With the commencement of Operations in North Waziristan, the country is in a state of war. These are times when leadership is tested and regretfully our worthy Prime Minister has been found wanting in qualities that make a leader. For one, I am still at a loss to understand as to why the Head of the Executive has not addressed the nation on television.

It is also beyond my comprehension as to why did the Punjab Government order its police into pitched battles with activists of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, resulting in loss of life and injuries? Why was it necessary to create a serious law and order issue, knowing full well the situation in FATA and the need for domestic harmony because of likely reactive manifestations elsewhere? The Punjab Chief Minister stated that the Lahore incident did not occur on his orders. Does this mean that someone else and not the Provincial Chief Executive is running the Province and issuing orders?

It appears that the ruling siblings have either been fed information that they ‘wanted to hear’ or they have grossly misjudged the street potential of Dr. Tahirul Qadri and his activists. Dr. Sahib’s last demonstration in the Federal Capital should have been food for thought that his followers were no ordinary political workers, but members of a very large nationwide group that was almost cultish in nature. There were enough case studies available to prove that such groups could not be cowed through use of brute force. Regretfully, the reaction to what happened in Lahore has already spread to other cities and if not handled with sagacity is more than likely to multiply. Whatever turn events might take, the incident has already besmirched PML N’s image and its claim as a party that wanted to nurture tolerance and democracy in Pakistan.

Political monitors are also alluding to the postponement of Sheikh Rasheed’s much publicized Train March as another black spot on the Ruling Party’s claim to democracy. According to Sheikh Sahib, the decision to abandon the ‘train based agitation’ was because of many factors, one of which was the denial of Pakistan Railways to provide him with the required number of seats. If the above was true then refusal to accommodate the ‘Lal Haveli Passengers’ on trains that were already revenue starved could only be attributed to ‘instructions from above’.

A former Chief Minister was recently stopped by a member of the Islamabad Traffic Police for a traffic violation and true to his calling as a ‘big political leader’ refused to accept a ticket. Although the story was quickly hushed up, but I wanted to compliment the traffic cop, who did this - even though it is an accepted fact that Pakistan’s political elite consider themselves above the law. I am reminded of a time in the nineteen fifties, when an Anglo – Indian traffic sergeant of Lahore ‘challaned’ a sitting Governor of what was then West Pakistan. The Governor, who happened to be driving his car, apologized for the infringement and accepted the penalty. Gone are the days when we had such police officers and such Governors. Now we only have political heavy weights, whose claim to leadership is manifested in their land cruisers and the armed goons that accompany them.

We often cite the late Nelson Mandela as a great leader, but in doing so we must remember that he preferred decades of incarceration in prison rather than leaving his people and country as part of some alleged deal. Leaders are born with qualities of character that make them so. These qualities begin manifesting themselves right from childhood making them stand out amongst their peers. What Pakistan needs in this hour of need is sterling political leadership that embodies moral and physical courage.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.