In 1853, 64 years after George Washington took oath as the first president of the United States, Franklin Pierce held that position. To this day, Pierce is considered a terribly weak and divisive president in America. Four years later, Millard Fillmore began another forgettable presidency. By that time, the US was seemingly teetering on an edge, bracing itself for a gory civil war. The country was on the brink of disaster, tearing at the seams and cracking in the centre. But the electoral process continued, the people voted for new presidents in search of a leader. Then, in 1860, a lawyer from humble beginnings began campaigning for president, using his antipathy for slavery as a cornerstone for the campaign. Abraham Lincoln took a bold step in his campaign and the people responded by electing him to office and he saved their country. He became the leader the people of the United States were looking for in the mid-nineteenth century. With the successive elections of Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan, the electoral system failed the US three times, but it helped keep the country intact the fourth time around.
The greatest tragedy of Pakistan is that we are a country and a people without a true leader. Our country has problems, but none that are unsolvable. A lack of leadership is the core problem. With able leadership, there is nothing we cannot confront. So let the democratic process continue, treating it like the self-correcting mechanism it is, and our leader will arrive.
Our leader will be strong-willed and will not be afraid to tell right from wrong. Honesty will be valued and a passion for change will be espoused. Compassion will be displayed. Inspiration will surround the country. Our leader will not be a Punjabi or a Pathan, not a Sindhi or a Baloch, but a Pakistani. Justice will be encouraged, not discouraged. Infrastructure will be built; systems will be put in place and merit will be valued. Pakistanis around the country will be put to work and investment will be facilitated. Pakistan will be pushed to its full potential. Our leader is not a figment of our imagination; our leader will be a reality.
This op-ed is not about the wait for a messiah, or a saviour. Before we complain about the dearth of leadership in Pakistan, we need to ensure we are doing whatever we can, to bring this leader to the fore. We have to look inward, before we look outward. Through his work, Allama Iqbal focused on the philosophy of khudi. He emphasised self-discovery, self-realisation and self-knowledge. Discover yourself. Realise your potential. Know that there are no boundaries to your growth. In Jawaab-e-Shikwa, Iqbal writes, “Thay to aaba wo tumharay hi magar tum kiya ho/Hath par hath dharay muntazir-i farda ho”.
As a society, we have faults. As individuals, none of us are perfect. But, if each one of us strives to correct our faults and if we personally champion the qualities we want our leader to have, societal leadership is inevitable. Instead of waiting, act. Become that leader. If the entire country espouses the values of the leader we claim to be searching for, there is no way that leader will not arrive. Don’t wait for the messiah, be the messiah.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ
@Sajida: My friend, you're repeatedly indulging in the same fallacy. The author is encouraging exactly what you're proposing! He wants more action, he wants people to reform themselves - it's irrelevant how they do that.
@Jamshed Citizens can start by starting civic groups. They are burgeoning in India;but, in Pakistan the people seem passive. Look up Janaagraha, Lok Satta Movement etc.
@Sajida: Issues definitely exist. But what I gather from the author's argument is that we need to start somewhere. Clearly, you enjoy analysis - but in order for progress to occur, action needs to take place. Which I believe is the core argument expressed in this op-ed. There is no need to over-complicate any of this.
Ibrahim, good article.
I liked: 'Dont wait for the messiah, be the messiah!'
The question is: Do we, as Pakistanis, DO anything for Pakistan?
Even cleaning our streets (or not throwing trash outside our houses/cars) seem NOT to be our responsibility.
Of course, it will take a revolution to change the current situation. Are we really ready for it? Are we ready to sacrifice?
On another note, an entirely different thought: *Is democracy the only choice?*
Case in point: China...
God bless Pakistan...
@Jamshed One of the major tools the political reformers used direct democracy tools that were introduced to combat the problem. They were inspired by the Swiss use of the same. At the time reformers also looked also at foreign examples to bolster their efforts and this as one aspect of the reform period. Pakistanis have no direct democracy tools at hand and do not even seem to know that they can be used. A stint at KSG might help the author look at this issue in a less simplistic manner.
@ oserver...pls reasd my full comment...education is just one reason.....it is people like you who without proper reading....give sweeping statement which has brought our country to this situation....does America has feudal system...?? does America has religious political parties....?? does America has more than 100s political/ religious parties.....Americans of the 1850s had atleast more education in their own language then us...does American hv so many languages & cultures within their states...?? & we can go on & on...?? so let us look at the very root of the problem before we can act to tackle the same.....
@Ishrat Salim: Most of America's population was uneducated in the 1850s. We can continue finding faults that tear the parallel between America then and us now, but the fact of the matter is that we have to act to change things. If we complain about the lack of education, that doesn't educate our citizens. We have to focus on concrete steps that result in more education, we can't just complain about it. Like the author says, we have to act.
People borne with golden spoon in mouth, People educated in foreign schools and universities, People having immense wealth, People having their assets in western countries, People who come to Pakistan to rule the country otherwise stay in cold climate countries on one or the other pretext, People who can spend huge money to organise their own political parties, People who remain all time President/chairman of their parties, People who can spend enormous money to organise rallies and gatherings, People who live a luxury life; all such people can not be real leaders of a nation and can not lead a poor and hungry nation------Pakistan. Please search an Anna Hazare in Pakistan.
All what is said in this article is great...but the biggest obstacle that America did not hv was....religious political parties....religion must remain seperate from the state.....it has been proved beyond doubt that ALL political parties exploit religion to stoke emotions among the poor uneducated people....another difference between us & America is...their citizens were more educated since long & could differ between right & wrong & had tolerance to sustain the wrongs while we are devoid of the same....we hv a bunch of illeterate mullahs, politicians, feudal lords which America do not hv....however, our politicians role in recent times hv exposed them to be supporting the wrongs of the rivals in the belief that they will be routed in the next election due to their mishandling / mismanagement etc; at the cost of continued bloodbath....that is the difference.
@Faheem: hey Faheem, Never loose hope. Living in Pakistan is like living inside our home. Maybe a few of us gifted people might have some advantages to pursue quality of education outside Pakistan or to settle their for the rest of our lives. This doesnt mean that we have the right to discourage others by leaving no hope behind. After all we are all equal; and to prosper much further in life we should start by having self respect for ourselves and our true nation.
I am not sure, if individuals can change the destiny of nations. Good system can, which ensures checks and balances, regular elections and free media. There was a time in my youth when I looked up to likes of Castro, Gaddafi and few others. I know now that one man in power with absolute powers can only result in catastrophe. They stand firm while their people want them out. They kill ruthlessly. Not possible in a system which has a constitution. I say, absolute power is evil. Try to make sure that the system flourishes to reform itself. It is a slow process, but better slow than promising bog promises, just to sit on the driving seats. Pakistan has had middle class dictators, who did not bother to introduce land reforms, although they had all the powers.
Bingo! Perfect Article We cant be pessimist about the future because we have Imran Khan..
Please stop preaching by words such as if we can, if we do. Start acting. If you really need a strong leader, why dont you try to become one, only if you can keep yourself corruption free. if your intentions are in a stable corruption free Pakistan, people will follow you some day. Abraham Lincoln failed in every elections but people voted him for President. He changed the nation.
Being an Indian, even I wish for a freindly stable neighbour. Everyday there are kilings, bombings and shootings on innocent Pakistanis.
That leader is Imran Khan... end all
Khan is right like our KHAN !!! Sticking to democracy means selecting the current best. And our KHAN is the current best. Lets join him and strengthen his team.
Silly naive freshman
What we need to keep in mind:
One of the better op-eds I have read off-late.
u suggested rightly so that the electoral process should continue....but the things are deteriorating at a rapid pace.....as individuals we have to me more proactive in making the change possible...
Spend 10 minutes at any major street in Pakistan and you would know who we are as individuals. Does a leader guide you to follow laws and be kind to others? Aren't we learning this at schools, madrassas and on every Friday's sermons? Pakistan will go way worst than now before it'll turn around. Pakistan is Afghanistan in making. Give 50 some years to get our heads out of our ...
Not childish at all - its what we need to hear. Easy to blame our leaders but there are few qualities we exemplify ourselves. be the change you wish to see in the world - thats what i always say. excellent article mr. khan, good to hear from you always.
@Sajida: I think you're purposefully misreading into what the author is trying to say. The entire article is about urging Pakistan's people to quit waiting for a leader and actually becoming leader. You said "democracies do not improve on auto pilot" and the author says, "But, if each one of us strives to correct our faults and if we personally champion the qualities we want our leader to have, societal leadership is inevitable. Instead of waiting, act. Become that leader. If the entire country espouses the values of the leader we claim to be searching for, there is no way that leader will not arrive." Are those two statements in any way opposing each other? I think not. If you want to oppose somebody's view at least understand what he's saying before you lend your own two cents.
You also mention the progressive era in US history. The author writes, "The country was on the brink of disaster, tearing at the seams and cracking in the centre. But the electoral process continued, the people voted for new presidents in search of a leader." Through this statement, he is clearly lauding the patient activism of the American people, which is exactly what you allude to.
The people of Pakistan surround you and they will act. Open your eyes and you'll see; doomsday scenarios don't help anybody.
Absolutely, and then Mumtaz Qadri will be hailed for killing him by all.
What planet do you live on? We kill good people not retain or follow them. Enough of this undergraduate stuff please.
Read this news to get hold of the reality;
Taseer funeral prayer leader forced to flee from Pakistan
The first paragraph says it all.The american people didn't despair,didn't loose faith in the institution of democracy,didn't take it to the street.But when the time came they choose the right kind of leader. There is a lesson here for people of this sub-continent (Afghanistan,Pakistan,India,Bangladesh,Nepal,Maynamar etc.) In times of crisis we act like headless chickens.
definitely you are on right.....we need to espouse true values of LEADERS rather than relaxing in our home's and saying "is mulk ka kuch nahi ban'ny wala" or just sit back and waiting for some one who come n solve all of our problems.................................. A country doesn't comes to this situation, like ours in a day, our wrong doing take this country on this verge of anarchy. Now how this could be possible to solve all these problems in a sudden? we need to identify our potential our enthusiasm and then keep on moving on right track.
and highly appreciate Ibraham's nice try to tell us about a country, whom we think a super power by birth.
Miracles do happen, if you pray hard and true.
If you let people decide, it may work. do not wait for miracles, at least not yet. miracles do not happen that easily