The writer is a member of the faculty of contemporary studies at NDU Islamabad
Dictatorship grows in the womb of politics. Weak governments led by unsuitable, unqualified and incompetent leaders create compelling conditions for military dictators to take over. Despite over a decade’s continued democracy in this country, the opposition and its ill-conceived brainchild, the PDM, has learnt no lessons and is once again bent upon creating political conditions of uncertainty, chaos and strain in this country. Politics of a nuclear power has been handed over to the children whose childlike ambition goes no further than ‘compelling the military to do their will’. Nowhere in the world politics terms the military of its own country its opponent and nowhere in the world children with no record of public service or intellectual reputation and only a royal profile allowed to lead politics. Is this democracy?
The elderly ‘political troupe’ of both PML-N and PPP stands hands tied with bowed heads, not allowed to flex their experienced political minds. As democracy unfolds like a child’s play around them, they only torment us and themselves with their illogical and ill-tempered arguments trying to defend their political masters not so popular and ill-timed political confrontations with the military when confronted with the hosts of political shows on TV. Tailored not to cross the laid down boundaries by their political royalties they are no more the wise and old political leaders but victims of ‘children of politics’ who are pushing our country into a hazardous political state. They are actually today the subject of my debate – our politicians.
Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch took a lot of criticism from his party for quitting it. Some described him as ‘never was or could be a democrat being a retired general’. That brings me to ask: Why can a politician be a democrat, and a general that retires from the service cannot be? What does it take to become a politician? There are two different sets of answers to this question depending on which part of the world we live in. The developed world answers this question differently from the developing world. Let’s first have a look at the different answers.
What are the defining attributes of a politician in a developed world? To start with, an unblemished reputation but mostly the genius of a politician in the developed world lies in his/her personality. They can never compete for an office for which they are not suitable and don’t have the right competence and thus are open minded, truthful, available, candid, revealing and have nothing to conceal. Demonstrators of political grace, knowledge, awareness and with accompanying modesty they showcase the right set of skills to undertake any given political responsibility. If we take the example of the US as a model and if we look at any politician as a leader regardless of which form of government he is in service – parliamentary or presidential – we could come to some very interesting conclusions.
All US presidents with very few exceptions have been a combination of both political and military genius. I can’t name all of them here but even if we considered those that occupied the office of the President during and after WWII we can easily determine what kind of leadership the most powerful country in the world was showcasing to lead it in a turbulent world. All US Presidents like all Presidents of Pakistan also bear the title of Commander-in-Chief with a stark exception that almost all US Presidents were warriors (soldiers) in one sense or another.
President F Roosevelt (1933-44) was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in WWI and remains the only American President who enjoyed three terms in the office. President Truman (1945-1952) who took over from Roosevelt was a Colonel in the military and participated in WWI as a captain. Why he could dismiss one of the finest generals the US produced (General MacArthur) was because the dismissed general and the people of US knew that the knockout was coming from a President who knew not only his but the dismissed general’s job. Eisenhower (1953-1960) who took over from Truman was a retired US army Chief of Staff.
The young President Kennedy (1961-1962) was a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and in WWII won Navy’s highest gallantry award, the Purple Heart. President Johnson (1963-1968) who took over from Kennedy was a Lieutenant Commander in US Naval Reserve and during WWII won a Silver Star medal which is the third highest decoration in valor in combat. President Nixon (1969-1973) served in US Navy and President Ford (1974-1976) was a Lieutenant Commander in US Naval Reserve. President Carter (1977-180) was a graduate from US Naval Academy and served on battleships and submarines. President Regan (1981-1988) was a naval aviator in WWII and President WH Bush (1989-1992) was a Navy pilot who flew combat missions during WWII. While President Clinton and Obama have no military service to show, they were attorney general, governor and senator before they became President. President Trump is the only US President that never held a public office before becoming a President and in my personal view during his tenure as President what he has done to America is what ‘politics as child’s play’ in Pakistan has done to our country. Having held no public office prior to his election President Trump is our answer to what happens to a country when an unbefitting and unsuitable person occupies the highest office in the country.
Now let me name the Prime Ministers of our country of the last two decades or so. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (2017-18), Nawaz Sharif (2013-17), Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (2012-2013), Yousaf Raza Gillani (2008-2012), Shaukat Aziz (2004-07), Chaudhry Shujaat Hussian (2004) and Zafarullah Khan Jamali (2002-2004). One stark reality that comes to limelight is that none of them has served in the military. And while some of them could be ‘uncontested electables’, what has been their service to the country? A judge, a lawyer, a scientist, a writer maybe an outstanding artist these and many other are also vital functions that people perform serving their countries. Why are our politicians just politicians?
Post-WWII was a period of cold war and Churchill (defeated for re-election as British PM in 1945) for the first time in his speech at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri used the phrase ‘Iron Curtain’ which became a buzzword for fight against communism. Since then, all American Presidents put up a fight against Nazism, Fascism and Communism.
But my country’s fight is against none of these isms. It is against the ‘Iron Curtain’ imposed by the corrupt political system that continues to throw up politicians of mediocre competence who have deliberately raised this iron curtain between them (rulers), their privileged lives and us (the ruled) and our miseries. My country’s fight is against this imposed ‘backwardism’ by them. This fight I am very clear that we will never be able to win under the existing political system that serves the creators of this iron curtain.
Former Presidents Mamnoon Hussian, Asif Zardari, Muhammad Rafiq Tarrar and Fazal Ellahi Chaudhry were not only Presidents but C-in-Cs. When as a student of politics I compare them, our former PMs and those that led the US as a great power I make no mistake in understanding why we have lacked behind. Politics must stop blaming the past dictators and must stop attempting to create new ones. Politics is not a child’s play and that’s why this dynastic politics that relegates political experience to the background and ‘royal political children’ to play with our fate must end.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2020.
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