Articles of the year 2009

The Cost of Incompetence
Published: April 04th, 2009

In Pakistan we seem to have a succession of leaders who collect the most incompetent officers through whom they run their governments. Every government in recent memory has imploded due to the failure of the advisers to the leadership in rendering bad advice leading to bad governance. When a leader is elected he should surround himself with the brightest brains in the realm. Kennedy picked his team- the whiz kids - led by McNamara, who formulated the best economic and foreign policies which continued racking up successes long after his death. In Pakistan except for Mr Bhutto's Cabinet of 72 with Hafeez Pirzada, Mumtaz Bhutto, Mir Afzal, Khar, nobody has even come close to their level of competence or performance. When Bhutto failed in 1977 it was his actions, contrary to the advice of his ministers, and not like the advisers of Musharraf who advised him to a collapse. Asif Zardari's minister of interior has a spectacular record of failures, the assassination of Benazir, the Marriott bombing, the Sri Lankan cricket team, and now the Lahore Police training camp - in broad daylight and 38 TV channels broadcasting around the world in real time. The security failures in his tenure are amongst the worst in Pakistan's history. Similarly Salman's Governor's Rule brought Pakistan to the brink of a civil war. Again it is the incompetence of the minister, and his blunders that shake the government. While the Sharif's sat back to collect the goodwill and reap the popularity.

In politics the public following is everything. The strength of the PPP has always been its identification with the poor masses. This close bond has been destroyed after the death of Mohtarama, with the vote for the PPP being the last repayment of the debt. After the performance of this past year, and with the multiple failures, the PPP will be lucky if they can win a seat in Larkana. In the Punjab, the rank and file are scrabbling around to find someone to follow, for, with the old timers sidelined the future is bleak indeed. If as all indicators show, that with the Punjab lost to the Nawaz League, and Asif's mistakes multiplying, even Sindh will wander into the waiting arms of the Shaheed Bhutto group. Once Asif weakens further, in the centre, even the MQM will have no need for an alliance with the PPP.

We can sum up the disasters for Musharraf - the sacking of the chief justice, and for Asif - the long march. In both cases the advisers bet the wrong way, and managed to convince their leaders. For President Zardari the slope has been slippery for a year now, but if his minister of interior continues in this fashion, maybe Baitullah Mehsud will declare more territorial gains. He has threatened an attack on Washington from Pakistan, which could invite serious retribution from the US to upgrade their attacks from drones to some things more sinister.

The Pakistan army has to move very quickly, and face the true enemy - the Militant Taliban, who distort the real Islam into an evil monster given to horrific acts of cruelty and to further instil fear. So that their dread may induce more people to follow or face the same cruel music.

We the people of Pakistan must choose quickly, the way of cruelty, or the path of peace, albeit with the Americans. I never believed that I could sound like an apologist for the American way of life, so far has the Bush doctrine damaged the United States.

We in Pakistan have to find a way out of this mess. To have the area bombed into the last century will only spread more poverty which is the basis of terrorism. We need progress and industry, to move out of the poverty trap. While we are mired in saving ourselves from Mehsud's suicide bombers, and the more blatant attacks like the police camp shootings, is it not surprising that Mehsud has not claimed a hand in the Mumbai operation?.

The President must also face reality that the sycophants around him do him no service, on the contrary they blind him from taking corrective measures to bolster his popularity. Zardari must realise before it is too late, that the cost of incompetence is extremely high, and in Pakistan, can be life threatening.

Meanwhile the prime minister is doing a great job, and by comparison he is way ahead on points, now looking like a viable alternate.