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May 20, 2021

Leading by example

May 20, 2021

Ruling over a cricket field, and the handful of men posted on it, varies quite sharply from ruling over a country which measures 881,913 square kilometres and has a population of over 220 million people.

In our case, even the federal cabinet consists of more men than make up the cricket team. While the current prime minister of the country was undoubtedly a good leader of men at the cricket field, the question arises if the same skills turn him into a good leader for the country.

The first rules of leadership include the principle that discipline must come from the leader himself so that an excellent example is set for those who follow him or her. This is certainly not what is happening in Pakistan. For example, this year, the NCOC decided to ban all citizens from travelling to the north including the Galiyat area where Nathia Gali is located, in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading or making its way to hill stations and holiday spots across the country. Apparently, this was not adhered to by the man right at the top himself. Are leaders more equal than common citizens? Certainly, the rules that are laid out for ordinary people in the country need to be followed by those who lead them.

This extends beyond the issue of travel for Eid holidays or other occasions. The language used by government ministers on Twitter or other social media and in public addresses leaves a great deal to be desired. Of course, every leader and every minister wants to send out a strong message. But this can be achieved without using abusive language or demeaning other persons, including political opponents or journalists. Doing so only sets in place a particularly unpleasant environment in the country which allows everyone to break out in diatribes against each other and refrain from even the most basic rules of decency. Government ministers have been recorded again and again using language that would not be acceptable in other forums, while speaking about their peers from other parties, and also about women, in a country where misogyny is experienced everywhere by women and where it badly needs to be placed under some kind of control.

At the start of the PTI's tenure in power, the prime minister and other ministers had promised there would be no special favours and an end to the VIP culture that has been so much a part of Pakistan's politics in the past. We did not see this culture come to an end. Ministers enjoyed privileges of all kinds. Those in government need to lead by example themselves if the millions of ordinary people in the country are to follow them. This is especially true in a country which has a majority population of young people, who are perhaps more easily led and more easily influenced by the actions of leaders and are therefore more likely to follow them rather than use their own intuition or common sense.

We should ask also about the manner in which the moon spotting strategy for Eidul Fitr was set in place. There has been so much confusion surrounding this whole matter that it does nothing for people to deepen ideas, buried in difference and allegations of superstition taking over from science. At a time when vaccination against the Covid-19 virus needs to be in full swing on the basis of science, we need to promote the idea that science and good sense must prevail. This is certainly not happening at the present moment. For once Mufti Muneebur Rehman and Fawad Chaudhary, once bitter enemies, are on the same side of the fence. This in itself is something to think about. Who then is in the wrong given that Maulana Muneeb favours physical sighting of the moon while Fawad Chaudhry has worked out a lunar calendar as exists in other Muslim countries, to determine when the moon will reach a particular point in its cycle.

Ministers, leaders, clerics, and also teachers, doctors and other people with influence all need to set examples. Without these it is difficult to imagine a country where people follow the rules and implement them in their own daily lives. The fact that so many health workers decided not to go in for the Covid-19 vaccine is disturbing. It also means that other people will hesitate still further to accept the vaccine or to protect themselves against the disease which continues to rampage through the country, even if there is a small sign that it is beginning to slow down, although this could change in the days after Eid as the figures from the long holiday session come in, during which we know people have travelled and mingled as usual while talk shows have been hosted by anchors who ask if it is somehow un-Islamic not to embrace each other on the occasion of Eid even if this could bring sickness or even death to the other person.

More distinct examples need to be set by all those with influence and status in society. The vile language we are hearing even on mainstream TV is something to worry about. It is not just a matter of people picking it up, but also of the question of determining how we address those with whom we disagree. Disagreement is the right of every individual. It would be impossible for an entire nation to agree on all views or to hold the same opinions. But differences can be put before the person without being rude, without developing acrimony and with full respect.

There also needs to be an understanding that all people are equal and according to science, hold equal intelligence regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. Even jokes based on ethnic status or gender have been banned in some countries. Perhaps we should consider the same and also make sure our leadership is willing to follow the rules that it sets in place itself before making these mandatory for others to follow.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.

Email: [email protected]