Recently I wrote a long overdue tribute to Late Maj. Gen. Naseerullah Babar, with whom I fortunately served in Army Aviation many years ago. He was a born leader of men, extremely brave, totally fearless, in and out of uniform. He earned a Sitara-e-Juraat in 1965 as a Lt Col and in 1971 as a Brig in our wars with India. The Nation published an abridged version of the tribute in mid-January 2018 under the title ‘A Great Leader’.

Seeing with dismay the kind of civilian leadership that Pakistan has been saddled with ever since the passing away of this country’s founding fathers, one can only recall some instances of what kind of country the Quaid-e-Azam envisaged when Pakistan came into being in 1947, and shudder at the thought of what morass now lies in wait for our coming generations. With every passing year, and with every change of government, civilian and military alike, we have sped downhill at breakneck speed in every sphere of governance, administration, education, tolerance, etc. to name just a few. The so called ‘leaders’, who claim a hereditary right to rule over our lives, have been constantly pulling the nation asunder for their personal gain, enrichment and perpetuation. The only time that these leaders unite is when their collective privileges, pay, perks and bailiwicks are threatened, or when they perceive a common cause or enemy. One adage that pulls them together is ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Recent events, TV talk shows, etc, can only be described as utterly disgusting.

Let us back-track 70 years and recall what kind of leaders the founding fathers were. The Late Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan, the last C-in-C of the Pakistan Army before he and other chiefs were sacked by Late Z.A.Bhutto for displaying ‘Bonapartist’ tendencies, narrated in his memoirs some instances of the Quaid’s personality which he (Gul Hasan, then the Quaid’s ADC) observed. On one occasion, when the Quaid’s car had to stop at a closed railway level crossing, Gul Hasan offered to get the gate opened. The Quaid stopped him saying “If I as a Governor General do not obey the laws, how can I expect anyone else to do so.” On another occasion, when an early morning cabinet meeting was scheduled, the Quaid was asked what refreshments should be served, to which he replied, “Don’t they eat breakfast before coming to meetings?” While departing from Lahore’s Nedous Hotel after an official visit, he was asked by one his officers weather the hotels staff should be tipped, to which he queried, “Don’t the hotel staff get paid?” Let’s not forget that he only drew a token salary of Rs.1 per month and paid for whatever he consumed: cigarettes, food, etc. out of his own pocket. He was not poor by any yardstick, but nor for that matter were any of those who came to power after his demise.

A few instances from Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan’s life are worth narrating. The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, a huge mansion in a vast estate, was donated by the Nawabzada to the newborn state. When he needed to send his wife for treatment abroad, he asked for a refundable advance in salary to defray the cost. (Just who is paying for Kulsum Nawaz’s and Ishaq Dar’s prolonged treatment in London’s most expensive hospitals? The poor tax-payers, most likely). When the Late Prime Minister was taken to Rawalpindi’s CMH after he was shot at point-blank range by assassin Said Akbar, it is said that his shirt collar was found to have been mended.

Closer to home, let’s learn a little from Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s PM for over ten years. In a PTV interview some years ago, when asked how he had made his island nation so prosperous, he replied, “When I became PM, I had a choice between enriching myself or enriching my country. I chose the second path.” See what miracles he has brought in that tiny island nation! When advised by his doctors to seek medical treatment abroad, he declined, saying that the necessary facilities should be created in Singapore. Today, Singapore offers state of the art medical facilities for natives and foreigners alike, at affordable prices.

Those were the times when Pakistan, a poor newborn nation, actually practiced austerity, with its leaders leading by example, not by hypocritical ostentatious leaders who never tire of exhorting us to follow in the footsteps of the founding fathers at the latter’s birth and death anniversaries. There were no junkets then, no free tax-payers financed Hajjs or Umrahs, no bumming around in State (i.e. tax-payers’) helicopters and VIP jets, no nothing (recall Hamza Shahbaz’s visit to Kasur in a Mi-17 cargo helicopter to check the prices of vegetables and the 30 odd vehicles in his protocol). Yet we managed to survive despite anti-independence critics who predicted that Pakistan would die at child-birth.

In closing, a few words about military leadership. While our politicians constantly decry senior military leaders’ incursions to derail democracy, let me state that our junior and middle level leaders have no parallel anywhere, anytime. Just think of the blood they have shed in our short history, and the reader will get the point.