• Saleem Qamar Butt

Challenges versus Leadership


“Leaders are developers, team builders, imaginers, culture caretakers, roadblock removers and inspirers. Their success depends on enabling the success of others.”~

Since its inception, Pakistan has been facing a range of internal and external threats; some even challenging the very existence of the state. The most tragic loss of East Pakistan says a lot about the character and competence of the civil and military leadership of that time. However, most unfortunately, the legacy of the same scoundrels who were responsible for the breakup of Pakistan still continues to rule the state. An honest introspection inclusive of punitive and preventive measures would have served the remaining Pakistan very well, but alas that was not to be. What was brushed under the carpet after the 1971 debacle today stands multiplied by thousand. The political greed, lust, loot and plunder has risen beyond measure with many new brands of ethnic, sectarian and politico-religious cults now sharing the power corridors duly assisted by the civil bureaucracy, judiciary and even by involving the fraction of military elite. Ironically, the ruling elite continue to cut the roots of the tree on which they are sitting with blinkers of gluttony on their intoxicated eyes.


Despite tall claims by almost all successive governments, most of the thinking and loyal Pakistanis both home and abroad, keep sulking about the poor state of affairs in almost all walks of life in the country as if our own despicable short history has taught us nothing. The political polarization, sectarian fault lines, rampant corruption, poor economy, unemployment, uncontrolled inflation, poor law and order, ever ballooning population, scarcity of water and food, prevalent illiteracy vis a vis dismal education system and above all unsatisfactory judicial system are major internal challenges that have remained insurmountable mainly for the want of sincere, brave and visionary leadership. It is so ironic that in spite of being resource rich, Pakistan lags behind in almost all fields less Armed Forces because of the above stated flaws. However, most of these failings could be taken care of from the laps of the mothers and by the caring hands of basic school teachers as witnessed in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and many other countries. It is for the national leadership to make the ship move in the right direction by reining in the mafias that have kept the country hostage for over seven decades. Let the actions speak louder than the words and the voters will follow without much effort in the next elections.


As for dealing with external and global or regional threats, we have been somewhat lucky by faring better than the internal front by the grace of Almighty Allah that enabled the Defence Forces of Pakistan to accomplish what remains envy for the friends as well as for the foes. Nevertheless, there is a lot of room for improvement there too lest we suffer from complacency. Pakistan continues to face ever evolving multi-faceted threats especially from our Eastern and Western neighbours whose nexus and cooperation with other hostile countries is well known by the concerned people. I believe that our armed forces do realise quite well that the challenges faced by Pakistan in the form of hybrid or 5th generation war emanate from the bigger context of global and regional powers' rivalries; therefore, strong military and economic alliances is an unavoidable imperative. While the old colonial masters and incumbent global hegemon will try hard to keep Pakistan on the leash through long tried carrot and stick approach, and by further incentivizing the well embedded moles at various tiers and in important departments of the government including political circles; hope we do not get bitten from the same hole again and again. As for Pakistan Armed Forces, defeating the covert war as well as deleterious propaganda unleashed through media onslaught need to be accorded highest priority by a whole of nation and whole of government approach.


Ironically, the adverse and in some case missing role of national leadership in mitigating and effectively countering the stated threat matrix has neither been realised nor much debated due to a host of reasons that keeps the vicious circle in its place. There are no two opinions that in the rise or fall of nations, leadership matters a lot. While China’s long-term strategy surrounding its rise is generally projected as independent of any individual leader, and instead wedded to the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology and determination, can we ignore Xi Jinping’s single-minded drive, psychological strength, resilience, leadership psychology, and embodiment of the Chinese Dream of Rejuvenation of the Chinese people? Can one really postulate that Xi’s role in the past decade is irrelevant, and that it wouldn’t matter if another leader was at the helm? Likewise, how can one possibly ignore the role of Vladimir Putin in the resurgence of Russia, especially in changing the post-1991 order in Europe, central Asia, and the Middle East? As the most formidable leader of Russia since Stalin, can Russia’s adversaries afford to ignore Putin’s intentions, leadership psychology, impressive intelligence and diplomatic skills, and embodiment of Russia’s long-term strategic interests moving forward? Similar questions could be raised regarding North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Iran’s Grand Ayatollah, and far right extremist Hindutva follower Narendera Modi of India.



There are striking examples of leadership from recent history as well as from the contemporary world where leadership played the lead role in overcoming great crises. For example, not only America, but Europe and post-war Japan had leaders who played a critical role in building a sustainable post-war order. They faced unbelievable post-war challenges in rebuilding Europe, Asia, and in dealing with the changes of decolonization. Where are leaders such as Churchill, De Gaulle, Adenauer, Yoshida, Dr. Mahathir Muhammad, Lee Kuan Yew, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and others of such ilk today? How can Pakistan overcome its internal mayhem and menacing external threats in the absence of such leaders? Since all decisions are taken by human beings, therefore, preparing and studying the psychological profile of adversaries’ leadership like Modi and others is also equally important for dealing with them in an appropriate manner, both during peace or in conflict situations. But then all the followers also have to play leadership roles in their respective domains as parents, teachers, employers, managers, businessmen, artists, soldiers, politicians, bureaucrats, responsible citizens and so forth. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ~

7th June 2021

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