Monday July 22, 2024

Redefining leadership

By Saleem Safi
November 29, 2018

While ‘Naya’ Pakistan has not really come to fruition, its claimants have started compiling a new dictionary – with new definitions and interpretations of justice, accountability, personal attacks, rigging, begging and leaders.

According to the new concept of justice in Naya Pakistan, anything which is illegal for others is legal for the PTI. For instance, the offshore property of Nawaz Sharif is illegal but that of Jahangir Tareen is legal. Similarly, properties of other Pakistanis in Dubai are illegal, but that of Alima Khanum is legal. Moreover, the irregular houses of other Pakistanis in Banigala have to be demolished but that of Imran Khan’s has to be regularised.

According to the new definition of accountability, any person who belongs to the PPP or the PML-N is subject to strict accountability, but anyone who joins the PTI gets white-washed into innocence (for eg: Azam Swati and Fahmida Mirza).

The limits of personal attacks have also been redefined. Verbal abuses and the use of unparliamentary language for political opponents or journalists by the PTI are not personal attacks as per the new dictionary. However, if anyone tries to expose PTI members, that is considered to be a personal attack, and hence unacceptable.

Rigging also has a new meaning. Any election in which the PTI faces defeat has to be considered massively rigged. But if the PTI wins, then it has to be accepted as free, fair and transparent. Accordingly, the 2013 elections were massively rigged all over the country due to the defeat of the PTI; the exception was Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because the PTI won from there. Most political parties have unanimously claimed that the 2018 election was rigged. But since the PTI won, this election has to be accepted as transparent.

Similarly, begging has a new meaning in Naya Pakistan. If Zardari or Nawaz Sharif request international aid, that counts as begging. But if Imran Khan goes with a bowl in hand from one capital to another for aid, that is not begging but a special package – and a great achievement.

The most shocking of all is the new definition of a ‘leader’, given by Prime Minister Imran Khan. In order to justify his continuous U-turns, Imran Khan is of the opinion that a true leader is one who takes U-turn – and those who fail to do so are not leaders at all. That is a rather grave injustice to the greatest leaders in history who never compromised and never took any U-turns. True leaders have led by example and achieved what they had envisioned despite all the hurdles in their path. Unfortunately, instead of following the path of a true leader, Imran Khan simply changes the definition of a leader and invents a new one that he can fit in.

According to the Oxford dictionary, U-turn means “the turning of a vehicle in a U-shaped course so as to face in the opposite direction”. The Cambridge dictionary has defined U-turn as “a turn made by a car in order to go back in the direction from which it has come”.

In the political context, a U-turn is a sophisticated word for ‘shameful retreat’. Common sense tells that those who take U-turns can be anything but true leaders, and that a leader can take a right-turn or a left-turn but never a U-turn. If there is any hurdle in the path, a leader can rest for a while to gather energy and strength. If there is a storm in the way, s/he can shelter self and followers to avoid the storm. However, a true leader never gives up, never retreats and never runs in the opposite direction of the envisioned destination.

Quaid-e-Azam’s struggle is a glaring example of a true leader. He took the Muslims of the Subcontinent through the tough struggle of freedom. He faced daunting challenges and hurdles but he never took any U-turn. By sheer strength of his leadership and commitment, the dream of a separate homeland for Muslims became a reality. Similarly, Gandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan also fought for the independence of the Subcontinent and never compromised.

Regrettably, these towering leaders do not fit in the new definition given by Imran Khan. However, according to the new definition, Ziaul Haq is a true leader who promised the nation elections in 90 days, but then quickly took a U-turn and ruled the country for nine long years. Similarly, General Musharraf also seems to be a true leader. He tried his best to sabotage the Lahore Summit in 1999 by pushing the Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious parties against Vajpayee’s visit during the second tenure of Nawaz Sharif. However, once in power, he took a U-turn and went to Agra for negotiations with the same Vajpayee.

Even Nawaz Sharif can be considered a leader by the new meaning of a leader. For a long time, he tried to prove Benazir Bhutto was a traitor. But when he himself became a victim, then he took a U-turn and signed the Charter of Democracy with her. Asif Ali Zardari too can be accepted as a true leader who once took an aggressive stance regarding civilian rule, but when he faced backlash, he quickly took a U-turn and tamed down.

According to this definition, Altaf Hussain – known for his U-turns – could be an ideal leader for Imran Khan. And Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain can be called the greatest leader that Pakistan ever had. He was with the Zia regime when the military dictator reigned supreme. But after his sudden demise, Chaudhry Shujaat took a U-turn and joined Nawaz Sharif. When Nawaz Sharif fell prey to Musharraf coup d’état, Chaudhry Sahib took another U-turn and joined the military regime. With the fall of Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat took a U-turn and became a partner of the PPP. And now he has taken another U-turn and become an ally of Imran Khan.

It seems that in the exercise of making Imran Khan the prime minister, the whole country took a U-turn and has reached back to the decade of the 1980s. Some worry that the PM’s continuous U-turns may take the country back to the 60s. It is worth remembering that the fall of Hitler and Napoleon resulted due to their dictatorial approach, lust for power and unbridled ambitions to rule.

A true leader has no greed for power. He/she has a clear vision and the courage to achieve objectives. However, a confused leadership without any specific goal and strategy wanders here, there and ultimately reaches back to square one. It is wise to muster up the courage, walk in the shoes of great leaders and deliver instead of rationalising and justifying consistent retreats by coming up with new definitions.

The writer works for Geo TV.