ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 34
Financial Times  

Blowing in the wind - the wrong side!

“In the Line of Fire”, a memoir by General Pervez Musharaf, the President of Pakistan is a new book, recommended for reading by all leaders of this nation, whether they be engaged in politics, business and society leadership roles.

The book is dedicated to the people of Pakistan, aptly described as “those who toil, sacrifice and pray for the Country and who wait patiently for a better future,” and he writes “they deserve a committed, selfless leadership which come what may can help them realize their boundless potential.” How true and apt is the above of Sri Lanka and its people waiting patiently for the leadership to usher in a prosperous tomorrow? Our leaders have however yet failed to so commit!

Musharaf recounts how on October 13 1999, following the Nawaz Shariff attempted coup; he selected the option of a new democratic, civilian administration instead of declaring Martial Law. Indeed a great lesson for our leader on how to select his key top administrative team, on the basis of meritocracy and competency.

They consisted of Shaukat Aziz, an international banker- a self made man with a humble beginning, as Finance Minister (later Prime Minister), Dr. Ishrat Hussain from the World Bank as Governor of the State Bank, entrepreneur Razzak Dawood as Commerce Minister and Tariq Ikram- a Regional Director of Reckit & Colman as Export Promotions Minister, all of whom had an impeccable reputation and a successful track record, then considered as the only criteria to be a member of Cabinet. Musharaf had met most of them for the first time only at the interview for appointment to the respective posts. What a contrast to the situation in Sri Lanka and a lesson for us and an utopian dream!

Musharaf realized that the economy was shattered and on the verge of bankruptcy. He compared Pakistan to “a rudderless ship floundering in the high seas, with no destination, led by inept captains, whose only talent lay in the art of how to plunder.

There was no strategic direction from the top in the management of the economy, nor a clear vision and a strategy to realize same The greatest victims were the poor people of Pakistan, who were fed with false promises at elections. This situation had arisen as a result of a lack of institutional checks and balances, mismanagement with impunity, lack of good governance, blatant corruption in the public sector, nepotism, and inept mangers being in charge of key resources and decision making”. When will our leaders realize the similarity in Sri Lanka and expose the true state of our nation to the people?

Musharaf recounts that in Pakistan “10% are incorruptible, 10% incorrigibly corrupt (they will remain so come what may ) and the remaining 80% wait and watch to see which way the wind from the top is blowing and shift positions accordingly” and states in the 1990’s “ the wind was blowing from the wrong side”. What a similarity to the actual situation in Sri Lanka!

In a broadcast to the nation Musharaf recounted “Fifty two years ago we started with a beacon of hope and today that beacon is no more and we stand in darkness. There is despondency and hopelessness surrounds us with no visible light anywhere.

The slide has been gradual, but has rapidly accelerated in the last many years and today the economy has crumbled and our credibility is lost, state institutions have been demolished, provincial disharmony has caused cracks in the Federation” and he sums up as “We have lost our honour, our dignity, our respect and our position in the community of nations”.

Oh God! When will our own leaders be courageous enough to say the same to our citizens and take appropriate action to correct the state of affairs?

Musharaf then went on to place a seven point plan to place the “Nation First”, recognizing that the greatest impediment were the politicians not devolving power to the grass roots:

-Rebuild the national confidence and morale
-Strengthen the Federation and remove inter provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion
-Revive the economy and restore investor confidence
-Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice.
-Depoliticize state institutions
-Devolve power to the grass roots
-Ensure swift accountability across border ensuring the:
-Revival of the economy
-Institution of good governance in all elements of social development including in health, education and emancipation of women
-Alleviation of poverty
-Political restructure including sustainable democracy

Musharaf summed his thoughts on the need to place the “Nation First”, with an 1864 quote from Abraham Lincoln that inspired him, which read “Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but life is never wisely given to save a limb”. This is most apt, as we are doing just the opposite, sacrificing both limb and life to protect a unitary constitution!

We in civil society are watching as to whether our political, business and societal leaders will have the courage to state the truth at the forthcoming Development Forum, learning lessons in good governance from Pakistan.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.