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Archive for August, 1997

Heeding Lessons Learnt

During the years Mian Nawaz Sharif was out of office, one got the distinct impression that he was willingly embarked on a “learning curve”, that in keeping with the fundamental principles of leadership he was taking into account his own mis-steps and failures in order to benefit and not make the same mistakes again. Out in the cold from government he was an interested observer to the full range and complement of Benazir’s misdoings from which to draw lessons from for a possible future tenure of government. For any student of politics, which one should always be before becoming a full-time practitioner, the last decade provided a virtual plethora of instances of bad governance, none so potent as the misrule of the last 3 years. Has Mian Nawaz Sharif really learnt from the mistakes made or is he caught up in the strait-jacket that usually cocoons our leaders in an aura of self-delusion and despite their obvious leadership qualities, drags them into failure at governance, unfortunately at the cost of the country? Field Marshal Slim of Burma’s “Defeat into Victory” is an epic saga of the lessons he drew from his mistakes that led to his drubbing by the Japanese, the analysis of which took his 14th Army to eventual total victory. However, it is his “Unofficial History” that is recommended for every subaltern in the Army to read as an example of learning from one’s own mistakes and the reinforcing of success rather than failure, maybe it should be also made mandatory for our top political leaders before they don the mantle of high office.

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Anti-terrorism Bill 1997 A licence to kill?

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Pakistan’s 50th Anniversary – Reasons for optimism, a season for optimism

Relatively speaking, in comparison to Pakistan, India has far greater problems, some of them without limits both in scope and magnitude. Yet Pakistan’s media have so immersed themselves in a “doom and gloom” syndrome that they have managed to condition the populace to accept a possible doomsday scenario, in contrast India is brimming over with excitement in the celebrating of the fiftieth year of independence from British tutelage. If one were to see BBC’s documentary or read the TIME magazine “Special” on the occasion, Pakistan is incidental to the whole process, as if this vibrant nation of 130 million people almost did not exist on the face of this earth. While we have plenty of problems and most of the wounds are self-inflicted, they pale in comparison to our neighbour, but in the battle of perceptions one must acknowledge that we have been overwhelmed. Because of the events of governance in the past four years in comparison to India’s economic progress under a relatively stable government during the same period, we started to look like any other “banana republic”. Part of this problem also stems from the Islamic nature of our culture where we cannot use sex as a medium in the media in contrast to the gyrating, oscillating bare midriff as seen in “Vipul” and “Rainbow” saree-type ads which acts as opium for the masses. Unfortunately we are at the receiving end of virulently anti-Pakistani propaganda. What do you expect if BBC uses rabidly anti-Pakistan Mark Tully or Salman Rushdie to talk about Pakistan? Fairplay is an attribute of a gentleman, one cannot give them that same label. This failure of our “dream merchants” to create fantasies is not for want of talent and/or expertise but it has adverse connotations in universal perceptions. Just to put the record straight, one may ask the rhetorical question, in which country does the average citizen enjoy a better quality of life, India’s or ours? The qualitative edge enjoyed by Pakistanis is so overwhelming even given our much maligned socio-economic infrastructure, that one may be forgiven for referring back to the punch line of a famous (and eternal) ad, “Furq Saaf Zahir Hai”, the difference is very apparent!

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The PIA Story – Excellence Resilient over Nepotism

(This is the SECOND and CONCLUDING article of the national airline)

That PIA has survived the likes of Asif Zardari is a story of excellence being resilient enough to withstand the vagaries of nepotism and corruption. Throughout PIA’s history many opportunists and self-seekers have undermined its efficiency and credibility but no one ever mounted such a sustained assault on the structure of the organization as Zardari did, he ruined the rest of the country in the same very unique manner.

PIA’s strong points are its pilots and engineering staff, despite the skepticism of many one may also make the same comment about the core of a very dedicated management cadre, at least for the most part. Which other commercial airline in the world flies such an old fleet of Boeing 747’s and Fokker-27s in such a cost effective and safe manner? Both aircraft have more than outlived their commercial utility by at least a decade if not more. This displays a tremendous inherent self-confidence within PIA’s staff about their own and each other’s abilities, that potential is a corporate asset of tremendous value. Barring a few black sheep among the cockpit crew as well as ground and flight engineers, the rating mark as to the performance of the vast majority is well above average. Some of the cockpit crew have unfortunately been politicized and since they frequently fly those who matter, a few also consider themselves “armchair experts” on geo-political and economic affairs, they should concentrate on improving their own professionalism and stay away from politics or enter politics full-time as a profession. Hopefully we will keep politicians and intellectuals from trying to learn how to fly an aircraft.

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The PIA Story, Intrigue vs Excellence

(This is the FIRST of two articles on the national airline)

The job description of any airline must state that it should safely transport passengers in comfort, and cargo without being damaged and/or pilfered, on time from one location to another. An inherent ability to perform continuously over a period of time gives the airline a credible reputation and translates into more passengers and cargo. Enhanced revenues should lead to greater profits, then why is it that PIA, which shows continual growth in revenues based on captive routes like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, fails to show corporate profits in line with the increase in its revenues? Severe politicisation of the corporate structure over the years and undue interference from influential persons has virtually destroyed the sanctity of PIA’s much vaunted corporate culture. Instead of management controlling expenditures, the expenditures have soared in increase of management personnel and its associated overheads. The professionalism inculcated into PIA’s management that had previously served it well in both tactical and strategic planning has been replaced by “spur of the moment” decisions motivated mostly out of individual interests and without an in-depth study of economic feasibility. Debilitation in the management spectrum has taken place across the board from the lowest tiers to the upper reaches of senior executive positions. The momentum of the 60s and the 70s, as well as the continued excellence of its cockpit crew and engineering support has served PIA through the 80s and taken it well into the 90s. PIA has survived many tribulations along a very turbulent route, much more so in the last 3-4 years.

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