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‘l’etat, c’est moi’ – the state is me.

Guest Blog by Amer Nazir

The first time that I heard of him, was the day when I met him. It was at a ghazal party at the Defence Club. I noticed his penetrating eyes which seemed to be sizing a person on an already decided scale, his had shake was extremely firm and direct, and somehow it seemed, though this was of course a subjective appraisal this time on my part now that he was a simple man like me who had settled down to living his life according to a simplistic version of the Ten Commandments.

He seemed full of life during the evening. Often he would go to his staff car parked outside for obvious reasons and return with a rather boyish grin and a mischievous look in his eyes. He was a man who was enjoying his status in life to the fullest he was a Corps Commander with a difference, a man who seemed adamant not to be removed from the pleasures of the common company, from the common people with whom he mingled albeit from his vantage point high up on a pedestal. And after all (and I may not be able to do full justice to an urdu proverb here) that to what import to a peacock is the splendour of its dance if it takes place far away in a jungle where no one can see… To me it was obvious that we have a charming show man here who loves to play to an audience… that lucky are those who have him as their friend…

The evening when he was fired from his job and his plane was not being allowed to land, I had some entry mates from Hasanabdal over for dinner, and obviously by that time the rumours had started to spread, prompting different opinions. I on my part gave my prediction: I said that this man believes in standing next to his friends and would go all out to destroy his enemies a simple trait of a simple man who had never had the misfortune to contend with a much more complex world that lay outside his own very secure shelter. And I said to my friends that this man will take over the country…

The initial Chief Executive title and the seven point agenda was impressive but an inferiority complex was soon to become evident. Many of us dream about carrying Gucci bags and wearing Canali suits and rushing to a dream like office somewhere in the heart of Manhattan to play the real adult game to be the twisters and the shakers… often with the need to explain ourselves that we are tough and hard… and this was what was to come to the fore…

Soon, he had around him people like Tariq Ikram, Soomro, Hafeez Shaikh, Nisar Memon, Shaukat Aziz all has-beens, all not necessarily the wrong people except that he himself did not know how to get work out of them. A management teem is hardly ever better than the Chief Executive himself. And one could also say that his management teem, which was ultimately to transform into a team of courtiers, was also isolated from the realities that surrounded them since they all came from multi-national backgrounds but than I dont think that was too bad a situation. The idea was to implement systems and build institutions, was it not, at least to start with…!

Our Chief Executive had his dream come true. It was like it happens in the movies when the executive reaches his amazing office in Manhattan. The team around him had one thing in common they all gave tremendous presentations in their dark suits using Microsoft office PowerPoint and spoke good English and often narrated incidents from New York and the World Bank and it was an altogether liberating and exciting world for the new self-proclaimed Chief Executive… the presentation slides were innovative, carrying messages such as GOYBATA ( get off your back side and take action) or something to that effect… everything looked good…

The only problem was that the man leading from the front himself did not have the basic knowledge of management. He did not know about the principles of planning, responsibility and accountability and how to set tolerances that need to be monitored. In short, he tried to lead a management team without the discipline of a management process methodology, there was no product based planning, no concrete evaluations, only off-the-cuff supposedly common sense based ad hoc decisions and the results were as we have seen, a predictable set of results, when there are no universally recognized measurement scales…

Our Chief Executive would of course never admit that he was on a learning curve, and I wish that he had, he instead stopped listening and learning and started to act as the ultimate command… and this also with a difference… though a good CEO may not have the skill-set of his subordinates and may depend on them this one had a firm opinion on everything… Who could know the HR issues better than him after all he commanded six hundred thousand men, the largest organisation in the country, anyone who did not follow a command irrespective of its merit was to be court martialled and punished and it was as simple as that… Dissent was something that could destroy the very fibre of an army organisation… Human Rights was naturally an absolute rubbish, an impractical idealism when the very survival of the state was in danger for after all the bloody civilians had not seen the documentaries in the staff college when invading armies kill, rape and loot… And a war means collateral damage as well, a hard fact of life… which should not be difficult to understand…

People who work for profit were obviously a lower caste as compared to those who work for higher ideals and thus while the first were to be put in their place the second needed to be entitled to special compensations like the Robin Hood syndrome which is made out not as noble alone but is considered to be poetic justice as well… and this was the mind set of our Musharaff. His simplistic vision was competent enough only to work on the symptoms but not on the root causes itself. He could punish criminals since it comes easy with power and authority but having the vision to create the rules of a new game, to build an even playing field was another matter altogether…

He had no knowledge of a progressive management model, no understanding of History and Political Science, no awareness of group and social dynamics besides that of the army but he still stubbornly insisted on imposing on others including successful states and which he continues to do even to this day. These days also on his tour, he insists to the world community that he knows things which they dont… he of course is not willing to open the doors and windows and let the sun light seep in, he instead insists on sitting alone in his darkened room and declares that he has a vision that he alone possess and he even rather naively invites other people to enter his domain and join…

All this would not have happened if it were not for 9/11. How many of us remember the unsure and subdued Musharaff when Clinton reluctantly agreed to visit our country. Clinton did not want to encourage a dictator and very rightly so he instead addressed the Pakistani Nation directly. Through out that period, Musharaff was defensive and kept trying to rationalize his assumption of power but then all was to change… 9/11 came and Musharaff somehow convinced the world that the choice that he made on gun point was actually his free choice and the Americans humoured him… hence forth it was Camp David and a much too soon autobiography, a much personally needed media exposure for instance was to become a symbol of his enlightened vision for as long as the media was free to choose his praise…

And this is how outside circumstances beyond ones control affect our fate… a man was promoted beyond his competence level… a dictator was born since he had the support from the right quarters…

On the other hand, one can only wish that sincerity of purpose or good ideals alone, although they are a good start, should not alone be considered the eligibility for higher roles… for there is certainly much more that is needed… otherwise self-righteousness creeps in which is more based on ignorance rather than knowledge…

And therefore what we have now is a destroyed economy which is becoming evident by the day in spite of constant white wash, there is a huge economic disparity in the society, warring factions, terrorism, unrest, and our citizens are unwelcome in almost every country and yet we need economic support of the free world to survive. The institutions have not been developed, at best they have only been militarized and which is somehow made out as progress… There are talks of an eventual democracy but a necessary forward-looking attitude to promote and embrace it when the time comes is no where in sight as usual. There are serious power shortages but the stress is on the statements that we are a nuclear nation…

We are a nuclear nation that needs economic support to keep our nuclear weapons safe… we have pride in certain areas and completely lack it in other places…. we may not even truly realise the amazing potential of technology… that a day may come when we may lose our edge… why cannot it be that one day technological advancements would ensure that our nuclear arsenal is diffused one way or another… even made redundant…

The simple, no matter how noble, dreams of a simple man are destroying the nation. Why do we keep promoting people beyond their competence level… but then we all know the answer to that… because our institutions revolve around individuals and not vice versa…. why cant we just copy the institutions that are working around the world, why do we have to tolerate mediocrity that is trying to re-invent the wheel…

The army command protocols are still being played out at the cost of the Nation. A commander never gives away his command, he sustains the war of nerves if he is a man worth his salt… a good commander never leaves his post, even if the ship is sinking…


3 Comments

  • temporal |

    Why do we keep promoting people beyond their competence level?

    it is one of peter’s principle!

    “people rise to their level of incompetence”

  • Silence |

    If Nawaz had a liberty to set up an investigation commission on Kargal issue, it would have been the first time that our Generals would held responsible in a long history of blunders over blunders. Although Nawaz was never and still is not on intellectual level of a leader and was promoted to ranks by Generals and establishment, there is always a time when political leaders reach the stage where intrests of establishment are in clash with public intrests, and it was where Nawaz decided to remove Musharaf, but he miscalculated the strenght of bond in looters and traitor cult who can go to any lenth to save their fellow thugs, this is history of our brave generals.

    We all welcomed Musharaf….and all of us are equally guilty in this regard, we forgot that a dictator backed by corrupt and dishonest generals can never be a Massiah, rather he will bring destruction, is it our fault? I wont say so, we are a generation who grew up under dictatorship, we have always been told what dictators wanted us to know, media and information in our times was not accessable or available, naturally we were supposed to make a wrong decision.

    Civil society, Lawyers and Judiciary all made the same mistake, when sweets were distributed on take over by army, but it was not unexpected in given circumstances.

    There has been a revolution in information in past decade, and level of awareness is far higher in this era, this played a key role in present resistance against dictatorship. The Judiciary was always afraid that why should they sacrifice their jobs for nothing when nation and parliment is not bothered with dictators, there were precedents of treatment of judges who tried to stand for truth in Zial ul Haq’s time, which had made our judicary completely passive.

    It was awareness in legal community which pushed Chief Justice to take bold steps, the day he was removed by general, the entire lawyer community stood with him, civil society came on streets and nation gave him an unprecedent support, it was the time when judiciary realised that if they gain indipendence from GHQ, they will get support from educated people in country who are fed up of continued army rule, and they regained the confidence that if the stand for justice they have support of nation.

    And in any soft revolution in any society, its always the turning point, even judges are in custody at present but at least they know that their sacrifice is not wasted, they have set a precedent and someone is going to take it forward, lawyers have shown an unprecedented resistance in present century’s history against dictatorship, the civil society, doctors, professors and espacially the students from previlleged back ground who were always unconcerned about such issues are united today, can this all be reversed by a dictator or can it be manupulated by ISI? There is no such possibility!

    As Munir A Malik said yesterday, its time for politicians and Generals to change their mind set, before people defeat our own army, our generals have to realise that things has been changed and there are limits for every institution. If generals failed to realised this very fact at this point of time and did not retreated, thing are going to get ugly for our army, these self proclaimed saviours have to get back to their duty for which our poor nation pays them and provides their every need, if army still insists to play a role of rulers, then we should expect a major desaster ahead, international forces have their agendas and are very much intrested in a head on collasion between people of Pakistan and army, but it is army who have to decide, weather they want to keep their guns pointed on our people or on borders.

    Will army give up and realise the situation or even be able to leave their personal intrests and for once in history think about country is a big question mark, we can only pray for things to move in right direction!

  • amernazir |

    Silence, you are absolutely right. Times have changed and the next sixty years cannot possibly be like the last sixty… it is technology again which makes the difference.

    And I agree with your core point that it is the common man who will make the difference… the silent majority… and that is why, at least in my writtings, I have been urging the common people to come up with their stories instead of trying to decide between the narrow choice offered between the army and our uneducated politicians…for in this there is no relief…

    Who ever is in power has to be made answerable to the people of pakistan instead of the people living like slaves… and it is the common stories that people in the Free World identify with and which forms their out look.

    I think unless we do that, what Musharraf has started will succeed. He has played the zero-sum game and which is to gain his own ligitimacy by projecting the people of Pakistan as barbarians. And since lies do get exposed, and now that Musharraf has finally got exposed – with no saviour in sight anymore… now is the time when our country faces the danger of being militarily interfered with…

    One can only wish that newspapers like the Dawn etc would get off their high horses and write about the issues faced by the common man instead of behaving in a corporate like manner… for this is what the country needs badly if the outside world is to have some sympathy with the oppressed common man in Pakistan… I think only this will expose the actual ills of our society. Carrying official statements of officials that does not mean anything to anyone anymore is no journalism in today’s world… wish again that the media would play their role like the judiciary…

    As for musharraf, if common sense does eventually prevail – he is finished and on his last leg… he has no moral reasons to stay. I dont think that USA, Britain, and even the army is behind him anymore… he has nothing but destruction to leave in his wake,the unrealistic promises of future based on simplistic theories cannot work forever…

    If he has a bit of intelligence left in him, if he has learned anything at all from his present tour… he should stay back in the UK, he has got enough to live a good life yet…

    I think that the biggest threat is from the army run by weak generals who are now extremely afraid about their personal fate and there is also the issue of their financial interests… they may not look forward to becoming paupers and lose their airs and graces…