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Wajid Ali Syed Headshot

It's the Leadership, Stupid

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There is never a dull moment in Pakistan. You'll always find big news of one sort or another. If it's not extremists killing hundreds of people in broad daylight in a crowded marketplace, then it's a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a mosque or a shrine. If it's not supporters of extremists rallying in the streets of Lahore or Islamabad, then it's some kind of anti-America protest.

But this kind of political upheaval and violence happen in almost every country, more so if it's an epicenter of al Qaeda and Taliban activities. What distinguishes a failed state from the rest is their response to such upheaval and the ability to restore law and order according to the wishes of the people. This ability is ensured by the leadership of the country. It was the leadership of Abraham Lincoln that united different states. It was the leadership of Lyndon Johnson that implemented civil rights. It was the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah who lead a movement for the rights of Muslims in India. It was the leadership of Gandhi that got India freedom. Surely the standards of leadership have diminished in the last two decades. America was ruled by George W. Bush, and Pakistan is now ruled by a weak political establishment.

If you want to see an example of the sorry state of the current political leadership in Pakistan, consider the statements issued by government officials after the recent mayhem in Karachi. In just four days, as many as 100 people were brutally killed by rampaging gunmen in the streets. One would expect that the government would step in to put a stop to the carnage and vow to bring the killers to justice; instead, Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that the reported figures of deaths due to targeted killings was not accurate. According to the Minister, 70 percent of the victims died at the hands of their wives or girlfriends. It's not a joke that most Pakistanis wished Malik had a wife or girlfriend like that. Even if one were to accept Malik's creative explanation, wouldn't it makes sense to ask why law and order was not maintained? Are rogue-minded wives and girlfriends above the law?

Two days after the paramilitary was called in to restore calm in the city and the two political parties -- PPP and MQM representatives -- cooled down their ferocious war of words, the Interior Minister claimed that foreign forces were behind the unrest, saying that Israeli-made weapons were being used by "miscreants" in the killings. If one were to follow the Minister's explanations to their logical end, one would conclude that the aforementioned wives and girlfriends got ahold of Israeli-made weapons, or that Israel declared war with Pakistan and hired proxies to do its dirty work in the streets of Karachi. Such theories truly boggle the mind.

Baluchistan is a province that has been plagued by waves of kidnappings, killings, a separatist insurgency and sectarian violence. The situation there is also blamed on a foreign conspiracy, and the army is periodically sent in to quell the violence. Surely most politicians believe that army is not the answer and a political deal is required to resolve the issues within Baluchistan. Apparently a political resolution is not possible, because the Chief Minister of the province is busy dealing with his own "health issues".

The same chief minister, Raisani, has courted controversy before. A few months ago, the local media and members of a few political parties started identifying public officials who had fake degrees. Several were dismissed from their positions. Some of them even managed to get back into the political scene after their voters re-elected them. The issue turned into a national saga. Responding to the scandal, Baluchistan's chief minister remarked that "a degree is a degree, no matter whether it's authentic or fake."

These incidents reveal that Pakistan is not only facing serious terrorism threats on daily basis from insurgents and militants, but also a grave crisis of political leadership. The insurgent threat cannot be defeated with military force alone. Pakistan's political leaders have to demonstrate strong will and vision. The unfortunate reality is that Pakistan is suffering from a leadership vacuum and the politicians are neither serious about their jobs nor willing to act responsibly.

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