It is possible to win after a defeat
Leo Tolstoy, in his epic novel about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia “War and Peace”, dedicated the last 60 pages to addressing the question whether a leader attains success based on his own ability or whether it is destiny that picks up a man and puts him on a historical journey. He felt that it is destiny that has the upper hand over man. No social scientist has answered this question with certainty. My personal view on the subject is that history remembers those who achieved success and analyses them but there are a vast number of those who started with a promise but failed to achieve what they embarked on. Another thing to consider is that a man is made not just by his success but also his failures. Those who cannot recover from failure also fail to achieve greatness. To me it is a combination of man and destiny that offers him opportunities to avail.
Historians have still not resolved why Hannibal laid siege of Athens for seven years rather than attacking it to destroy the Roman Empire completely. That delay allowed them to develop a counter offensive and defeat Hannibal. Or why Alexander decided to embark on a world conquest without having a plan of how to proceed? Another spectacular historic failure was French Revolutionary Robespierre. He belonged to a middle class family but became one of the most powerful men in the revolution, and ultimately a victim of it when he was guillotined. In contemporary times Barak Obama wanted to be an Illinois state congressman but did not get a ticket in the primary election of the Democratic Party. That failure paved the way for him to become US senator and later, president. Benazir Bhutto was advised against returning to the country after 2007 because there were certain risks to her life, but she refused and paid the ultimate price.
The current political crisis of Pakistan is one of those junctures where both civilian and military leaders have to make the right decisions because a wrong decision will put us on a backward path
God has promised to send help to all those who want to serve their communities with honesty. That help comes in the form of opportunities that are sometimes not obvious and may even arise from failure. Those that chose the right path succeed while others are relegated to the dustbin of history.
It is important for a leader to correctly analyse the options available to him. One way of doing it is to consult with people of confidence and then ponder over their advice. Another tool is to conduct surveys and reports to find out the psychological and emotional makeup of the nation. Quaid-e-Azam, for a large part of his political life, wanted emergence of an Indian Union on the lines of EU, where Muslim majority states would have sovereignty while being part of the union. He concluded after a struggle of thirty years that All India Congress was not interested in accommodating the demands of Muslims. Towards the end, after his illness was diagnosed, he realised that he did not have the luxury of time and decided to seek complete independence. It must have been a difficult decision for him because many Muslim organisations, including Jamiat Ulema Hind and Jamat-e-Islami, were against it. It is too early to tell whether the creation of Pakistan was the right decision. But all the signs indicate that it was the right thing to do. Resurgence of Hindu nationalism in the form of Narendra Modi is one of those phenomena that cannot be ignored. It would never allow Muslims to realise their full potential or feel secure about their future.
The current political crisis of Pakistan is one of those junctures where both civilian and military leaders have to make the right decisions because a wrong decision will put us on a backward path. Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif are two leaders that have large following but pursue totally different paths. From perspective of destiny both of them are lucky and have multiple successes against all odds. Nawaz Sharif relies on his family and friends to control the government. He is turning a blind eye towards the conflict of interest arising from the business empires of his sons and nephews during international visits and domestic policy decisions. He wants to control the party by placing his family in key party and government positions. As a businessman he considers development as the only path to nation building, ignoring social issues that need immediate attention from the federal government. Instead of resolving sectarian and ethnic divides, he is using them for his political advantage.
Many leaders emerged from oblivion just when everyone had written them off. Charles de Gaulle was asked by the nation to come back after he resigned from the presidency
Imran Khan, on the other hand, rose to prominence riding the wave of popular support especially from among youth, women and educated people from urban and rural areas. Destiny provided him an opportunity to prove his mettle and capability by performing in KP province, which is larger than many European countries, as well as keep the government under pressure for reforms. But instead he decided to choose the path of agitation and believes that it is a correct strategy to increase his support among the people. He has also decided to reduce reliance on his old guard and seek new recruits that have track records of constituency success, regardless of their reputation. Only time will tell whether he will be able to form a government or not.
Many leaders emerged from oblivion just when everyone had written them off. Charles de Gaulle was asked by the nation to come back after he resigned from the presidency. Nelson Mandela unified his nation by forgetting the injustice done to him personally by the apartheid government. Deng Xiaoping was called a capitalist roader by the gang of four after the death of Mao. He had to go into hiding to save his life and was helped by a handful of people that believed in him. When he rose to the top he commanded leadership without holding any major title to his name. What has to be remembered in all these cases is that it is important to maintain the purity of ideology, faith in the vision and possibility of a failure. Imran Khan as a reformist leader has to realise that keeping the party on ideological track is much more important than political success. Because political power in itself is not the end but the means to achieve an objective.
Pakistan has kehtur rijal (dearth of leadership). Imran Khan is one of those leaders that has the potential to take this nation in a new direction. But for that he has to take a long view rather than fall victim to short term populism.