Power, leadership and corruption

Accumulation of wealth and power leads to an unnatural state of a human where abd is given the position of a maalik

Haris Iqbal October 25, 2021
The writer is a Harvard graduate and is in specialty practice of endodontics in US. He tweets @HarisIq35680061

Aik hi saff mein kharray ho gaye Mahmood-o-Ayaz

Na koi banda raha aur na koi banda-nawaz


These famous words from Allama Iqbal reflect a subtle reality; the paradox of power and the reality of life. We accumulate power in manifest and hidden ways; money, education, social and political status and so forth. As power increases, the corruption in the hearts subtly starts following the same trend. Possession of power held over years leads to what researchers call the “hubris syndrome”. Clinical symptoms include lack of empathy, arrogance, loss of reality, and ultimately reckless display of incompetence. That is why our religion mandates prayers, fasting, charity and pilgrimage to address our weakness in harnessing the power of free will. Yet in our Islamic republic, we see pharaonic attitude of the rich and the powerful towards the rest of the society. What is the reason for this irony and what can be done to address it?

The accumulation of wealth and power leads to an unnatural state of a human where the abd is given the position of a maalik. This change affects not only the ‘anointed’ one but also affects the vast masses that start becoming their ‘devotees’. Thus, in political terms we see a nation transform into a mass of jayalas, youthias and patwaris who will unquestionably support their respective ‘anointed’ leaders. The servility of the masses and the mirage of power is a deadly combination for a humble abd who starts getting trapped into its own hubris. The length of time in power further entraps the prisoner in the quicksand and his family and friends do not wait long to jump into the enticing whirlpool of power. In our society with little upward mobility, these elites start ossifying into permanent features stagnating a roaring river of a young, energetic nation into a pungent cesspool of decay and waste. Thus, the best minds in such societies migrate towards the blue ocean of imagination and independence. The elite capture of a country becomes so strong what even when the youth vote for a revolutionary tabdeeli, the same rich uncles and aunts return to haunt us back into the next nightmare.

What is the prescription of a true tabdeeli? In my opinion, the country needs to change its political system which empowers, educates and transforms the youth. The parliament of our country needs to represent what we truly are — a young, dynamic nation, not the same political faces we have been witnessing for the last decades. We need to place term limits on power so that our political system does not become senile and colonial. Our parliament needs to be like Silicon Valley, where ambitious, radical ideas are hailed and failed strategies are evaluated and discarded quickly. We need to promote a culture of transparency and accountability. The parliament should have a website with each member’s wealth profile, public work records and accessibility are listed. Trailblazing members are quickly promoted and the corrupt members tried under special courts. Thus, our political system needs to evolve from the rigid Mughal hereditary system to the dynamic Rashidun caliphate system where political power depended on just and moral authority.

The old power addicts have led our country wandering in the wilderness of poverty and humiliation. Can our youth deliver us to the promised land of milk and honey? Only time will tell and that is the beauty and paradox of free will which has been endowed by our Creator.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2021.

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