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Saturday, April 13, 2024

To the “reluctant honchos”, Pakistan needs honest leadership – Dr. Farid A. Malik

Dr. Farid A. Malik, an ex-Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, thinks authority figures in Pakistan are not performing well in their organizations. Reluctance to perform in such important positions of authority is a sin that cannot be condoned. One must deliver or get out of the way.

It has been recently reported in the press that Shah Mahmood Qureshi (SMQ) the Foreign Minister (FM) and Governor Punjab Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar (CMS) are not happy with their current positions. Both desire to be in the mainstream of authority.

SMQ spends considerable time in his constituency hoping to be the Chief Minister (CM) of South Punjab one day. It is alleged that his earlier hopes of getting the coveted position of CM Punjab were dashed due to the Multan Qureshi-Tarin rivalry. SMQ won at the national level but lost his provincial seat. While SMQ was FM during the Zardari regime, CMS was Governor in the Sharif government.

In the land of the pure, not much can be achieved without executive authority. In the decade of the eighties, Nawaz Sharif (NS) as CM challenged the authority of genuinely elected Prime Minister (PM) Benazir Bhutto. At that time he was the ‘Darling of the Establishment.’

After the 18th Amendment, Islamabad has been cut to size, power has been devolved to the provinces. CMs have become important with CM Punjab being the de facto ruler of the republic.

Read more: Governors vs CMs: Who is spending more on expenses?

Injustice done to an undisputed leader

The development of Karachi, the economic hub of the country has become a challenge for the federation. CM Sindh refuses to give up his turf despite the financial goodies offered by the PM. In Punjab, the PM exercises authority through his party CM who himself is a political lightweight and a lateral entrant into the PTI fold.

The evergreen Chaudhry’s of Gujrat continue to create confusion in the largest province of the country. As President PTI Punjab, Comrade Ahsan Rashid (Late) was the undisputed leader who commanded both respect and reverence from the party rank and file due to his selfless and untiring efforts to build the party at the grass-root level. The electables that entered the party fold after the October 2011 show of strength, combined to corner him.

Read more: The ‘Electables’ in Imran Khan’s PTI

First, the Inter-Party Elections were manipulated to deny him the top provincial slot, and then the provincial assembly seat in the 2013 electoral contest was stolen to keep him out of contention for the top slot. As an upright decent soul, Comrade Ahsan did not come out openly against the political bounty hunters but was badly hurt by this evil alliance. Unfortunately, he passed away before the next elections in 2018, leaving the field open for leadership of the province.

Now the Qureshi-Tarin camps came face to face. Jehangir Khan Tarin (JKT) was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) yet he continued to exercise considerable influence within the party. SMQ ascendency to the coveted slot of CM Punjab had to be blocked at all costs in which the group succeeded. Through Usman Buzdar, JKT continued to be in the mainstream of power till he fell out with the PM.

To keep his chances alive, SMQ then decided to team up with the Governor. Together they held press conferences against the provincial leadership of their own party. During the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) regime, both Ghulam Mustafa Khar and Muhammad Hanif Ramay tried to rebel against their own party but were ruthlessly sidelined by ZAB.

Read more: Rise of the “Toady” dynasties in Pakistan

Is Pakistan’s Foreign Office failing?

In the current international scenario, the FM has a key role to play which requires full-time dedicated efforts. The Foreign Office (FO) is mostly on the back foot, usually defending its position through press conferences.

India was allowed to become the President of the powerful United Nations Security Council without contest. When the issue was raised in the National Assembly, the defense offered was that it was a temporary position.

The interests of the country have been repeatedly blocked in this forum in the emerging scenario. Munir Akram the current permanent representative is forced to express his point of view outside the assembly session.

Read more: Pakistan rejects Indian claim to Kashmir as integral part: Munir Akram

In 2019, India canceled the special status of Kashmir and moved in the troops. The move was neither anticipated in advance nor appropriately contested at the international level. The situation in Afghanistan is fast-changing but so far moving in the right direction.

The FO anxiously awaits the move from the international players before deciding on recognition of the new government in Kabul. Proactive efforts are required at this juncture.

A word of advice for the “reluctant  honchos” of Pakistan

Governor Sarwar has formed the Aab-e-Pakistan Authority that has launched 14 water supply projects in 36 districts of Punjab. After facing several bureaucratic hurdles, the authority has been launched. Clean drinking water is needed but the problem of dirty water needs to be resolved first. Untreated dirty water is pumped into the rivers and canals causing cross-contamination. Not a single wastewater treatment plant is currently functional.

Every day when I drive by the small treatment plant at LUMS, I ask myself the question; “Why cannot the Mahmood Booti plant be made functional?” Perhaps there is no glory in installing wastewater treatment plants.

Then there is the Sarwar Foundation that is run by the first lady of Punjab. The family does not reside in the Governor’s estate on the Mall, it is only used as an office space. The entire staff can easily be accommodated in the old Freemason’s Hall down the road. The structure can be put to much better use.

Read more: Pakistan will run out of water in 4 years

‘Reluctant Honchos’ are not very desirable for the long-term benefit of the organizations they head. Before moving up the ladder of responsibility they must perform to the best of their abilities in their current portfolios.

SMQ has twice been the FM and so has CMS, their desire for bigger roles is understandable but it must be backed with solid performance not opportunistic party jumping. As a student of management, I do not rate their performance very high.

The PM should give them clear objectives to be met. Reluctance to perform in such important positions of authority is a sin that cannot be condoned. One must deliver or get out of the way. The interests of the country and its people must come first. Pakistan needs selfless, honest, able leadership to move forward, let the ‘Reluctant Hancos’ rest in peace.

Read more: Pakistan needs leaders, not social movements

The writer is an Ex-Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at: fmaliks@hotmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.