Best of intentions
As contemporary examples show, there is more to leading a nation than running a government based on honesty and personal integrity
One of my former editors used to say that honesty and personal integrity has to be appreciated in a domestic servant, not in politicians. Of course, as a young idealist, who was just starting a career in journalism, I did not agree with him at the time. However, after more than 35 years in this profession, I realised why my editor was not off the mark. Not that he supported corrupt politicians, but what he meant was that to govern a country, a leader needs to have other attributes and not just honesty and personal integrity. In India, we have seen what happened to former Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during UPA-II. Dr Singh's honesty and personal integrity have always been above the board. But inefficiency combined with corruption scandals of his ministers could not save his government. Even Dr Singh's staunch enemy could not accuse him of any personal transgressions and the man who was the architect of the great Indian growth story became synonymous with 'policy paralysis'.
Today, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing the same problems. Imran also came to power riding on the chariot of honesty and personal integrity, vowing to rid the country of corruption. Being an outsider and not hailing from Pakistan's dynastic political families, people hoped his personal financial hygiene will usher in an era of good governance, transparency and economic prosperity. But after more than two years in power, Imran's state of affairs is worse than Dr Singh of UPA-II despite the fact that he is the first Prime Minister in the history of Pakistan who has the full backing of the powerful army. It is a known fact that the 'political engineering' by the GHQ helped cobble Imran's coalition government. However, much to his backers' dismay, they realised that you can't run a country on the label of 'Mr Clean'. He needs more than just a clean image to deliver on his promises. As his government inches towards a downward spiral with food prices hitting an all-time high, the country is facing the worst wheat and sugar shortage, and the economy touching rock bottom, Imran looks clueless and bereft of any plan.
The man, who vowed corruption-free and transparent administration, has been put in the dock by corruption charges against his ministers. It has emerged that the country's worst wheat and sugar shortage crisis was triggered by his ministers and close aides who fed him wrong information and they have been its biggest beneficiaries. Many ministers have a clear conflict of
interest but Imran has preferred to overlook them as they represent powerful business lobbies.
This has made Imran more bitter, frustrated and foul-mouth. Unlike Dr Singh, who was very soft-spoken and never resorted to personal attacks on his political rivals, Imran has become more belligerent and sometimes the language he uses against his political opponents does not behove that of a Prime Minister. Moreover, he sounds like a local toughie. "I will not leave them and put them in jail" has become the most common refrain while referring to opposition leaders.
Imran, who never tires of saying that his government and the military establishment are on the 'same page', has even put a spanner in the military's attempt to bring down the political temperature because of his disdain and contempt for the opposition.
Pakistan political commentator Ejaz Haider says Imran's obsession with corruption, his idée fixe, has led to the current impasse. Banging on about corruption was all right as a campaign slogan and to galvanise followers. But to make it the bedrock of all policies and reducing the complexity of economic activity to a single mantra was never going to work. And, it didn't.
The writer has worked on senior editorial positions for many renowned international publications. Views expressed are personal