Leaders and politicians by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

As a political activist I have the good fortune of interacting with people from all walks of life from across Pakistan. I speak to them on social media, on streets of our cities and in town hall meetings in our villages. In these interactions one thing is clear that although our literacy rate is low but pragmatism and political acumen of our people is much high. People elect best of the worst option given to them on the ballot paper. Because every time they turn to someone for direction and vision that person or group turns out to be not much different than the last one they had. Passionate political activists across the country join a movement for change but very soon realize that they are expected to shed their blood, sweat and hard earned money while the benefits of political power are reserved for a different class of people. In retaliation they try to salvage the situation by seeking whatever bounty they can get from their political elite of the area.

One of the most frequently asked question and also most misunderstood concept is the difference between a leader and a politician. In the after math of general elections I thought it may be a good time to talk about it when the memories of our politicians making promises during general elections are still fresh.

A politician in most cases has a limited vision. He is usually concerned with the most immediate issue faced by his constituents. He is not too concerned about the high moral ground but will make decisions about morality on the fly which is usually based on the prevalent popular opinion. Rather than changing views of the people, a politician is more likely to adopt and follow the majority view on a policy or social issue. A politician is an expert in negotiating deals that ensure getting incentives for his constituents or helps him retain his political influence or both. His loyalty is temporary and he can switch allegiances if it suits his constituency or his political objectives. In every community there are sufficient numbers of people that can be successful politicians.

Leaders on the other hand are a rare breed. A nation is fortunate if they have more than one leader in a century. Leaders have a vision of a future that is based on the aspirations and ambitions of the nation, its geographic location and its ideological orientation. In the initial phase of their career majority of the people do not agree with their vision. But over a period of time the resolve and hard work of the leader convinces majority of the people to accept their view. To achieve political mandate for their vision, a leader does not compromise on the ideology and ethics because they know that moral authority can only be derived from the right path.

Leaders are not concerned too much about their popularity neither do they worry about failure. It is for this reason some leaders get recognition for their contributions long after they are dead. In some cases popular figures clear passage for a leader that is lurking in the shadows. Deng Xiaoping is one such example. Deng is credited with creating the modern China. Sometimes leaders with high stature during their lifetimes gradually lose their status as consequences of their actions unfold after their departure.

A leader understands that reform is lead by a small group of people so his first milestone is to identify a core group of people that can work without compromise on the ideology and the vision. His second quality is to judge people correctly and then delegate them work based on their capability and skills. The selfless bond between this core group of capable people is the key ingredient that ultimately decide the fate of the reform movement.

In Iran, Imam Khomeini worked tirelessly for over 15 years to introduce reform to Iranian nation before he led the revolution on the ground. In Singapore Lee Kwan Yew lead the reformation of Singapore to become a highly developed country from its status as back waters of Malaysia. Mahathir Mohamad led his nation to become a much more unified country despite presence of culturally diverse people. Abraham Lincoln refused to negotiate with South when Federalist forces were apparently losing their steam. Modern day America can be credited to the resolve of Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi saved the Indian nation by cutting across racial divide mandated by Hindu religion to reach out to untouchable classes who were in majority. Quaid-e-Azam united the Indian Muslim community to fight for the rights and ultimately achieved an independent state Pakistan.

As sectarianism, extremism and social injustices becomes rampant in Pakistan, the nation is waiting for a savior to take it to a shinning hill. Imran Khan has all it needed to assume that role. He has charisma, credibility and dignity. At some distant past it seemed he had got it right but then out of a sudden he changed course. He became too eager to win and assume political power. Winning elections at all cost became top priority. As a sportsman it was probably his natural instinct to win. But building a nation is not a sport. It is a serious enterprise that requires serious work. He failed to create a creditable team that agreed on a shared vision. He agreed to cut corners to allow people of questionable credibility to assume important positions in the party as well as get party ticket.

After the general elections I sent a message to Imran Khan to give up all his National Assembly seats and become an elder statesman for the nation as we desperately need one. I advised him to focus more on delivering on the promise in KPK. He did not take the first advice but now seems to be working on the second.

Despite recent errors of judgment, Imran Khan may still succeed in leading the transformation of Pakistan but with every passing day it seems increasingly unlikely. If he decides to assume that role the formula is very simple. Imran should create core group of 7 or 8 people that are ideologically aligned, driven by a desire to change the nation and selfless in their pursuit to achieve this objective. Second step is restructuring of PTI. The real asset of PTI is its district, tehsil and Union council leadership. They should be given more powers to nominate candidates for local bodies and develop future candidates for NA and PA seats. Provincial cabinets should be dissolved and regional cabinets should be strengthened so that they can work closely with district leaders. An ideological training and educational program should be instituted to develop a cadre of die hard political activist. Labor, Women and Farmer wings should be reconstituted and included in the policy making process.

We have too many politicians so adding one more to the list does not make any difference. I hope and pray Imran Khan will wake up and set his priorities right. Or else the workers of PTI will chart their own course as is evident from their activism on the ground.

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