the only plausible option which is left for the voters of Pakistan in 2018 general elections is to bring PTI into power. When the PTI Chairman, Imran Khan asserts that if the leadership at the top level is not corrupt and is accountable to people, no one can stop Pakistan to progress and develop has some merit. Yet, when the words of Imran Khan will be tested, if he comes to power next year, it will be clear how the third force can break the vicious hold over power by the PPP and PML (N).

Second is the possibility that PTI will not be able to win 2018 general elections and again PML (N) will form its government in the centre and in Punjab, while PPP and PTI will form governments in Sindh and KPK respectively. In case of Balochistan, a coalition government under PML (N) and the Baloch nationalists will be in place. In that scenario, status quo will be maintained because those who wield real power do not trust Imran Khan because of his independent thinking and their fear that he will not compromise on playing a subservient role under the establishment. Under such a set-up, one cannot expect a qualitative change to take place in Pakistan’s political landscape thus augmenting the level of frustration in the country. Truly, it is the right of voters to give their verdict provided elections are free and fair because charges of rigging in March 1977 and May 2013 general elections caused large-scale violence and instability in the country. Third, those who are observing the political landscape of Pakistan are of the opinion that 2018 will not be an election year because of possible outbreak of violence. PTI under Imran Khan rules out the holding of 2018 elections under the present election commission and there is a serious lack of trust between the two.

If the demand of PTI to reconstitute election commission including its head is not met, the outcome will be serious crisis which may destabilize the country. Furthermore, the appointment of caretaker Prime Minister, federal cabinet, provincial Chief Ministers and provincial cabinets also needs to be based on strict neutrality, merit and transparency. Otherwise, the charges of partiality against the then caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab during May 2013 elections and returning officers may be repeated again. Based on the possibilities examined above related to 2018 general elections, one can expect large-scale political crisis and turmoil which needs to be prevented by both the government and the opposition.

Holding of free and fair general elections in 2018 will also be the test case for election commission, judiciary, bureaucracy and military. Issues which can plunge the country in another phase of crisis must be seriously addressed so that the history of 1977 and 2013 elections is not repeated and there is a smooth transfer of power after the holding of elections to elected representatives.

Perhaps, electing a leadership in 2018 general elections which is honest, visionary, efficient and clear headed can help augment the process of social and human development. That leadership will not be selective in development like what has been done since 2013 by spending around 350 billion rupees on orange line and metro bus in the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan leaving aside vast majority of people who lack clean and safe drinking water, proper health and educational facilities not only in other parts of Punjab but in Pakistan as a whole. In 350 billion rupees, which are spent primarily to provide modern public transport system and beautification of the capital of Punjab province, the roads of whole of Pakistan and schools would have been uplifted. Selective development, which has been the priority of those who are in power since the last several years generates anger and antagonism among other people of Pakistan.

If PTI under Imran Khan is committing the pursuance of even handed, instead of selective development, certainly, it will have a positive impact on the future of Pakistan. What is required is to have meaningful social and human development by changing the approach and thinking of those who wield power, whether as elected representatives, government officials, ministers, bureaucrats, judges and military officers in favour of public service which can bring qualitative economic and social change in the lives of majority of people. By abolishing VVIP culture and using tax payer’s money in a judicious manner, Pakistan will not only be self-reliant in key areas of production but will also be able to generate plenty of resources for social and human development.

On historical account, only those countries progress which are having efficient, bold, honest, visionary and prudent leadership. There is no dearth of resources in Pakistan but what is required is to effectively and judiciously make use of human resource which can transform the country from third world to first.

The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations, University of Karachi and can be reached at: amoonis@hotmail.com

Published in Daily Times, December 29th 2017.