When Pakistan came into being it was a developing state and the people looked forward to a better tomorrow. Seventy years later it is still a developing state but today the people are frightened of tomorrow and any thought about the country’s future fills them with foreboding.

With its vast human and natural resources Pakistan should have been transformed into a modern industrialised state and its people should have been enjoying a quality of life at least equal to that of the people of the developed states. After all, this was the vision of its founding fathers and its raison d’être as well. Yet, born as a nation, it is struggling to survive as a country, drifting from crisis to crisis.

On the other hand, those nations which stood at the same level as Pakistan, have forged ahead dramatically and have either joined or are poised to join the ranks of developed states. And considering that some of them lack natural resources, their achievement becomes even more spectacular- they converted their population into their greatest resource.

These nations had the most important asset that Pakistan has lacked – quality leadership. Suffice it to say that just because he or she is a politician doesn’t mean that he or she is a good leader too. By the same token, just because he is a general doesn’t mean that he is a good leader too. Had this not been so, the people’s dreams of seeing Pakistan as a developed state should have come true, while the wars that were lost should have been won. Pakistan’s leadership has been its bane.

Leadership is art in motion. It transcends all other things in beauty and is the best gift that can be given to the people.

Great leaders are endowed with thought of the highest quality and the ability to translate it into actions. They give vigour and direction to their nations. They foster economic growth, safeguard sovereignty and independence, promote social justice and improve the quality of life. They start by articulating a vision that inspires the nation, then, develop a plan to achieve it. They create an environment where performance and commitment predominate, not mediocrity, flattery and nepotism, where decisions are based on principles, not expediency, where the focus is on breakthroughs, not cosmetic changes, and where the complex is translated into simple. They earn respect, not demand it: “Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior and are disgraced by the inferior” (George Bernard Shaw).

If Pakistan had been blessed by one such leader, its history would have been embellished by stories of success, not tainted by failure. Instead, what it got was leaders steeped in mediocrity whose thoughts and actions were governed by self-interest, who were incapable of high order thinking and lacked the ability to grasp the wider implications of a situation, problem and action.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they proved unequal to the responsibilities placed on them and the challenges that confronted them. The result was that the country lost 70 years in time and 114,000 sq kms in space, while the challenges have assumed massive proportions: the insurgency and the use of terror as a weapon that began in Fata has enveloped the whole country, despite Operations Rah-e-Raast (Swat), Rah-e-Nijaat (South Waziristan), Zarb-e-Azb (North Waziristan), and countless smaller operations in the other agencies of Fata, and elsewhere in the country; the implementation of National Action Plan; the country’s population has grown at one of the highest rates in the world, so has the number of people living on the poverty line and below it; so too has illiteracy and the problems that arise from it – ignorance, obscurantism, bigotry, prejudice, provincialism, sectarianism et al; the infrastructure too, having been overtaken by the population, has collapsed. Isn’t it a paradox that such a rich country as Pakistan should have so many poor people living in it? The rulers’ is a squalid tale of greed and corruption. They have thus turned politics in Pakistan into a game of high stakes and in the process, introduced a national culture characterized by incompetence, inefficiency, inertia, sycophancy and corruption.

No wonder then, that Pakistan’s performance in all the Elements of National Power (political, economic, psycho-social, diplomatic and military) has been characterized by failure. Take the political element – in the realm of national strategy the centre of gravity of Pakistan resides in its political system, yet, because of the ineptitude of our captains of politics, the centre of gravity has remained in a state of dislocation, thus causing the political system to remain in a state of imbalance. And this inevitably, has adversely affected the performance of the other elements, in particular, the economics and psycho-social elements.

Take the diplomatic element – it has failed to mobilize the world on the atrocities being committed by India on the people of Indian Held Kashmir – also consider the Iranian threat. Take the military element – it ruled over the country for 33 years during which time, they had a golden opportunity to modernize Pakistan and earn for it an enviable position in the world. Instead, they mutilated the constitution, damaged the institutions of the state in the same way as, their counter parts in politics, blundered the country into two major wars, lost both, destroyed the basis on which Pakistan was founded and put the country back in time and space.

Yet, for all their transgressions they would still have been hailed as heroes if they had won victories on the battlefield. They had the men and material but failed to convert them into a force.

Is there a remedy? Yes. The present political system that throws low caliber people into the legislature and high offices in the executive has been tried, tested and failed. Therefore, the old super structure of the state will have to be demolished and a new Pakistan built on new foundations. This would call for new thinking, new instincts, new approaches and tough decisions. This can only be done by a political system that would allow the finest minds in the country, pre-eminent in their respective fields to be inducted into positions of governance, both at the federal and provincial level. It is only world class thought, translated into superlative actions that can retrieve Pakistan.