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Archive for September, 2002

Attila on Leadership Diseases

Dr. Wess Robert’s best-selling book “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” in the 1980s was followed in 1993 with “Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun”. As his protagonist Dr. Roberts chose the brutal barbarian who sacked seemingly impregnable Rome, sending the Roman Empire into a tailspin from which it never recovered. Attila, chronicled by Roman scribes, is believed to have said words to the effect, “every leader must choose the best people, train them well, develop them into competent workers, provide them with direction, challenge them with responsibilities, reward their individual and group contributions, treat them humanely and in this way lead his people to victory”. Winning is not only important, in the national context it is everything, there are no prizes for second place. True for all forms of leadership, Attila’s logic is very much applicable 17 centuries later. All our leaders, civil and military both, need to be given a pep talk on “Leadership diseases and remedies thereof”.

The first thing to guard against is “avarice dysorexia”, a perverted appetite for acquiring illegal wealth. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has dealt with this disease with reasonable success but since accountability has not been applied in a fair and judicious manner to all sections of society (the judiciary and the Armed Forces are exempt) it may lose its credibility. “Physician, heal thyself” must be a prime consideration. One can talk about the obvious in procurement contracts and there is always the institutional corruption in real estate in the military-run Defence Housing entities. The laws of the land must be applicable equally, corruption cannot be condoned because of rank or station in life.


Ideas 21st Century

Pakistan’s Armed Forces are among the ten largest in the world, not out of choice but necessity. With an implacable foe not well disposed towards us having a fighting machine many times our conventional size and waiting for any opportunity to pounce, it would be height of irresponsibility on the part of our leadership, a dereliction of duty, not to have an adequate defence. Given that sheer numbers do not create effectiveness and the potential to wage war without external assistance is only a part of effective deterrence, indigenous manufacture of arms and equipment is a must. Inheriting all the Ordnance Factories at the time of independence in 1947 India had a headstart, Pakistan starting from virtual scratch. Despite sanctions imposed by the west post-1965, both Pakistan and India had access to Chinese and Soviet weapons and equipment respectively. Till very lately the Russians (successors to the Soviets) had a very clear lead in technology over the Chinese, particularly in aircraft and missiles. Because we did not know how to cope with the realities of realpolitik till faced with a 9/11-type crisis, we left open the field to India to additionally acquire state-of-the-art weapons and defence equipment technology from Israel.

IDEAS 2002 has been a great success. Because of the adverse international media perception about Pakistan’s internal security environment, especially in Karachi after the Sheraton and US Consulate General bomb blasts only a few months ago, the holding of the Defence exhibition was considered unlikely as Embassy after Embassy gave “travel warnings” to their citizens about the dangers of journeying to Pakistan. Even though the threat of war has somewhat receded, India’s entire Armed Forces still remain in offensive posture on our borders. For 42 delegations from 32 countries to take part in the Exhibition is therefore a tremendous vote of confidence in Pakistan, and in the Musharraf regime, which put its prestige and credibility on the line to stage the event come what may. As the major force behind the inception of this initiative (when he was COAS only), the President deserves credit for creating the Defence Export Promotion Organisation (DEPO) in early 2001 as a follow-up of IDEAS 2000. As the first head of DEPO, the man who husbanded this idea along while serving in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), Maj Gen Ali Hamid, should be given credit for an enormous amount of staff work, co-ordination and logistics going into this effort. The private sector has played a tremendous part through Pegasus Consultancy, whose Managing Director Asim Siddiqui, Mr IDEAS himself, is a young man with a future. Knowing something about profit and loss, one can safely surmise that IDEAS 2000 must have been a net loss and IDEAS 2002 a borderline business proposition only. Pegasus has thus invested in the future in the national interest at cost to itself, this calculated risk has to be commended. One must mention Col (Retd) Akbar Sharif, the real unsung hero behind IDEAS. Do not be misled by the “Rakaposhi Tours” visage, this man opened many closed doors, organising the major logistics and converting the non-believers of IDEAS, far above and beyond his mandate. Having put his heart and soul into the event, “Sheriff” deserves far more than “mention in dispatches”, force-multiplied many times over for suffering in silence serving officers with scarce commercial knowledge and a penchant for tying up everything in bureaucratic knots. Alongwith Gen Pervez Musharraf himself, Maj Gen Ali Hamid and Asim Siddiqui, Col (Retd) Akbar Sharif has a pride of place in making the enterprising idea of IDEAS successful.


Roll of the Dice

Every military ruler of Pakistan has had an extended honeymoon with the US, Pervez Musharraf is no exception. Ayub Khan’s towering personality was tailor-made for the Cold War period when the US needed staunch friends in the region to counter the spread of communism. His autobiography “Friends, Not Masters” said it all. When the US imposed sanctions on both India and Pakistan because of the 1965 War, Ayub became a very disillusioned and disappointed man. Yahya Khan was tacitly encouraged on his accession to the President-ship in 1969, but it was his facilitating of Pakistan as a bridge to China (for Henry Kissinger’s historic, secret visit in July 1971) secured his position with the US. Even though the US Seventh Fleet never materialized in any Pakistan-supporting posture in the Bay of Bengal in 1971 during the Indo-Pak war as hinted by Henry Kissinger, the US dissuaded Indira Gandhi from expanding the war in the West Pakistan. Ziaul Haq was a pariah to the west when he ascended the throne for any number of reasons and remained so for the hanging of an elected PM, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in April 1979. When US President Jimmy Carter visited India, he pointedly ignored Pakistan. Thanks to the Russian misadventure in Afghanistan in late 1979, Zia became the darling of the west and Pakistan a cornerstone of US policy. It was only after Zia’s death that the US decertified Pakistan because of its suspected nuclear capability. When Pervez Musharraf countered the civilian “coup de etat” of another elected PM, Mian Nawaz Sharif, the US recognized by their diplomatic silence that the masses who thronged the streets were not registering any disapproval but were distributing sweets. In contrast to his imperial visit to India, President Clinton did make very brief whistle-stop stopover in Pakistan during his South Asian tour. And while he did not read out the riot act to his Pakistani military hosts, the US body language conveyed their muted displeasure at the state of affairs in Pakistan sans democracy. Pakistan’s hope of change of heart on a Republican taking over the White House took a nose-dive when the Bush Doctrine made it clear the US was ready to sacrifice Pakistan to gain India’s love, the US desirous that India (a la Chester Bowles May 1965 memo) be a counterweight to China in Asia.


Children of a Richer Being

Talking on the beach in the morning nowadays one can see dozens of ships in the Outer Anchorage waiting for a berth at Karachi Port, a few months ago there was no waiting time. This may be a crude measure but a sure indicator of good economic times ahead, Pakistan’s stock market not being a good barometer. Three years ago, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s regime had brought us to the verge of economic apocalypse, in his turn he had inherited a horrendous situation from his “democratically” elected predecessor, Ms Benazir Bhutto. In a period of world recession, an enormous amount of luck has combined with doggedness and hard work rather than any imagination or innovation to bring Pakistan close to economic recovery. September 11 may have brought gloom and doom to the western world, not so Pakistan. Despite a number of immediate crisis, both internal and external, we have been a net beneficiary of the atrocious event for the long term. The pace of our economic recovery before Sep 11 was painfully slow, for a short time thereafter it became very scary economically as exports dried up with thousands and thousands of confirmed orders cancelled. Slowly but surely (thanks to Uncle Musharraf’s blend of pragmatism with realpolitik about Afghanistan bringing in millions of dollars in liquid assistance and massive debt re-scheduling), we are well into a full scale recovery in the foreseeable future. Because of the threat of “money-laundering” forcing money through normal banking channels rather than “Hundi”, home remittances by Pakistani expatriates, less than a billion US dollars in 2001, may go upto US $ 3 billion in financial year 2002.

Oct 12, 1999 cast the leaders of the two “major” political parties in absolute disarray, PML (N) disintegrating politically. This military regime did not even bother declaring martial law or putting troops in the streets as a “show of force”, there being so much apathy among the masses about politicians and politics in general. Three years later the military regime have contrived the revival of the “down and out” politicians, their other “major” achievement, lies in managing something the politically astute Gen Zia contrived to avoid assiduously in a decade-plus “divide and rule” policy, possible collaboration between the two major political parties. The combined “political” genius of civilian bureaucrat Tariq Aziz and army bureaucrat Maj Gen Ihtesham Zamir (alongwith other geniuses of the unknown kind) may manage another “first”, the major political parties of Pakistan uniting against the Armed Forces, and that too when they are facing an implacable enemy deployed in full strength on our borders. That will leave the “Kings Party” with only “Kings” in the Party, a possible PPP-PML (N) Coalition government may then try to reverse in the face of the National Security Council (NSC) all the reforms that have taken place, a substantial percentage of which have been excellent Musharraf initiatives. On the other hand, crying manipulation and rigging, the major political parties may even decide to boycott the elections. For the first time in its long history of chequered military rule, the Pakistan Armed Forces will seemingly be allied with a sorry bunch having unsavoury reputation. How Fakhr Imam, Abida Hussain, Khurshid Kasuri, etc joined them is beyond imagination! We will then be in worse condition than at any time of our history since 1971, up the creek and without the credibility of the Armed Forces as the proverbial paddle to bail us out of the growing political crisis we have managed to entangle ourselves in. One had the same feeling of impending doom about the Referendum, the people voted for Musharraf in droves yet a hostile media forced a perception otherwise.