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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

From Hero to Villain


It is said that “Every search for a hero must begin with something which every hero requires – a villain” (Robert Towne). The king makers and the power brokers in Pakistan understand this quote better than the rest of the world. Since 1948 till to date, in Pakistani politics as well as in other fields like economy, business, sports, science and technology, arts and literature, religious scholars, bureaucrats, judges, generals and humanitarians; we have sadly been witnessing the frequent swap of roles between Heroes and villains. Sometimes by a bit visible and mostly by invisible hands and for dubious reasons. “The hero of today is the villain of tomorrow and vice versa” is obviously more valid in Pakistan; than “One man’s hero is another man’s villain”… as one could perhaps say in the pre-partition sub-continent about Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Nehru or Gandhi.


Among the list of countries that have changed maximum prime ministers and presidents since 1947, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Japan and Pakistan are quite prominent, though for different reasons. Pakistan has undergone several changes in both prime ministers and presidents, largely due to political turbulence, corruption charges and military coups. The outgoings were always tagged as villains and incoming were welcomed as heroes as has been the tradition and history of the sub-continent especially in Punjab. Nevertheless, we have proved Winston Churchill wrong who had said, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often"; because Pakistan has unfortunately remained a one step forward and two steps backwards as regards improvement in the governance, economic, security and political stability. The number of Governor-Generals (now Presidents) and the Prime Ministers Pakistan has had since its independence in 1947 are listed below to prove the point:

Governor-Generals / Presidents:

  1. Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1947-1948)

  2. Khawaja Nazim-ud-din (1948-1951)

  3. Ghulam Muhammad (1951-1955)

  4. Iskander Mirza (1955-1956)

  5. Fazlul Huq (acting, 1956)

  6. Iskander Mirza (1956-1958, as President after the adoption of the 1956 constitution)

Prime Ministers:

1. Liaqat Ali Khan (1947-1951)

2. Khawaja Nazimuddin (1951-1953)

3. Muhammad Ali Bogra (1953-1955)

4. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali (1955)

5. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (1956-1957)

6. Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar (1957)

7. Feroz Khan Noon (1957-1958)

8. Nurul Amin (1971)

9. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1973-1977)

10. Muhammad Khan Junejo (1985-1988)

11. Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990)

12. Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Khan Jatoi(Caretaker, 1990)

13. Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993)

14. Mir Balakh Sher Mazari (Caretaker, 1993)

15. Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif (1993)

16. Moin Qureshi, (acting, 1993)

17. Benazir Bhutto (1993-1996)

18. Malik Meraj Khalid (acting, 1996)

19. Nawaz Sharif (1997-1999)

20. Zafarullah Khan Jamali (2002-2004)

21. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (acting, 2004)

22. Shaukat Aziz (2004-2007)

23. Muhammad Mian Soomro (acting, 2007)

24. Yousaf Raza Gillani (2008-2012)

25. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (2012-2013)

26. Mir Hazar Khan Khoso (Caretaker, 2013)

27. Nawaz Sharif (2013-2017)

28. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (2017-2018)

29. Justice (Retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk (Caretaker, 2018)

30. Imran Khan (2018-2022)

31. Shahbaz Sharif (2022-2023)

32. Mr. Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (caretaker, 2023- to date)


Not to forget the military’s rule; military coups in Pakistan began in 1958 when FM Muhammad Ayub Khan overthrew and exiled President Iskandar Ali Mirza. Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has spent almost three decades under military rule (FM M. Ayub Khan, 1958–1971, General Zia ul Haq, 1977–1988, and General Musharraf, 1999 – 2008). One could quote dozens of books and hundreds of psychological studies that provide enough knowledge to understand one’s self-drift from virtue to villainy or as to why a society so conveniently and repeatedly turns their heroes into villains. However, in my view an in-depth analysis of Pakistani political history from 1948 till to date can be rather more instructive than any other alien theory. Keeping in view the limited words and space of an opinion piece, suffice to give only a few pointers for the readers to indulge in deeper exploration and exercise of their own judgments without biases, misperceptions and propaganda influence. The often derailed political system can be attributed to a host of reasons but mature people do understand that from the very inception, the wealthy power hungry elite with history of service to the colonial masters jumped in to the political arena without adequate personality grooming, no merit system for induction in politics, missing higher education or experience and mere capability to buy votes with ill-gotten money, and by exploitation of ethnic, linguistic, religious, sectarian and clan cards made it impossible for common man’s entry in to politics on the one hand and throughout kept hold of the same elite/ parties (as can be evidenced from the above list of the former prime ministers) on the power reins in the last 76 years and even during so called military rules. Although, the so called establishment gets maximum flak for bad governance in Pakistan with introduction of latest term of hybrid governance, which is fast forwarding to a forecast of praetorian rule by some political analysts; yet, we need to evaluate individual and collective contributions and failures in making Pakistan a success story like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia or China in the same period.


As charity begins at home; therefore, a few point to ponder. How many of us groom our children as Japanese or Singaporean do? What is the respect and status we give to our teachers? What is the budget, curriculum and state of our education institutions including religious seminaries? The destruction of the mothers and teachers’ institution, loss of pride in own culture and distance from real religious values and practices are the root causes of most evils afflicting our society. And the ruling elite’s strategy remains to keep it that way, to forever stay in power as below par educated or illiterate crowed is far easier to dissuade, mislead and regulate like a cattle herd. The rigidity of mind is mostly due to lack of proper grooming, pitiable education and weak knowledge base, which causes extremism, intolerance and terrorism; that helps the so called politico-religious cults to gather crowds and stay part of the powerful elite as a second fiddle though.

The poor character building is revealed so badly in every walk of life in Pakistan barring a few exceptions. Therefore the political leaders or managers we elect, select or who are thrust upon us are in fact reflections of our own characters and deeds. However, as an unfortunate custom, we prefer to point fingers on others and ignore the four fingers pointing on oneself. The state of Pakistan has perhaps the highest numbers of people performing Hajj and Umrah every year and also indulge in superficial religious practices. However, following religion in true letter and spirit remains largely missing. The ills afflicting our society individually and collectively in clear violations of the basic teachings of the Holy Quran are heartbreaking and a killer for the society and integrity of the country. Telling lies, intrigues, conspiracies, leg pulling, jealousy, backbiting, hypocrisy, cheating, stealing, bootlegging, sycophancy, bribery, other forms of corruption, rape, arson, kidnapping, smuggling, undue profit making, breaking trust, non-adherence to traffic rules, bad tempers, ill manners, uncleanliness, disloyalty, and preference for self above national interests are so vividly visible in every nook and corner of our land of pure. In my view, the cumulative backlash of these prevalent evils in our society is the prime reason for social unrest, political turbulence, and very fragile and poor economy despite enormous natural resources Pakistan is blessed with and the poor security situation in spite of being the only Muslim country with nuclear muscles. Every country and society has its own problems and none is trouble free. Nevertheless, based on international surveys, Pakistan’s position in the indexes on poverty, hunger, education, health, justice, human resource development (at number 155 out of 184), industry, science and technology, exports, achievement in international sports/ Olympics, and above all political, economic and security situation won’t present a pleasant face in the mirror; however, instead of trying to break the mirror in vain, we should rather focus on improving individually and collectively in reality rather than fencing on social media. Only then can we hope to produce, support and promote more Heroes in all the fields in our beloved country and minimize the villains. “The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people” (Chadwick).

We cannot afford to continue turning our heroes into villains and pushing them down into oblivion by villains in power and by a misguided crowd following them. Lastly, please do not let this simple and straight expression be a mirror to the blind. Pakistan Zindabad!


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