Donald Trumps of Pakistan by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

It seems the panic is spreading globally after Republican Party primaries on Super Tuesday that established Donald Trump as a likely nominee of the party for presidential elections. This may have not mattered if the polls and surveys had not suggested that Republican Trump will win the contest with Democrat Hillary Clinton. The embassies and foreign ministries are reaching out to US State Department to express their concerns about the statements made on the campaign trail by Mr. Trump. This is unprecedented and never experienced by the country. For instance, current and former Presidents of Mexico have called it inappropriate for candidates to label all Mexican immigrants thieves and criminals. They have expressed concern that the candidates have suggested pressuring Mexico to pay for a border wall rather than explore ways and means to prevent illegal immigration. Imagine what would happen if President Trump suggest in a press conference that he is better endowed than President Putin. Heads of government and State are not individuals but custodians of the dignity of their nations. They carry the burden and responsibility of holding themselves high in dealing with another nation. Any inappropriate comment by President Trump could result in breakdown of relations around the world.

What is this Trump phenomena? In a normal elections people look for qualities in a candidate that suggest that they are capable leader. These qualities are knowledge of policy; articulation of complex concepts in an understandable manner; ability to manage large organizations; ability to communicate clearly; ability to develop a vision for a better future, ability to make hard decisions; and an ability to negotiate with political adversaries to find common ground. A person acquires these qualities through a prolonged political career starting at the lowest level of a political party. From this perspective Mr. Trump is an anti-leader because he exhibit high degree of narcissism; disrespect for the other; no knowledge of policy, lack of diction to convey his thoughts; frequent change in policy position; narrowness of accepting diversity and using personal wealth for political ambition to satisfy an ego. In my view the path for Mr. Trump was paved by President Obama who was an outside candidate to win nomination of Democrat Party. He had no prior experience of holding an elected executive office and was a first time Senator in US congress. Like Mr. Trump he was also an unlikely candidate that defeated establishment candidate in the form of Hillary Clinton. But luckily he was an intellectual person and held the highest office successfully. But by maneuvering the system he created a benchmark that is now used by Mr. Trump to secure nomination of Republican Party utilizing similar methods and techniques.

In Pakistan the phenomena of Donald Trump has been in play for a long time. Most political leaders rose to the top of their parties through parachutes or inheritance. This lack of grooming from the grass roots has resulted in exhibition of anti-leader qualities by most prominent politicians of Pakistan. For instance, use of derogatory language in large jalsas has become a norm rather than an exception. They engage in singing, dancing, acting and all other entertainment techniques in their public speeches. This uncivilized behavior is justified by the party officials as a necessary requirement to energize a jalsa. Or in other words they suggest that Pakistani nation is uncivilized and cannot see through their uncivilized behavior. This also means that promises made in a jalsa are not serious policy position but rather an empty rhetoric to ignite emotions. These Donald Trump type politicians inside parliament show lack of depth to form policy views and govern effectively.

I am not suggesting that all politicians are bad or that a technocratic government should be installed. I am suggesting that the misery of the nation is the result of allowing Donald Trump type characters reach to the top of their parties through undemocratic means. Parties need to be converted into institutions that allow emergence of new leaders through grass roots grooming. Without this systematic development the risk of an anti-leader rising to the top will always remain high and the damage caused by that eventuality is a national security risk. This is what Americans are realizing now and all out efforts are made to stop it not just by Republicans but other segments of the society as well including artists and writers. Some Republicans have stated that they would vote democrat and encourage others to do it as well if Trump was the candidate.

Pakistan is a difficult country to rule because of a weak system manipulated by personalities; social divisions and absence of long democratic tradition. Military, despite its reservations, seems to have resolved to the fact that politicians have to run the country and put their act together. Judiciary is also aware that they have to play the role of interpreter of the rules that have to be respected by all rather than allow interference in the name of doctrine of necessity. These are important developments and provide breathing room for political activists to reform their parties. This effort should be indigenous to the political parties rather than script written outside it. Any artificial fixation of political parties will allow emergence of new Donald Trumps rather than good future leaders.

Pakistan has a good opportunity to evolve better politics. People are watching emergence of new political parties around the world and expect the same to happen here. It is because of these expectations people rallied in large numbers around PTI Chairman Imran Khan but he failed to capitalize on this trend by renting his party to the political opportunist of other parties. The window of opportunity is still available but will not be there for a long time. If PTI fails to fill this need, someone else will emerge on the scene.

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