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How Imran Khan completes Henry Kissinger’s idea of a strong leader

Hassan Aslam Shad, who is an international lawyer, has compiled an interesting Twitter thread explaining how Imran Khan fulfills all attributes of Dr Kissinger's definition of a quintessential leader. 

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Dr Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, in his book Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy states that leaders think and act at the intersection of two axes: first, between past and future; second, between abiding values and aspirations of those they lead.

They must balance what they know, which is necessarily drawn from the past, with what they intuit about the future, which is inherently conjectural and uncertain. It is this intuitive grasp of direction that enables leaders to set objectives and lay down a strategy, Dr Kissinger further adds.

Amid the backdrop of Dr Kissinger’s views on leadership, Hassan Aslam Shad, who is an international lawyer, has compiled an interesting Twitter thread explaining how Imran Khan fulfills all attributes of Dr Kissinger’s definition of a quintessential leader.

Qualities of a true leader

While keeping Dr Kissinger’s leadership views in light, Hassan Aslam Shad explains that a true leader is someone whose thinking and actions pivot on and equivocate between two axes/tiers: the past and the future. The past is crucial because the past takes us back to the foundational ethos and building blocks of nationhood. For Pakistan these are Jinnah’s Unity, Faith, and Discipline; and Iqbal’s “Shaheen” (soaring high in the skies) & “Khudi” (selfhood -“individuation and wholeness”).

However, a leader who is true to his mantle must also ascertain the “past” by going beyond rhetorical dogmas, events, and dates. In the case of Pakistan – a Muslim-majority country founded in the name of Islam. Pakistan’s “past” and its genesis as a nation are grounded in the earliest foundational precepts of Islam. As a result, Hassan Aslam Shad elaborates that a true and sincere leader should aspire to borrow statecraft/principles from Riyasat-e-Medina and strive to implement them in substance/essence, if not in form.

A good leader would also invoke “history as a guide” to make people learn from the mistakes of the past. For instance, Pakistan lost half of itself in 1971 but honest leadership is all about drawing parallels between that cataclysmic event and the fascism that again threatens the federation.

Read more: Pakistan’s counter lawfare against US Senate Bill must start now!

A good leader must also zoom in and get a pulse of the “abiding values” and “aspirations” of his people. As per Hassan Aslam Shad, a good leader must understand that although our abiding values are rooted in Islam, their final shape lies in our sociocultural makeup.

An honest and true leader is a dreamer and a visionary who can imagine a tree in a seed. Ethically grounded in the past but mindful of the present, he visualizes and carves a future for his people. Initially, his sketch of the future appears blurry to many. But with time, the fog disappears, and a clearer picture of the sketch begins to emerge. As per Dr Kissinger, this is due to the leader’s intuition. His intuition or visceral belief rubs off on people once his premonitions and warnings start coming true, Hassan Aslam Shad notes.

Intuition: Imran Khan’s strategic victory?

While summing up the qualities of a strong leader, Hassan Aslam Shad says that the most important task of a leader is to lay down strategy and objectives.

“Here is where we find a lot of criticism of Imran Khan – that is, he had a poor team, no strategy, etc. This criticism is largely unfounded when we use hindsight,” Hassan Aslam Shad says.

He then elaborates that since Imran Khan was removed from the Prime Minister’s Office through a Vote of No Confidence, a series of events made sure that Imran Khan was hemmed in by forces of status quo that couldn’t afford to see him implement his vision/strategy for Pakistan, thus making sure he exited.

“Imran Khan once quipped that during his cricketing days, India’s hand was strengthened by spinner-friendly pitches and non-neutral umpires. I’m not a cricket historian, but I believe Imran Khan overcame this handicap through intuition and building a team that trumped India in India,” Hassan Aslam Shad notes.

Read more: Iran’s 1953 coup vs. Imran Khan’s ouster

“In other words, even back then, Imran Khan had an intuition as well as some strategy/game plan. Now, onto the biggest criticism faced by those who view Imran Khan as a leader: How can his cricket victories translate into successfully leading a country of some 220 million?” he further adds.

In response to the criticism, Hassan Aslam Shad explains that in Pakistan’s case, it is not so much what needs to be done, but rather what must be undone. Imran Khan’s eventual victory would be to undo the “elite capture” of Pakistan’s resources and untying the knot of poverty around people’s necks. Like the 80s and India, Imran Khan is up against spinner-friendly tracks and non-neutral umpires. The difference between then and now is the “team.” And Imran Khan’s “team” are the people of Pakistan, thus making it difficult for his rivals to beat him. Despite the system being rigged, Imran Khan has enabled the people of Pakistan to intuit a certain future.

“This “collective intuition” about a common future that he has managed to instill in Pakistanis is Imran Khan’s greatest strategic victory as a leader. By all means, Imran Khan fulfills all attributes of Dr. Kissinger’s definition of a quintessential leader,” Hassan Aslam Shad concludes.

Hassan Aslam Shad is an international lawyer based in the Middle East. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, U.S.A. with a focus on international law. Due to his expertise, he led Imran Khan’s legal team while filing defamation proceedings under UAE law against Geo News and businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor for the Toshakhana allegations.

Read more: Imran Khan files defamation case against Umar Farooq Zahoor