Whatever the potential of the leader, what matters is whom he (or she) selects for his team. US President Abraham Lincoln even went to the extreme of including his diehard opponents in his Cabinet to face the looming civil war crisis. Our governance problems can be best symbolized by the perverted logic applied in selecting Pakistan’s cricket team for the ICC ODI World Cup starting on Saturday Feb 14, 2015. With core players like Muhammad Hafeez and Junaid Khan on the injury list, the bowling has been further weakened by Saeed Ajmal being sidelined by the PCB for reasons unknown, his clearance for illegal deliveries by the ICC notwithstanding. Whether in cricket or govt, etc our mind-boggling selection process never utilizes the best talent available to form the strongest team possible. And we do this deliberately! A combination of merit, favoritism and nepotism, success is subject to the appearance of the moon.
Misbah’s defensive mindset as captain effectively curbs the natural aggressive bent of our natural stroke players. His slow run rate would forces later batsmen to take unnecessary risks. After what he did in the semi-final of the last World cup against India, he should never have been allowed near any ODI or T20 team. His performance over the past four years justifies his inclusion only in the test side. Invaluable at the test level, Younis Khan should not be in the squad for ODIs or T20. From the evidence of the warm-up matches in Australia one can only hope he comes good when it matters.
While Irfan and Ehsan Adil are impressive, why the mediocre Wahab Riaz makes the side escapes imagination or logic! Talent aside, how were fast bowlers Sohail and Rahat Ali selected when they were not even in the 30 probables in the first place? Fawad Alam performed very well in the limited overs matches in the last year or so on quite a few occasions, why did he and outstanding young talents like Sami Aslam and Babar Azam who have distinguished themselves in U-19 cricket not make the squad when we have seen Haris Sohail coming good when given the chance? And why keep Yassar Arafat and his experience out? Sarfraz as the wicketkeeper batsman (and potential opener with the explosive Ahmad Shahzad) relieves pressure on outstanding batsmen like Umer Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood in the middle order. Veteran Shahid Afridi remains a potent mercurial match winner on his day, sometimes as a batsman and sometimes a bowler, and once in a blue moon as both. Having never won against India in the World Cup ODIs and T20s despite being almost always the better side, with their batting far superior to ours this time around, we just might win if our adrenaline holds!
The same convoluted logic is repeated in politics in selecting the Federal and Provincial Cabinets, family and friends given preference over party loyalists for all important ministerial portfolios. With the worst performance in our checkered history of Cabinet performances, Nawaz Sharif has succeeded in making Zardari’s horrible regime look good. Why in God’s name has he given two crucial ministerial slots to Khawaja Asif? As the Defense Minister to bait the khakis? Hated across the rank and file this man is also incompetent, despite the power crisis he must be kept in an important cabinet slot. Useful as an attack dog targeting Imran Khan, Pervez Rashid as the Federal Minister for Information is a national disaster. Despite being the greatest sufferer at the hands of terrorism, India’s propaganda machine has effectively cast Pakistan as exporters of terrorism. Only a competent professional can effectively counter this propaganda internationally and arrest the rapid decline of Pakistan’s image in the world. Ahsan Iqbal is competent but other than the occasional dig at the Army frequently goes off at a tangent into political harangues. Just look at the state of the Railways to know how Khawaja Saad Rafique is doing. Remember Ishaq Dar as the Finance Minister in 1999 when the Musharraf regime inherited a holy financial mess? A close relation of the Sharifs he is indispensable to the family in the financial slot releasing funds for pet projects and building up circular debt time and again, the cash crunch leading to the petroleum crisis notwithstanding. And why two swords in one Foreign Ministry scabbard? Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi are like Stephan Leacock’s hero jumping on their horses and galloping off in all directions.
The technocrats inducted into the level below the ministerial slots in the Punjab are really excellent, confirming no dearth of talent or competency available to tap. Yet with Shahbaz Sharif wielding all the power himself the result is dismal. Incapable of reciprocating the trust in those who have put their trust in them in the first place, the Sharifs simply cannot come out of their closed inner circle. Like the Sharifs make Zardari look good in comparison, Imran Khan’s politicking is increasingly making the Sharifs look good. The evidence brought by the Joint Investigating Team (JIT) in the horrific Baldia Town fire case and the May 12 carnage is pretty open and shut as criminal cases, the courts must be left to decide on the basis of merit. By barging into the matter himself just to make political capital, Imran Khan has effectively politicized criminal cases, was that necessary or prudent? If the perception of political scores to settle takes hold the real criminals will escape justice. Team members must have the capacity and courage to render sane advice, the caveat being that the leader must listen to them.
Bad governance in Pakistan has become endemic whichever political party runs the government, they just cannot get out of the straitjacket of favoritism and nepotism in their team selection. Invariably this becomes a sure recipe for inefficiency and an instrument for corruption. The khakis cannot keep holding the Constitution aloft while the politicians subvert the very morals of its basis, the good of the people. It being counter-productive for the Army to step in, what is the alternative to ensure good governance? What Pakistan needs is a time-out, a breather where technocrats chosen on merit run governance to put the country back on the rails. Only those should run this country who do not have personal agendas but a commitment to run the country as it should be run.
For starters the PCB must shun their over-inflated egos and get Saeed Ajmal back in the team. On his part Mian Sahib will do well by re-forming his Cabinet immediately before someone else does it for him!
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org