by M Ashraf Chaudhry

“Everyone can be great. Because everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

IMG_0326One common thing about politics and the football game is that both are result oriented. No score and no applaud.  In the football game, it is the legs that speak; and in politics, it is the mind and management, and not the mere wagging of the tongue. Service to people now over-rides all other considerations. Nominal democracies, like the one we have in Pakistan, easily slip into autocracies, “maintaining the outward appearance through elections, but without the rights and trusts that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system.” the Economist, March 1, 2014. Money in such democracies begins to talk louder than the voters.

The rot starts in the system when merely winning the elections becomes the definition of the whole system. Individual rights get sidelined; justice remains an elusive. Robust democracies strengthen the constitution that in return ensures long term stability by stopping the disgruntled minorities in the coalition from taking undue advantage of the regime. In our case, the minority parties, the MQM, ANP, JUI, and PML (Q) etc., become exploitative. For them, self-interest is above the national interest.

The first sign that comes, hinting that the fledgling democracy is heading for the rocks is when the elected rulers begin to act like Roman kings and start eroding and evading the check on their powers. The solution, according to the Economist, lies in limiting the number of goodies that the state can hand out, (Benazir Fund; loans, subsidies and reliefs etc.). Less government and more governance, as would say, Modi, is the litmus test that proves that the system is working.Modi is just unknowingly repeating what Madison famously had  said, “ The great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the government, and in the next step, oblige it to control itself”.

The two M&M’s (Modi and Mian), who shall make or mar the fortunes of some 1,300 million people living in India and Pakistan share many things in common: both have been keen to be in power; both are exceedingly  ambitious; both are arrogant and  self-righteous; both are of  the same age; both represent a break-away from the values and traditions espoused by the Founders of the respective countries.  These similarities are far-fetched, and they end here.

Mian Nawaz Sharif is a different brand of politician. For him, persistency in politics is not a virtue; being in power is. He confuses maneuvering with effective management and takes a  lull before the storm as a sign of peace. He faults the facial get-up for  change. He wants to control the raging bull of problems by holding it not by the horns but by its tail. The result is that he gets dragged along.  For him, longevity in power is a true sign of a great leader and of democracy.

Well! Turtles do not die because they do not grow old. They die only when they get sick. As regards the priorities, he thinks big is always beautiful. Riding in a Metro can make the poor forget that they are hungry, by trumpeting about a Terrorist Act, he assumes that terrorism has ended; by spitting on the feet, he wants people to believe that it is raining.  Progress projected in figures equal  real progress. His finance minister, the other day, hit upon  a novel technique to appease the IMP loan-givers. In an answer to a question why the government was importing very expensive BMW’s. He innocently said, “You do not get loans by moving the IMF people, and foreign dignitaries in Corollas”.  He claims to have brought down the dollar value just to prove wrong a loud-mouthed rival politician. Even the menial clerical staff would not indulge in such frivolous talks on national TV. They are the “King Lears” of Pakistan- exhausted and disconnected, regimented and uncreative.

Often I am reminded of a classic story of a philosophy teacher who one day walked into a classroom with a glass jar,2-inch rocks, a pail of pebbles, handful of sand  and a certain amount of water. He silently put the 2-inch stones in the jar and asked the class if the jar was full. They all said it was. “Really” he retorted. Then he pulled out a pile of small pebbles, and added them to the jar. He gently shook the jar and the pebbles settled in the space between the 2-inch rocks. He repeated his question. “Is the jar full now?” The students said it was. Next he added a scoop of sand to the jar, filling the space between the pebbles, and repeated his question. Once again the answer was, “yes”. Last of all he added the water.

He taught the students the moral of the experiment.  “The jar represents your life, and the rocks stand for the BIG things (aims and problems) that you value at the end of your life, like your family, health, hopes and dreams. The pebbles bring meanings to life, like your job, your house, hobbies and friendship. The sand and water stand for the “small stuff” that fillyour time, like entertainment, running errands.

The problem starts when people start filling the jar of life with sand and water first and leave out the big things out. Big issues must be tackled first, the small ones will fall into place automatically.

Terrorism, law and order, power shortage, education, health, job creation, infra-structure  etc. are the rocks of Pakistan. But Mian Sahib has the knack to start filling the government jar with things that glitter and catch the eye. He reminds me of Rajbaber’s famous movie, BheghiPalkein, in which the hero being of a high caste, thinks big and ignores the important things necessary for survival. His wife needs flour, lintels and sugar, and he brings home a pressure cooker. And then he insists that what he has done is right, “You come from a low caste, so you think lowly. You are visionless”.  The people of Pakistan under these billionaire politicians are like the heroine of that movie.

Mian spends more time on planning how to survive,  than on solving the problems.   For him, the construction of big, mega projects like the metros; the new cities and new freeways etc. override the urgency to tackle poverty, law and order problems; terrorism etc. first. The new budget targets the poor more than the rich.  He reminds me of an incident that took place in Germany in 2004. A certain truck driver was transporting a fifteen-ton load of jam jars through Berlin that a wasp landed in his cabin. He tried to swat the wasp by sweeping his hand. The wasp did not go anywhere, but his heavy truck did swerve to the mid-road guardrail. The truck overturned and spilled his cargo of jam jars over the free-way. The freeway remained closed for about two hours because the clean-up was made arduous, not by the spilled jam as much as by the swarms of wasps that arrived from nowhere to feast on the sweetness of the mess. Rivals like the swarm of wasps shall feast  on the sweet spilled jam jars of problems facing Pakistan.


















Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry

Pittsburg, CA

June 5, 2014


“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth; but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments that produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people..” Nelson Mandela in his autobiography, Long Walk in Freedom.

Full one year got wasted in taking “the First Step” in the right direction, as is claimed by the PM and his finance minister. He claims to be a transformational PM,  but he appears to be  a ditto of what he was in his earlier two stints of premiership, a situational and reactionary leader, responding to situations as and when they crop up. Any good manager can do that. True transformational leadership does not allow “Swarms of wasps” to feast on your problems. Horn-locking with the army; soft on terrorism; delaying action when needed; ignoring peoples’ miseries  and under-taking foreign tours; employing close kith and kin and grooming them for dynastic politics, (the story is that about 22 of them hold powerful portfolios), avoiding bold but unpleasant decisions fearing public reactions, are not the signs of an effective and functional leader.

Some of his ministers needed to be shown the exit door, but loyalty rather than performance counts more in his fiefdom. He did identify the challenges; but he could not regulate them, nor could he prioritize them. People voted for him for a change. It is no music to the public ears to hear his ministers telling that it is not a month’s, or year’s job. He collected around him the trite stuff. While he should have requested, cajoled and even forced his worst adversities of merit  and quality to join hands with him in tackling the problems, he chose to play the world-cup with the players of his previous two-time teams. Can he show one fresh, brilliant, creative and world famous economist or administrative in his team. Both brothers could work miracles as both had been in power longer than most in Pakistan  in the civilian set up.  The result is obvious.

Most of the members of his team, includinghim as well, act uncreatively, more  or less like a thermometer and not like a Thermostat. A thermometer just records, and relays and tells what the temperature is. A patient is more interested in the cure, and not in the nature of disease. Why should the poor, insecure and deprived people of Pakistan hear a tale of their miseries narrated to them by his well-dressed and rich ministers.  It is like telling Einstein what physics is. His ministers act like a thermometer, or like a weather man who just keeps predicting  and often keeps tellinglies and yet gets paid. A thermometer  is not instrumental in bringing about the desired changes, because it has no inner capacity or mechanism to do so. It is the Thermostat that can bring the temperature up or down, but only if there is a hand that can set it so. When Pakistan’s big cities like Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur can be shut down at will by one section of people because their leader living in a foreign country got booked on money laundering charges, it reflects an alarming situation. Army officers get killed just outside Islamabad; a woman gets stoned to death in broad day light in the High Court yard. 10% accomplishment under the circumstances is not laudable. A flywheel needs lots of effort in the first few pushes; later it takes on its own and conserves energy. Same is true of leadership. The problem with a wildebeest, an animal of the size of a small bull, is that in the wake of dire danger, it runs and then stops, and begins to look back to see how far the chasing cheetah is, just with vacant and impassioned eyes. Even the wild predator chasing him feels sorry for his lack of full-throttle effort.

Gone are the days when the leadership was styled as something in-born; or when it was restricted to one lone genius; or it was deemed as something charismatic; or even autocratic. These are mere myths now.


Sometimes natural calamities and disasters produce just theatrical results in the form of action oriented leaders. The floods of 2009 and 2010, combined with the inner problems of law and order, terrorism and power shortage etc. offered ideal opportunities to the PPP government in Pakistan to register its name in the annals of history. They wasted this God-sent opportunity of public service in the silliest possible way. Total neglect with the main leader remaining on foreign tours was its response. Modi defines the contours of new leadership.

Modi is the product of disasters, natural or man-made. He en-cashed the Earthquake of 2001, and the riots of 2002 most effectively. His biggest gains came from the areas where communal violence had been worst. He shows no qualms and no regrets for the Muslims’ massacre.  But Indians equate him with aspiration and  value him for his sterling performance. His biggest hamartia(fault that can lead to a down fall) is that he is referred to as divisive and abrasive and coercive.

To be the principal of an elementary school is one thing; but to be the VC of a famous university is different. Cactus does not grow inside, and indoor plants do not prosper outside in the sun. Indians have taken a big risk by betting on him . His three term tenure as CM, Gujarat .However, endorses that he can be trusted.  Indians desperately needed change, and perhaps theyhave  made the right choice, if viewed from their angle.  We in Pakistan often wish for change, talk about change, but hardly ever vote for a change. We end up then sticking with status quo. We may change shirts, wives , jobs and cars, but we love to keep 60’s and 70’s model leaders. It is neither our fate nor it is designed so by God. It is a self-inflicted curse that we shall never change our leaders. In such circumstances you need a strong man with a heavy hammer that takes every problem as a nail and does not hesitate in hitting it hard. President Obama used this analogy to justify his non-intervention policy. India and Pakistan need a firm hand when it comes to handling the social problems at home. Leaders made of wax, or leader who are pliable and elastic like rubber, or at worst, who are like fluid that assumes every shape it is poured in, multiply peoples’ problems. They can never be a solution. I may hate Modi, but I love his style, his performance, his zest to deliver, and his intense hatred for the dullards. We also read that he  possesses in ample amount  that rare stuff which is called “honesty”. Lucky are those people who can see a face studded on the shoulders of a leader who is honest and is not corrupt. Sitting on the peak of job-ladder, may be, Modi  is able to see better and afar, and realize that sincerity to one’s religion- (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or Bhudhism), demands respect for humanism. A cruel man can never be a true follower of his religion, whatever it may be. Getting closer to God means getting closer to people, and Muslims are his fellow Indians.

Fareed Zakaria says that elections are reactions, and often the negative ones, and this explains “Modi’s breath-taking rise”. “He is charismatic, intense, utterly decisive…”. He is action-packed. He lives in a state of celibacy; he did not invite any of his relatives in the inauguration; he empowered his ministers to take the decisions on merit; he forbade them to employ their relatives as personal secretaries and assistants, but to select them from the “staff pool”; he created a new state of India, the 29th state over night; he has already struck fear in the corrupt and inefficient officials. Our Mian Sahib took months to fill in the slots of his cabinet. Many important ambassadorial posts are still vacant. The shortage, perhaps, is not of competent people. Only he has run short of his near relatives.

Modi is fully aware why Congress fell on its face. It had failed to  create jobs; it had made no efforts to ease labor laws; it had failed to control inflation, (over 8%); budget deficit had remained un-tackled; onion prices did the ultimate damage as did Pranab Mukherjee as FM by attacking the investors with retrospective taxes. India  will see a lot in the next sixty days under Modi.

How will Modi modify India. He is an acknowledged good administrator. He is strict and severe. He gives the responsibility and the target and the leverage and demands results. He is mercilessly blunt. He proved his worth by bringing Gujarat to give China like growth. Since he is hardnosed and abrasive, and divisive, he is likely to counter much grumblings, and perhaps sooner than expected. Only tangible and palpable positive changes would mull such voices. According to Guruswamy, who knows him personally, he is “a right wing authoritarian with a corporate friendly vision. India is boisterously democratic… how a hard liner Hindu Nationalist handles Muslims and the minorities would be his biggest challenge. Gujarat prospered on the cult of his personality. Will India, diverse as it is, swallow the personality culture, especially when it could not digest anymore the cult of the Nehru family. Ten years ago Gujarat had 50,000 crores loan from World Bank; today it has deposited 1 lac crore in the World Bank. Gujarat has the least crime rate; once it was the most unsafe state. Now it has even a health card for the animals. He has a personal staff of three. Well, all this is wonderful. How he deals with Pakistan and how soon he stops showing Pakistan “iskeAuqat”, its worth, would be his another big test.

Handal is not very wrong when he says, “tensions (communal) are not the relic of the past. Only last year in September, more than 60  got killed and tens of thousandsgot displaced in religious riots in the Muzaffargarh district of UP, and most of them were Muslims. According to” Sharat Pawar, the chief of the Nationalist party, NCP uses a crude analogy when he says, “the BJP PM, Mr. Narender Modi is “like a groom in hurry”. He is riding a huge elephant,India, and the elephant has a tendency to go for instant gratification. Little loose  directions and  emotions  on the part of the rider, Modi,  can turn the docile animal into a wild, destructive beast. How Modi avoids this danger  of having a joy-ride on a huge animal will become clear, not in years, but in months. His good performance in India would be a vicariously great gift to the people of Pakistan. It would make things very hard for the leadership in Pakistan.