Volume 21 Issue 6 June 2017


Rulers generally live in a dream world where they are constantly informed by their confidantes that all is well and the country is progressing under their leadership. Such advisers lull the rulers to the extent that the latter takes their word as authentic. A striking example of the ignorance of the leadership is what has been witnessed recently. On May 10, 2017, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, while addressing a charged crowd in Chichawatni claimed that his government had defeated terrorists completely in Pakistan. Neither did his words nor his confidence falter when making the claim. Unfortunately, within 24 hours, the statement was proven wrong when a suicide bomber attacked the convoy of Deputy Chairman Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Mastung. This reflects how naïve and ill-informed the prime minister was about the terrorism menace the country is exposed to.

Nawaz Sharif is not the only ruler who lives in his own world. Since its inception, Pakistan has been ruled by those who prefer a secluded world created by their yes-men. Perhaps rulers intentionally surround themselves with people who have greasy tongues and are good at painting facts with a brush of lies.

Power intoxicates those who hold it. An individual who assumes power does not remain an ordinary person. He is surrounded by flatterers who cheer him for his actions and appreciate what he has achieved. He is even given respect by those who had snubbed him before. He is referred to as Fuhrer, Zil-e-Subhani, Saviour, etc. When Ayub Khan snatched power from President Iskandar Mirza, servile advisers, instead of condemning his act, made him believe that he had extraordinary qualities and wisdom and his rule was vital for the progress of the country. This emboldened him to the extent that he even employed foul means to prove his might by rigging the presidential runoff against Fatima Jinnah. But his action did not strengthen his rule and took him away from the ordinary Pakistanis, who loved Fatima Jinnah because of the Quaid-e-Azam.

When a ruler loses power his confidantes abandon him for good. Those around him in his heyday turn their backs. Since they are opportunists, they look towards the next powerful man with the same zeal and loyalty. When Mughal king Aurangzeb revolted against his father Shahjahan and imprisoned him in the Agra fort, all great nobles who once had served the old king, left him and joined Aurangzeb’s forces. Iskandar Mirza played a crucial role in lobbying for the appointment of Ayub Khan as the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan. When Iskandar Mirza imposed martial law against Feroze Khan’s government in 1958, Ayub Khan as Army Chief fully supported the decision. However, two weeks later, Ayub deposed Mirza from the presidency and assumed charge himself. This was Ayub Khan’s reward for Iskandar Mirza – his once close aide.

It is said that empires fall not because of weak armies but due to the faulty policies imposed by the rulers on the advice of their close aides. Perhaps the debacle of East Pakistan could be a good example. Both the civil and military bureaucracies of West Pakistan did not want to share the burden of the sufferings of East Pakistan. In fact they had no idea what was going on in the eastern wing. Instead of taking pains to address the genuine demands of the people, the military junta and civil establishment tried to forcefully suppress their voices. Operation Searchlight was launched on March 25, 1971 to curb the separatist movement. When all this was happening, Z. A. Bhutto and General Yahya Khan were enjoying good times back in West Pakistan. Ghulam Mostafa Khar, a close aide of Z. A. Bhutto, once mentioned that during a mutiny in East Pakistan, General Yahya kept assuring Bhutto and his colleagues that nothing would happen to Pakistan. Perhaps this was due to the ‘all-is-well’ report that Yahya was receiving from his commanders in East Pakistan.

The political history of Pakistan is replete with rulers who created an impregnable wall between them and the ruled so that the latter would not reach them. When the nationalization policy of Z. A. Bhutto was being criticized vehemently by private business owners, the prime minister’s sycophants were defending the policy in the media. When the public sentiments turned against General Musharraf and the opposition was staging protests across Pakistan and much was being said about Akbar Bugti’s death and Iftikhar Chaudhry’s dismissal, the general’s cronies were hurling abuses at the opposition and calling them foreign agents.

It is so unfortunate that the people of Pakistan easily fall prey to the deception of rulers and their lackeys who promise to bring in change with their magic wands. When Shaukat Aziz was prime minister, he repeatedly used the term “trickle-down effect” to show that the economy would flourish soon. But his trickle-down effect policy turned out rather illusory and the masses remained impoverished. The same is happening with Nawaz Sharif sporadically shows his concern for the poor living standards of Pakistanis while he himself spends his weekends in a luxurious 300 acres castle in Raiwind that is suitably fortified and barricaded.

On his arrival from the recently concluded OBOR conference in China, the Prime Minister said, “Pakistan’s economic indicators have significantly improved and this has been acknowledged by international financial rating institutions.” Nonetheless the reality of the economic turnaround is that the country's trade deficit has increased sharply due to the declining exports vis-a-vis the surging imports. The circular debt which was paid off in 2013 has piled up again and is worth Rs. 480 billion. FDI has declined and the government has mortgaged the country’s strategic assets while Pakistan’s external borrowing has exceeded $74 billion. In spite of such monstrous challenges, the government trumpeters continue to brag that the national economy is all set to take off.

Civil-military relations in Pakistan have never been exemplary. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy was hatched to topple Liaquat Ali Khan’s government. However, since the appointment of General Kiyani as Army Chief in 2007, the armed forces have kept themselves away from politics though this has not served to improve civil-military relations in a major way. The Dawn Leaks is the latest episode that defies explanation.

It is the absence of a democratic culture within political parties that is responsible for the present state of affairs. The rulers are unable to appoint sincere advisers who would depict reality rather than rolling out dreams. If that wasn’t the case, how would people like Dr. Musaddiq Malik, Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudry, etc. come to the fore? Why does Nawaz Sharif believe that Pakistan cannot survive without him? Rasputin enjoyed the status of a de facto ruler of the Tsar-controlled Russia. Before his purported murder, he claimed, “Without me everything will collapse.” Russia survived and so will Pakistan. King Raza Shah Pehalvi said, “My advisers built a wall between myself and my people. I didn't realize what was happening. When I woke up, I had lost my people.”


The writer is a member of the staff.    
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