A Case Before the Nation
By Dr. Haider Mehdi (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Nation, January 15, 2008
People of Pakistan!
Let us, for the sake of deliberation and in good faith, give the benefit of the
doubt to Gen.(retired) Pervez Musharraf and accept all of his claims: Yes,
Benazir killed herself by hitting the car's sunroof lever. Yes, she was warned
not to hold a political rally. Yes, no state agency was involved in her
gruesome murder. Yes, the Sharif brothers went into exile at their own request.
Yes, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan was rightfully sacked. Yes, several
civil society activists and lawyers deserve to be put in jail. Yes, Gen.
(retd.) Pervez Musharraf is the best thing that has ever happened to Pakistan
in its 60-year history. Yes, the General (retd.) has given unprecedented
economic prosperity and political stability as well as true democracy to this
country. Yes, the majority of Pakistanis are extremists and terrorists. Yes,
Pakistan's survival as a nation is dependent on American goodwill and fighting
its war on terror. Yes, without the General (retd.), Pakistan has no future.
Yes, the General (retd.) is the promised "messiah" and so on and so
Having admitted all that is claimed by the incumbent leader, the nation still
needs some kind of criteria to evaluate the performance of its political
leadership. After all, that is a common process in a democratically-run nation
and the General (retd.) asserts that present-day Pakistan is a true democracy
shaped and gifted by him and supported by American benevolence.
Leadership performance evaluations are generally conducted within specifically
defined frameworks. General characteristics attributed to political leadership
are: vision, willing followers, influence, situational adaptability and
communication excellence. These five concepts, though not giving a complete
picture, present an underpinning of an effective political leadership. Can
Musharraf's performance be evaluated by the application of these five concepts?
Perhaps these notions are too broad and the discussion could be a complex and
It would seem more appropriate to look at Musharraf's performance within a more
specific framework. One such perspective is the notion of charismatic political
leadership. Is Musharraf a charismatic leader? Charisma, originally a Greek
word, means divine gift, and scholars have attributed such a leader with
"having considerable power over followers, especially in times of crisis."
A charismatic leadership is gifted with "(a) formulation of a strategic
vision, (b) inspiration and empowerment of followers, and (c) superior
articulation and impressive management skills." Charisma is directly
related to a leader's behavior; it is an ability to tie the self-concepts of
the followers in with the nation's vision, goals, identity and purpose.
The questions are: Has the General (retd.) been able to invoke followers'
loyalty at a massive national level? Has he succeeded in inspiring and
empowering the masses? Has Pervez Musharraf been successful in giving strategic
goal-oriented visionary leadership to the nation? Has he proven effective in
present-day national crisis management by acknowledging the self-concepts of
the masses with their national vision, goals, identity and purpose? Has the
General (retd.) demonstrated superior management skills at resolving the
economic and political problematics faced by the nation? Does he enjoy
considerable power over the masses by virtue of his personal behavior and
attributes? Has he been able to positively influence the masses at large and
provide the civil society in particular with a legendary and imaginative leap
in political doctrine or ideology?
Unfortunately, the answers to all of these questions are not in the
affirmative. The fact of the matter is that the nation, as a whole, is
completely alienated from Musharraf's political doctrines. Civil society is in
turmoil like never before. State violence has reached unprecedented levels.
Political chaos has reached unmanageable scales. The nation has been going
through one crisis followed by another ever since the General (retd.) came to
power some eight years ago. The era of confusion, national disarray and
multiple political exigencies is a testament to the fact that the General
(retd.) does not possess the credentials of a charismatic leader, nor has he
the qualities that inspire people, empower followers or offer a vision, goal,
identity or purpose to the nation.
Another conceptual framework in which a leader's performance can be evaluated
is to look at his/her management style. Management is a process of getting work
done through others. It involves planning, organizing, leading and controlling,
which are critical steps in getting the national agenda accomplished. A vital
element in a political leader's management style is that he/she uses influence
rather than relying on authority or positional power to accomplish the desired
end results. Concurrently, outstanding national leaders focus on political
variation and accommodation of diverse points-of-view, inspire change and deal
with national turbulence with imaginative innovation rather than relying on the
status quo and constancy the art of creating national harmony comes out of
the craftsmanship to seek concord, congruity, peace and unison out of chaotic
conditions -- rather than the other way around.
Once again, unfortunately as it is, the General's (retd.) leadership has
offered none of the dynamism of a successful, innovative management style. The
national agenda remains obscure under his leadership. The masses face
unprecedented price hikes, inflation is sky-rocketing, the poverty level is
increasing and the socio-economic gap in the society is widening. The law and
order situation in the country has never been so bad. The national
consciousness has been decimated by psychological pressures of oppressive
cultural and political trends espoused by the incumbent regime. The nation has
lost its bearings over its national identity and purpose by overwhelming
capitalistic and foreign-dominated political policies and economic planning.
The General (retd.) completely relies on his authority and positional power to
alter national institutions, the constitution and the day-to-day running of
state affairs. The common people are suffering and in agony like never before
in the chronicles of this nation. We have come to live in most dangerous times
under the present political dispensation engineered by the General's (retd.)
leadership. It is quite evident that the General (retd.) has not demonstrated
the prowess of an outstanding leader in national management. It is a sad and
unflattering commentary on Musharraf's leadership.
The General (retd.) claims that his intentions have been thoroughly noble and
conceived in the goodness of his heart and mind "Pakistan First"
has been his symbolic patriotic slogan.
A phrase attributed to an anonymous writer warns: "Remember, people will
judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold,
but so does a hardboiled egg."
Albert Camus, the world renowned Algerian-French writer, extensively wrote on
the French oppression of the Algerian populous. "The evil that is in the
world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm
as malevolence if they lack understanding."
On one hand, Vladimir Lenin combined ideological intentions with full-scale
political actions by granting independence to Finland in appreciation of their
national sentiments at the time of Bolshevik Revolution, without a bullet fired
or a Finish citizen killed.
Americans, on the other hand, nearly obliterated by force an entire
civilization and population of native American Indians in pursuit of American
national objectives. Ironically, the similar ideology of "the clash of
civilizations" is at play in the contemporary political situation focusing
on the premise: "accept Westernization or perish."
There are lessons for the General (retd.) to learn in all of these historical
events. Indeed, history is made of actions and not intentions the General's
political actions have caused permanent and irreparable damage to the national
edifice to an extent that it seems most appropriate for him to take an exit
from the politics of the country. That would be an honorable course of action
I rest my case. The entire nation has to be the jury in the end, it is the
people of Pakistan who will be the judge.
Hold your breath you may be in for surprises either way