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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Handmade prime ministers and fate of Pakistan

Only those people become leaders who struggle and start their political journey from the scratch. Democracy in Pakistan is weak because many prime ministers were imposed on the nation rather than elected. However, Imran Khan is the one who has struggled to become PM.

A history of poor installed leadership

In 2004 around 1500 hours in my capacity as Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF), I met Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali the 15th Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan. The purpose of the meeting was to convince him to induct technocrats in technical ministries. He was not convinced as he thought they would replace politicians who were duly elected. I did my best to explain that technocrats have replaced bureaucrats worldwide as application of technology has led to complexities that generalists are unable to manage. Watching the news bulletin at 1800 hours the same evening, I was shocked to hear that he had resigned.

Jamali Sahib was an astute and upright politician, he had no clue that he would be stepping down in a few hours without debate, discussion or voting. Later on, I came to know that at the time of his appointment he was made to sign his resignation letter. When the President decided to launch military action against Nawab Akbar Bugti, Jamali Sahib refused to go along, hence he was removed to be replaced by another plastic and compliant PM, Shaukat Aziz. Back door PMs are supposed to obey. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is the only back door PM who has unsuccessfully tried three times to stand up to the custodians of these ‘Chor Darwazay ‘, rest have followed the script.

Read more: Political tangles

Twice in the recent past, elected front door PMs were forced to follow the script. In the seventies it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) the most popular leader of his times who led from the front. Eventually he was trapped, cornered and eliminated. His daughter Benazir led a courageous movement against the dictator Zia Ul Haq and the PPP finally emerged as the single largest party in the 1988 elections. Power was handed over to her under very unfavourable conditions. She was made to accept Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) as the President together with handing over two most important ministries, Foreign Affairs and Finance to the establishment.

In Punjab, Mian Nawaz Sharif was forcibly installed as the counter weight Chief Minister. Being a front door popularly elected PM, she should have resisted the temptation of manipulated transition of power but she too fell into the trap. It was this compromise that gave strength to back door unnatural political entities like PML-N and PML-Q. GIK first tried to oust her through a vote of no-confidence with the help of Nawaz Sharif and his Changa Manga Camp where the MNA’s were lodged with money bags. When they did not succeed, then came the dismissal under the 8th amendment. Through the infamous Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) the back door entrants were brought to the forefront of power.

Kaptaan has always been an attacking player, he is now a front door PM who has to lead the charge thereby shutting the back doors for all times to come

There is a clear political divide between the front and back door politicians. Those who struggle to reach the corridors of power like Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the seventies and eighties and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the nineties and twenties cannot be equated with back door entrants who are installed into position to then consolidate their authority through misuse of state apparatus. The experiments of back door PMs have badly failed in fact they have now turned out to be political monsters to be dealt with. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is after them but due to complexities of common law their conviction remains an uphill task.

Two very important leaders come to mind. Air Marshals Asghar Khan and Nur Khan both entered politics after serving the nation in various capacities. Nur Khan realised early that politics in the land of the pure was not pure. He gracefully withdrew himself. On the other hand, Asghar Khan continued, hoping to come into power through honest struggle and sacrifice. He was first used by the third dictator and then abandoned. His son Omar Asghar Khan and heir apparent then emerged as a future political leader by joining the cabinet of the fourth dictator.

Unfortunately, he met with a tragic end leaving the once powerful Tehrik-e-Istiqlal in the wilderness. Finally, Asghar Sahib decided to merge his party with PTI. His son Ali Asghar Khan contested the election on PTI ticket from his hometown of Abbottabad but lost. Only two political entities, the PPP and PTI have so far succeeded in entering the corridors of power through their struggle yet they too were made to compromise.

Read more: The Man Behind Imran Khan!

Pakistan needs real political leadership that enjoys popular support. Turkey went through a similar transition. Tayyip Erdogan gradually established himself by serving his people before he amended the constitution ending over half a century of Military domination. Pakistan has credible leadership at the top after decades that is trying to establish civilian authority but a lot of work needs to be done.

All brands of Muslim Leagues with its back-door leaders are on their way out. As a Muslim League child, I am embarrassed at the leadership that has been thrust upon the nation through the back door. Most civilian institutions are in total disarray and need to be rebuilt. Electoral reforms are also the need of the hour. Elections have to be credible to be acceptable to all contestants.

As PM Imran Khan is walking a fine line, so far, he remains undaunted by the odds pitted against him but his struggle is ongoing. The entrenched Mafia’s continue to resist the much-needed change. Political cleansing has to go on unabated to restore the purity in the land of the pure. After the 1970 debacle, the establishment has been able to thwart the political order either by manipulation of the electoral process or by holding on to power where front door leadership managed to gain public support.

There has to be real transition of power for political order to gain strength but for that to happen the political parties have to organize themselves together with grass root structure and support for mass mobilization of people as was done during the recent election campaigns and the one in the seventies led by ZAB.

Read more: Resurrection of political mafia

Only real leadership can fight for change, rest will either work for narrow self-interests or sheepishly go home as done by Jamali Sb. Kaptaan has always been an attacking player, he is now a front door PM who has to lead the charge thereby shutting the back doors for all times to come. This may turn out to be his greatest innings as an attack bowler, all-rounder and leader of the nation.

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. (Fr. General Manager PITAC, Process Engineering Manager Intel Corporation Engineering and Management Consultant). An expert on mining and energy, currently working on developing clean Coal Technologies for Thar Deposit. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.