A central topic of conversation these days is the gradual disappearance of ‘Naya Pakistan’. In many expert opinions, the dream is evaporating before it has even begun. The reasons for this disillusionment are many, but major political pundits are blaming the poor performance of the economy, which has led to price hikes and created havoc for the common man.
The deficit of tax collection funds, reduction in expected inflows from overseas Pakistanis, lack of a cohesive plan which could bind the PTI to its manifesto with every passing month, absence of cohesive team work within the ranks of the PTI, lack of any meaningful legislation to alter the method of operations in the country, workings of the NAB and its elusive chase of the many without credibility, are some of the key ingredients leading people to believe that there is no hope, as they closely watch the PTI government struggle with the mounting challenges ahead.
In our existence of over 70 years, we seem to have learnt little from the past. This country’s foundation is based on its Quaid’s vision and time is witness to his unceasing struggles. Despite a litany of challenges over the years, Pakistan remains vibrant and has survived many tests. These include splitting of the country, grappling with martial law, struggles with incompetent and corrupt leaders, crises of the Afghan war and terrorism, and dealing with political parties that have not left any stone unturned in derailing us from our vision and purpose. However, factors such as our strategic location, unique geography, and more importantly, the resolve of our people, who were always willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice no matter what – whether it was the war of 1965, our resolute efforts to eliminate terrorism from the veins of the country through initiatives like Operation Zarb-e-Azab, taking serious action within our cities to provide safety and security to our citizens, or our collaborative response to Indian aggression very recently, demonstrated beyond doubt that this nation is not only alive but can defend itself against any and all enemies.
Why then are we losing hope at this time in the newly-formed government which started its journey a mere eight months ago? The Pakistani people came out to vote and elected the Captain. It was widely known that he did not have any previous experience, and in fact, this could very well be the main reason for his election. The belief in Imran Khan’s vision to select the right team, his promise to establish a mirror image of Riasat-e-Madina, his earnest vow to inculcate the process of accountability within his own party’s ranks as well as those of its foes, the party’s resolve to rid the country of debt, his care and focus on neglected children, and especially his emphasis on alleviating poverty, are all commendable initiatives.
It is vital to understand that every new government must be given adequate time to deliver its manifesto. Our collective habit of jumping to conclusions has always hurt Pakistan and prevented us from attaining real prosperity in the last two political governments. The real challenge for the government and for Khan is not the voices of dissent, but to stay on track with his original vision in a political environment which is riddled with corruption and mistrust.
In my experience of running large-scale organizations, I have learned one important precursor to success. It is all about selecting the right teams, and the right people for the job, people who are committed and honest, with the ability to work tirelessly to convert these ideas to reality. It will be of paramount importance for the current leadership to find people within his party who have the right skills to take on the daunting challenges being faced by the country.
The prime minister must continue to move forward, learning from previous mistakes and ensuring that future selections are made with extreme care. Important ministries such as science & technology and telecommunications must have visionary leaders to induce the change required and be led by capable ministers who understand the vital issues which will be faced by the country in the future. In this regard, the FBR and other similar departments would also need out of the box thinking and leadership. We must also give credit to the current government for conducting an honest assessment of its performance for its first 90 days, and another evaluation of its ministers after eight months, based on performance outcomes.
In a recent discussion with one of the Pakistan’s greatest business leaders, who happens to be my mentor, I sensed little confidence in the future of the country, largely due to the current tactics being employed by the government. It is abundantly clear that many fronts have been opened at once without a cohesive projected trajectory to manage these challenges, which has put the bureaucracy at a standstill, unwilling to take major decisions required to bring the prime minister’s vision to a reality. Similarly, the bickering and bifurcation among the various team members within the PTI is hampering any potential progress.
In this time of uncertainty, people are looking for inspiration that speaks to their needs. They want to believe in their leader but are continually faced with the legacy of greed and distrust that surrounds them. The need for real solutions and strong leadership is at an all-time high. People are tired of false promises and unprepared for unexpected outcomes. They want certainty during a time when they are angry, bitter and disillusioned by the constant reminders that things aren’t getting much better. In a word, they want hope and the belief that something is possible and probable.
The economic news is still grim. The government has made some bad decisions with far-reaching implications. Regardless, our prime minister’s job requires him to be a leader – and leaders create hope. Do not confuse ‘hope’ with ‘happy news’. The hope that a leader conveys is a sense of dedication, perseverance, commitment, fortitude, and enthusiasm for the opportunity and blessings we enjoy in this country. What our leaders must not do is offer the false promise that everything will be just fine. Now, more than ever, it is our prime minister’s job to foster an environment where people believe we can get through these tough times.
The writer is former deputy CEO, ZONG, and a management consultant.