Reimagining Pakistan Requires That Political Elites Adopt The Same Spirit As Jacinda Ardern

Reimagining Pakistan Requires That Political Elites Adopt The Same Spirit As Jacinda Ardern
According to Dwight D.Eisenhower, the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter it is on a section of gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

Only a democratic leader knows well that with great power comes great responsibility subsequently demanding the one in decision -making centres to perform or leave the stage for someone else to do the job. Among a present lot of global leaders, Jacinda Ardern proved to be a political character that characterizes such core values of leadership.

Ardern blazed a trail after having announced to relinquish from the post of prime minister saying "I no longer have enough in the tank.”

She also made it clear that she was not leaving because it was hard but in fact “I am leaving because with such a privilege comes responsibility -the responsibility to know when you are the right person, and also when you are not".

Thus, the serving PM Jacinda Ardern not only defined leadership but also taught global leaders, especially the ruling elites of the third world, to retire with political dignity when they no longer have enough in the tank.

Arden earned international accolades following her leaving the coveted public office. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc were flooded with praise for the praiseworthy leader. Those who had showered praise on Arden also dared their respective public office holders to follow in the footsteps of Ardern, including Pakistanis who asked their leaders to consider the same move.

Imagine Ardern's global recognition. Following the Christchurch massacre of Muslim worshipers, the floor of the assembly was used for Azan as a token of sympathy for mourning the Muslim population in a non-Muslim country.

The global political spectrum appreciated Ardern's rising to the occasion subsequently putting out racial fire in the country. In contrast, in 2021, the then PM Imran Khan refused to meet Hazara community protesters in Quetta who made burial of the slain mining workers to PM's visit. Pakistan’s minorities continue to face persecution as the state looks on.

During the tumultuous years of a global pandemic Covid-19, Arden left no stone unturned to clip the wings of coronavirus by prioritizing a timely line of action in terms of SOPs. However, it would be an exaggeration to suggest that Ardern left the New Zealanders in a lap of luxury.

The people of New Zealand are experiencing inflation, a spike in the price of housing, and healthcare, rising crime, and a worsening economy. Under such circumstances, ratings of the Government’s performance declined since peaking at an average of 7.6 during New Zealand’s first major lockdown in May 2020 to 5.7 in February 2022.

The polycrisis in New Zealand caused the ratings of the Labour Party plummeting -not to mention the popularity of the outgoing prime minister. It would not be an exaggeration to infer that crises like the cost of living crises and the declining economy are some of the global issues which have deepened across the globe after the Russia-Ukraine war because of supply chain issues.

Political commentators are unanimous that the outgoing PM was not part of the problem but rather was a part of the solution. She thus left the stage with a clear conscience, and thumping applause given by multitudes of the population both national and international.

Pakistan's polycrisis has deepened to the level that now everyone from layman to highly educated is talking about the unfolding multiple economic crises and looming clouds of default hovering over Islamabad.

Against this backdrop, political players (former finance minister Mifah Ismail and former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and former prime minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi) and other like-minded people have hit headlines while announcing to hold seminars under the head of "Reimagining Pakistan"-touted to be giving political and economic directions to the country facing financial quagmire. The former senator in question is the fallen star; the other two have been side lined by their party.

Until yesterday, the three were singing from the songbook of PPP and PMLN respectively about party policy, governance, public service delivery, etc

Presenting minor political differences with party leadership as revolutionary thoughts is nothing but political jargon. Make no mistake that the three characters have no political constituency and hence can be called shepherds without much political flock.

It should also be noted that such a clamour is created by political engineers before elections just to create a conducive political pitch for new alliances/political groups that could achieve electoral sloganeering for political groups to be hatched  for a new political arrangement.

The problem with political elites is that once falling out of favour or being side lined by the party, they emerge on the political horizon sounding alarm bells over social, political, and economic ills subsequently giving solutions to the problems they once were part and parcel- of a recurring fragile economy, and degenerating political and institutional structures. This reactive strategy neither has helped fix fault lines nor will it be helpful in the foreseeable future.

Structural imbalances, decaying institutions, and paralysed justice system when it comes to the ordinary, can't be regenerated with political hullabaloo. Hero-worship in Pakistani politics is at play undermining meaningful policy outcomes.

Indian statesman and author of the Indian Constitution, B.R.Ahmedbkar (1891-1956) cautioned as early as 1949 saying "There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered lifelong services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness...[I]n India, hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bakhti-hero-worship in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, hero worship is a sure road to degeneration and eventual dictatorship.

In Pakistan, party dictatorship is too deep-rooted. Political dynasties continue to consolidate political power in the hands of families thus political parties are transformed into family fiefdoms.

The exiled PML N supremo Nawaz Sharif recently elevated his daughter Maryam Nawaz to the post of a chief organiser while pushing the senior party men into the corner. Earlier, Maryam Nawaz was the de facto supremo of the PML N when Nawaz Sharif had left for England on the wings of a medical card.

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who was still at Oxford University was made party chairman while pushing both senior and seasoned party cadre like the Makhdoom Amin Faheem, Mian Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahson, etc. None in the two parties had the guts to cry over the change of guard that was given in the hands of the two being wet behind the ears.

Hero- worship dampens rational thinking to the point of political paralysis subsequently creating the faithful rank and file, and voters. They both become blind to follies like the discriminatory political models and imprudent economic policies made by dynastic personalities during their tenure of power. The resultant political crop is octogenarians and sexagenarians who have tightened their grip on national politics through their second generations.

Political dynasties are not only illiberal but also undemocratic. Regional and provincial development projects are either seen through the prism of political patronage or narrow-minded lens hence we see carrying coals to new castles and leaving the underdeveloped regions /provinces further debilitating by successive regimes. They have also crushed political representation of the ordinary citizens which is detrimental to democracy.

Reading the utter disillusionment of the electorate with PPP and PMLN, PTI was presented as a political messiah. However, the party utterly failed to come up to the expectations of the masses. The PTI understands that it was hatched from political eggs just for treasury benches hence why should it sit on the other side of the aisle?

After having been kicked out of power corridors through a no-confidence move, PTI leadership refused to play its positive role of being in the opposition.

As a result, its members of parliament resigned from the National Assembly enmasse recently accepted by the NA speaker. As if this were not enough. The provincial governments of Punjab and KP were dissolved to destabilise the incumbent PDM-led government.

The election commission of Pakistan has announced to hold by-elections on 33 NA seats vacated by the PTI members on March 16. It should be kept in mind that the shelf life of those winning candidates in a by-election will be hardly five months. The PTI chairman has made it public to be the candidate on those 33 by-election seats.

Because of this there will be cycle of by-elections, which the country can not afford. It is nothing but political immaturity. Around 2.5 million is said to be the expenses of a single NA seat to be borne by the government whose coffers are empty. PDM-led government's reluctance to seek a fresh mandate and PTI's intent on destabilizing the government is going to unleash a financial burden on the country already facing a financial crunch. This speaks volumes about historical financial imprudence by arrogant ruling elites in a moribund economy.

Keep in mind that those at the helm of the country's affairs kneeled before the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package while agreeing to accommodate the Fund-mandated economic policies through the mini-budget. Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) rang alarm bells having said that Pakistan is among the countries where industrially-produced fat still poses a risk to multitudes of population.

According to the WHO, industrially-produced trans fat is often used in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils, and spreads. In 2018, the WHO called for harmful trans fatty acids to be wiped out by 2023. They are thought to be responsible for around 500,000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year.

As per the report released by the WHO, nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans fat intake were not implementing best-practice policies. They include Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Korea. The WHO called on the countries to take urgent action to implement the best-practice policies. The global health watchdog minced no words and said that "trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills and should have no place in food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all."

There was also a call on countries to take urgent action to implement the best-practice policies."Best practice means either a mandatory nat­ional limit of two grams of industrially-produced trans fat per 100g of total fat in all foods; or a national ban on the production or use of partially-hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of trans fat."

According to a UNICEF report, around 22.8 million children between the ages of five to16 are out of school in Pakistan. After having noted demographic downturn in terms of ageing population and shrinking youth, China and Japan decided to boost birth rate so that industrial activity-the very engine of economic growth could be lubricated.

The Chinese authorities said "We will establish a policy system to boost birth rates and pursue a proactive national strategy in response to population ageing. "Over the past year or so, authorities have introduced measures such as tax deductions, longer maternity leave, enhanced medical insurance, housing subsidies, extra money for a third child and a crackdown on expensive private tutoring.

Recently Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida while addressing to lawmakers sounded alarm bells about country's population crises having said that the country was "on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions" due to the falling birth rate. The prime minister said, "These trends have driven a growing demographic crisis, with a rapidly aging society, a shrinking workforce and not enough young people to fill the gaps in the stagnating economy. In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation's economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy."

Controlling the population and then boosting birth rate by the two countries reflects scientific approach applied when needed. A greater number of young people is considered to be a major economic driver for growth and progress can be gauged from the aforementioned two countries that have made a strategic planning of increasing the population.

Pakistan is considered to be the fifth-largest young country in the world. Around 63 percent population of the country comprises youth aged between 15 and 33. But multiple economic crises caused by the elite capture have compelled young blood-educated and highly skilled workers to leave Pakistan for greener pastures. In doing so, youth bulge which is an asset has been transformed into a liability.

We are left behind in industrial advancement, scientific development and education outcomes because of successive rulers overseeing unproductive models in various fields.

Climate refugees are coping with displacement, multiple diseases, dearth of amenities, and are living next to contaminated flood waters. We have not recovered from climate catastrophic conditions yet when the next monsoon is nearing.

Despite this, health, education, cost of living crises, climate resilience, access to clean drinking water, sanitary, etc is not part of a political debate in a meaningful manner. Because, elites are engaged in political wrestling, and those pressure groups are clamouring to get their pound of flesh in a new political arrangement.

When in the opposition, or being side lined, politicians pose as proponents of democratic values-liberty, Equality, Justice. After entry into corridors of power, these democratic credentials are dropped at the drop a hat, and draconian laws are invoked to victimize political opponents.

Thus we see polluted political discourse and mutual blame-game prevailing in the country.

The recent clean chit given to Rao Anwar and others accused in Naqeebullah Mehsud's murder tells a tale of a flawed justice system.

This discrimination has created social divisions. Nation, state and institution building is in embryonic stage because of institutional incompetence unleashed by power struggle by state pillars. It is very unfortunate to note that visionary politicians were not only undermined but also not allowed to have a natural death.

Political capture through mediocre minds has created complicated and confusing situation to deal with. Political clowns and those suffering from schizophrenia have produced dirty politics unleashing ongoing political, institutional and economic morass.

Political diseases and economic ills i.e. institutional incompetence, financial profligacy, legal loopholes, entitlement, racism, ignorance, cult following, etc. besetting this pure land are diagnosed with accuracy by an intellectual establishment called columnists and economic wizards subsequently prescribing a prescription - clean governance and separation of powers.

The prevalence and pervasiveness of issues being faced by Pakistanis over the decades is a living testimony that successive ruling elites supported by powerful backers have created mess.

Some analysts have proposed a martial law for a limited period of time, or financial emergency in the country as a cure for all ills.

No experiment will be sustainable if the country is run by the same mindset. Change of faces is no change at all. Sustainable solution lies in having clean governance by honest politicians who have the political integrity to deliver or leave the stage for some one else when they no longer have enough in the tank to do justice.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He may reached at Nazeer tweets at @nazeerarijo.