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June 11, 2008

In all fairness


June 11, 2008

An educated, presentable, and nationalistic middle class Pakistani citizen cannot lead Pakistan. Our 'democracy' won't allow it. Unless, of course, he comes through a military coup like President Pervez Musharraf did. As a Pakistani citizen, I will vote anytime for a Pakistani leader who does not own a house and a list of bank accounts abroad. These days, only President Musharraf fits the bill. For all his real and imaginary sins - and embroiled in what is supposed to be his toughest moment in power - he continues to outshine those feudal lords, wealthy industrialists and family-run political parties that want to see him out.

Personality cults are the lowest and the most primitive forms of governance. But when our twisted democracy thrusts on us civilian personality cults and civilian dictators who prefer a 19-year-old to giving a chance to other ordinary Pakistanis, then forgive me if - as a young Pakistani citizen - I believe that Mr Musharraf, with his failings and strengths, is a leader that I admire, even if I disagree with a couple of his policies, which is my democratic right.

If President Musharraf blundered with the NRO under American pressure, why did our intelligentsia join in the sin by encouraging Pakistanis to vote for and recycle leaders who have been tested, tried and discredited? If they can get a chance at the top, with their foreign houses, bank accounts and bad accents, what is so wrong in giving a chance to someone with at least more credentials than just wealth and lineage?

Pakistanis watching the Aitzaz Ahsan's 'long march' should remember that this is exactly what we don't want to see in 21st century Pakistan. The last time the world saw a great long march was in China in the last century. The world has gotten over long marches. No one uses this language or these tactics anymore. The United States and United Kingdom went to war despite history's biggest anti-war rallies in London and Washington. George Bush became a

president on a razor thin margin. But we don't see their lawyers, judges, and ex-servicemen making a joke out of their homeland before the whole world.

And the world is watching the gross failures of leadership in Pakistan. Those who are not amused are disgusted. In Saudi Arabia, an Arab reporter showed his frustration at Pakistani affairs by asking the visiting Pakistani prime minister why his country can't have stability like India does. Yousuf Raza Gilani, our prime minister, replied with a line befitting a party worker and not the chief executive of a nation. He said it's because military interventions aborted democracy many times in Pakistan and that his party founder and his daughter paid with their lives for democracy.

No Mr Prime Minister. If there is instability in Pakistan, it is mainly because of the substandard quality of leadership that politicians have been giving us so far. Those who practise politics here do it with a 'hooliganistic mindset' that leaves no room for stability. The past three months since the general election are a telling story of leadership failure, and they strengthen the case of hawks who say Pakistan is ripe for a complete change not just in faces but in its entire political system.

In our suicidal politics, even military secrets are not sacred anymore. We have taken freedom of expression to dizzying heights. Those who are encouraging retired military personnel to come out on television and ridicule their former bosses are playing with fire and are setting the stage for politicizing the Pakistani military, which will prove disastrous for our country.

These days, President Musharraf, an upright soldier of Pakistan who gave his best, is under attack from all sides. With a stroke of a pen, he gave birth to Pakistan's vibrant television news business. Today, when he needs support, he doesn't even have people on his payroll – like dictators normally do - who could get his side of the story out. He never did. If that was his style, independent news channels wouldn't be out there today without kickbacks paid into some offshore company account.

Pakistan is a resilient nation and it will survive with or without all those who are in power in Islamabad today, including the president. But here's something that all Pakistanis should remember: Pakistan can live with an imperfect political system, but not a failed one. It just is not in our interest. And patriotic, nationalist Pakistanis will not let their nation go down. Period.

The writer works for Geo TV. [email protected]

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