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The Making of a President

Mamnoon Hussain stands elected as the 12th President of Pakistan but not before quite unnecessary controversy generated by the Supreme Court (SC) . The PML (N) had the required numbers even if PPP had not boycotted the Presidential elections process. The “unconditional” support from PPP’s former ally, the MQM, gave additional insurance. The PPP ruling party in Sindh created history by walking out of their own Assembly.

Early immigrants from India, Mamnoon Hussain’s family converted a shop in a prominent market in Karachi into a successful textile business. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi in 1965. Active in the politics of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mamnoon’s political impact is limited to a section of the business community in Karachi. Governor of Sindh for a few months in 1999, he lost his job when Musharraf staged the military coup against Nawaz Sharif.

There is nothing much about the President-elect to write about, for or against, fortunately no controversies surround him. A decent affable person he will follow the dictates of his political mentors without question. The 18th Amendment made the President into merely a glorified rubberstamp, Mamnoon has been specifically chosen to emulate a subaltern, neither to be seen, nor-heard nor heard of. Not much different from Presidents Ch Fazal Elahi and Rafiq Tarar, both decent human beings they shamefully stayed in place as figureheads for months without so much as a proforma protest after the military coups had not only ousted but jailed their mentors. When time and space gave them the public perception of legality, the military rulers occupied the Presidential office themselves.

The “Reflections” section of Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s book, “My Political Struggle”, highlights the key factors of personality and behaviour vital for aspiring leaders of a country, “If the values the founder of Pakistan (the Quaid) were to be summed up in one word, it would be honesty.” Asghar Khan holds that “a real leader is a man of integrity. Integrity has many connotations, but taken in a broad sense it means reliability.” About leadership, he says that a leader should have a quality “which inspires others to follow. A leader of men is one towards whom others turn in difficulty and from whom they expect guidance and direction. This quality is important for a nation in peace as well as in war, but whereas its absence in peace may cause inefficiency and social or economic decay, its absence in war will almost certainly spell disaster.” One of the really great men Pakistan has been blessed with, what a tragedy that neither Asghar Khan nor someone resembling him both in character and capability ever made it to the Presidency.

Asghar Khan further says, “Of all the qualities of a leader, perhaps the most important for success is the ability to choose, developed largely by observing a high standard of moral and intellectual discipline. A talented person, a man of virtue and a man of ability and knowledge will generally choose subordinates who possess in some degree the qualities that he himself values, whereas an incompetent person, or one devoid of integrity will generally surround himself with people who are equally incompetent or dishonest.” Does that sound eerily familiar? Throughout his life and career the Air Marshal practiced what he preached.

Mian Nawaz Sharif’s close aides lived through very difficult times during the Musharraf years, they have certainly done far more (and sacrificed more) for both PML (N) and the country than President-elect Mamnoon Hussain, among them Ch Nisar ali Khan, Khawaja Asif, Pervez Rasheed, Ahsan Iqbal, Sartaj Aziz etc. Why was Sartaj Aziz shortlisted in the first place? Not being selected after making it to the shortlist is rather a shock. To quote my article “The Making of a President” of March 24, 1997, “Senator Sartaj Aziz did not come to politics through the back door. As a young PML student leader and activist in the 1940s, he had a fully career as a civil servant, both domestically and internationally, before entering politics, with no affluence to show for either stint. His livelihood is mostly dependent upon his UN pension as a retired FAP official and till date despite his high profile as Secretary General of the PML and Finance Minister in both Nawaz Sharif’s governments, he has maintained an enviable record of integrity and competence. In a country racked with corruption and full of lurid stories about billions being bilked by people in high places, a reputation like that is worth much more than its weight in gold. He inspires confidence among all who deal with him, his knowledge and experience in dealing with international financial institutions being invaluable to a country invariably on the receiving end of their anger.” Nothing has changed since 15 years earlier when he was passed over for Rafi Tarar.

To continue, “Not many people know about his research papers on China in the early 70s, in his book, “Rural Development Model: Learning from China”, more or less forecast Deng Tsao Peng’s initiative and modus operandi opening the Chinese economy late in the 70s decade, starting in phases. The Chinese took note of and appreciated the thrust of his analysis. More known domestically is the complete document he produced in the 80s as the Chairman of the Agriculture Commission. A self-effecting modest person, most of this team man’s significant achievements have remained anonymous because he has shunned self-publicity in favour of the overall good of whatever organisation he has served, a quality scarce among our leaders almost without exception. An organized man with an eye for detail, his grasp of facts and figures is awe-inspiring,” unquote. The only handicap, Sartaj Aziz’s merit and integrity works against him, a victim of a convoluted measuring scale in Pakistan that makes such qualities into a disqualifier.

Mian Nawaz Sharif came to power after the long dark PPP night, we have great hopes, only possible with a fundamental change in the mindset of the PML (N) hierarchy, with a confluence between its interests and that of the national interest in choosing the right man for each critical post. The determination reflected in big advertisements for heads of public six-govt corporations and appointments, the best man (or woman) for the job! On a sliding scale of 1 to 10 Sartaj Aziz would get 8 to Mamnoon’s 3 out of 10.

Mian Sahib’s initial major decisions indicated a radical change in his mindset, spurning Mualana Fazlur Rahman’s gambit to deny PTI the KPK govt, supporting a non PML (N) person as the CM in Balochistan and adopting a mature, positive approach to re-setting both US and China relationships. The crowning piece was the China economic opening, all these pointed to exciting possibilities in good governance. The perception from the Presidential choice that nothing has really changed from 1999 could be wrong. One feels a golden opportunity was lost to the PML (N) for getting the moral high ground on good governance.

For the sake of Pakistan one wants to be wrong, Mian Nawaz Sharif must succeed. He must put the best people in the right job.

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