?.. by Raza Muhammad Khan
THE solutions to most national afflictions in democracies are relatively simple. However, most politicians fail to fathom them; since they are either untutored for the job or they are more concerned about the next election. Unlike statesmen, who think about the next generation, most new rulers act like amateurs and often focus on trivialities rather than substantial matters? As a consequence, they exhibit an impression of masking their incompetence to rule. While this state is prevalent in many democracies, leadership crises in the political arena and parochial infighting are particularly rampant in Pakistan, which has harmed it more than external machinations in the past. Whereas statesmen strive to protect cherished values and attain great goals through their initiative, personalities and skills, despite constraints, it appears that the prime philosophy of statecraft in Pakistan revolves around demonizing opponents and emphasizing self-accolades. Instead of concentrating on rational meliorism, time is invested on manipulating the media and propaganda to accumulate power, exterminating opponents and expanding their power base through nepotism. These are the favorite tactics of the despot and are an abomination in any true democracy.
It also appears that our governing elites, across the political divide, exclusively belong to a cast of privileged grouping that is set apart from the rest of society by their bank balances, inheritance and their propensity to exercise power for self-perpetuation. Further, as they reduce the government to the rule of a few, called the ?kitchen cabinet?, oligarchy is born out of our democracy, that usually gives rise to the decline of the state and the society. So who is to blame for this predicament in Pakistan? The masses themselves may be partially culpable. Plato, in his famous ?dialogues?, regarded ruling as a subject that only an expert can master. He lamented that while citizens in democracies trusted only good doctors for healing their sickness and expert seamen for oceanic voyages, they are ?content to trust their fortunes to people who know nothing of the art of governing ?. But Plato held the rulers mainly answerable for the fortune of the state and advised them to distinguish themselves ?by laying emphasis on the living (people), rather than the lifeless (buildings) things? to serve the best interests of the citizens. He also warned statesmen against the pitfalls of exercising power sans thorough knowledge of the ?art? of good and just governance.
Actually, politicians in power need many traits to morph as statesmen. They need a set of core principles that keep the interests of the masses above all else and that best advances the primary values and interests of the country. Instead of shaping themselves in accordance with the public opinion, which may not be always right, they must follow an ethical compass to do the right thing, even at the risk of losing elections. They must be men of integrity; shun empty promises, eschew accusing others without proof, lead by moral authority and represent all that is best in their countrymen. The Holy Quran also enjoins that a leader must possess the distinctive qualities of knowledge, intellect, righteousness and strength. They have a clear vision of what the country and people can become, where they need to be taken and how. They can anticipate problems on the horizon and are able to come up with solutions not only for the here and now, but for the future too. They must be able to build a consensus to achieve their vision, failing which, their efforts to change policies, laws and the course of history will largely be in vain. Statesmen are well read and aware of the lessons of history, enabling them to speak with cogent arguments and building harmony hinges on their ability to convince others about the soundness of their plans, rather than glib media and PR campaigns. Finally, they do not replace statecraft with stagecraft, or substance with style and act not as rulers but as a servants of the people, as desired by the Quaid.
Judged by the preceding criteria, very few politicians can claim to be leaders and even fewer among them in power, can claim to be statesmen. We?ve lived with this for too long and it?s time to reclaim our country and demand that our politicians in power adopt the following four paradigms in statecraft. First, a higher and powerful bipartisan constitutional set up, called the governance accountability bureau must be set up. This body must evaluate performance every year, like the system in the bureaucracy, censor underperformers, enforce changes within the majority party or even order fresh elections, as was once intended through the 8Th Amendment. Till this happens, a new parliamentary oversight committee must be assigned this task. Second; the ECP must upload the education qualification and experience of all candidates on its website, well before the elections and also on the ballot papers, to enable the people to make a fair judgement before voting.
This measure may arrest the rule of ignoramuses or incompetent politicians over us, to an extent. Third; as a long term measure, character building must be included as an integral part in our education systems and the media must be obligated to assist in this matter. Parents, teachers (religious and secular), family elders, renowned writers, poets and thinkers will have a vital inspirational role to nurture good citizens, out of which, over a period of time, good leaders and statesmen will certainly emerge. Finally, a mandatory statecraft workshop at the NDU must be attended by all new lawmakers. These redeeming actions and changes will certainly produce a new breed of competent statesmen in the country. Our founding generations made great sacrifices for the creation and survival of this nation. Will the present rulers emulate them and answer this clarion call? If they don?t, democracy will continue to lose space to unconstitutional forces, in our checkered political odyssey.
? The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.