ISLAMABAD: Spring has set in and flowers of every hue are in bloom in the capital city. Before Sunday next (March 16), the National Assembly shall stand dissolved on completion of its five-year tenure, the PPP-led coalition government in Islamabad would leave office and a caretaker government would be preparing to move in.
Men and women of all political shades are celebrating what is surely a rare moment in this country’s political history but are Pakistanis celebrating too? Do Pakistanis believe they are better off today? Do they hope they will be safer and happier in the months and years to come? I shall leave that to you to conclude and to the various opinion polls now being conducted by all and sundry.
I bade farewell to my 37-year long service in the government exactly five years ago this month. I have tried to remain apolitical since then - a trait I picked up while in service despite holding politically laden important staff positions with three Prime Ministers and, indirectly, with a spouse of the then prime minister. It is a trait that I find difficult to shun even today. I am a voter nevertheless and, not being “a dual national”, I have a stake in the electoral process. So, come elections and, Allah willing, I shall cast my vote. For whom? For a Mohammad Khan Junejo if I can find one.
I have always believed that a country like Pakistan needs no Aristotle to govern. It does not need a rocket scientist, or a financial wizard, as head of the government. We do not need a brilliant orator or a magician as our prime minister. The only qualities we need in a prime minister of Pakistan is simplicity and sincerity, basic common sense, commitment to the cause of Pakistan and to the welfare of Pakistanis and, most importantly, personal integrity. In fact, I would put integrity at the top of all the qualities that I would want in my prime minister.
I say this as I did find these qualities in a prime minister that I worked for in this very country. He was the late Mohammad Khan Junejo whose three-year tenure as prime minister is still recalled as a rare period of good governance in Pakistan. And this, despite his limited formal education and the fact that he was nominated by a Pir and hand-picked for the position by a military ruler of long standing and elected as prime minister by a National Assembly that was elected on a non-party basis. He not only created a parliamentary party in a non-party Assembly, and a very disciplined one too, but also infused life into what was then a dead and dysfunctional Pakistan Muslim League. It was not without reason that an editorial in the then daily The Muslim professed that Mr Junejo would prove to be Zial ul Haq’s Zia. Prophetic indeed! It was only after his unfortunate dismissal by Gen Zia-ul-Haq that the PML was fragmented into N, Q, F, LM, etc. He achieved many milestones in his three years as prime minister largely because he placed premium on integrity through personal examples. I would thus like my prime minister to distinguish between the official and the personal and act accordingly. The late Mr Junejo did it. He never let any one but his spouse and his children into the Prime Minister’s House. His personal guests and those of his children visiting Islamabad had to stay elsewhere. That was the rule.
The PM House comptroller once lamented before me that Mr. Junejo only allowed two dishes to be cooked for lunch and dinner (dal or vegetable and mutton or chicken) and he was under instructions to purchase not more than a kilo of meat daily even though it was all paid for by the government. He invariably switched off the lights himself while leaving the room and paid for every thing that he thought should not be charged to state expenditure.
On one of his routine visits to his ancestral home in Sindhri, he was surprised to see new rattan furniture neatly placed in the long verandah of his private residence. Who has brought them, he asked. The PWD, he was informed, had purchased them and placed them there as the house was officially declared as a prime ministerial residence. Not amused by the answer, Mr Junejo asked his military secretary to find out how much the PWD had spent on the furniture and he wrote a cheque for the amount as reimbursement to PWD.
Can we recall any prime minister in Pakistan sacking three cabinet ministers on allegations of corruption and forcing one out because he was not in harmony with the prime minister on an important foreign policy issue? Mr Junejo sacked his minister for communication and minister for local government and his minister of state for production on alleged charges of corruption.
He forced out his foreign minister because he thought the minister was drawing inspiration from the Presidency rather than the cabinet. I have recalled these incidents only to underline the fact that a leader (Prime Minister) in a country like Pakistan can bring sanity and order, peace and progress only if he leads by personal examples of which, personal integrity should be on the top of all his qualities. With elections 2013 only two months away, can any one from the present pack fit the bill? If not, can we find one in a new pack? Or, shall we keep shuffling till we find another Mohammad Khan Junejo? It is my hope and prayer that we find one soon and certainly before the damage to Pakistan gets irreparable.
The writer is a former federal secretary