A leader is defined, amongst other qualities, by the ability to lead courageously from the front. He must have the vision to detect windows of opportunity and aggressively exploit them to achieve national security objectives. Many of these leadership characteristics are inborn and only require honing to manifest their full potential. Young men aspiring to become military leaders pass through a step wise, merit based, sieve-like selection procedure and in-depth psychological assessment, followed by closely monitored training. It is for this very reason that not everyone, who wants to adopt a career in arms, is successful in doing so. While traits remain unchanged for military and national leadership, the ‘mantle’ is easily donned by the latter, using dynastic kinship, wealth and power. The phenomenon is more pronounced in countries plagued by feudal culture, low literacy, radicalism and gullible national character – such as ours.

A few days ago, Pakistan’s military intelligence successfully snared one of their biggest catches, in the shape of a senior RAW operative, who also happened to be a serving Indian Navy Commander. The arrest was made even more significant, when this individual decided to spill the beans leading to the apprehension of a network designed to destabilise Sindh and Balochistan. Here was a window of opportunity created by painstaking hard work and courage, but a timid approach by our national leadership has almost allowed this moment of strength to slip from our grasp.

It is also of interest to take a look at the sequence of events that followed capture of the Indian spy. What could circumstantially be viewed as a reprisal was launched in the shape of a bomb attack in an amusement park that killed seventy five innocent people and injured more than a hundred. This was ‘ironically’ followed by a telephone call from New Delhi to our PM expressing sorrow at the loss of lives or perhaps (in not so many words) to underline retribution. The same timid approach has now given license for any group to challenge government writ at the very gates of Parliament and get away with it.

In spite of what government spokesmen may say, there is ample physical evidence to identify the moving force behind the ongoing cleanup operation in Punjab, the effects of which are there for all to see and acknowledge. The operation has also highlighted a concern regarding the efficacy and reliability of provincial law enforcement machinery and indirectly, provincial governance.

I recently visited the Punjab Capital and saw for myself the effects generated by a government with its mind on things other than the rule of law. I shut my eyes as I was driven through chaotic traffic, which occupied road space at will, under the very noses of traffic wardens, who had retreated to obscure shady corners in utter frustration and helplessness. I passed a hospital, whose lawns teemed with attendants and stinking litter, in stark mockery of those charged to enforce sanitation and visitation rules. That very evening I rushed to Lahore’s premier military hospital on hearing that a family friend had suffered critical third degree burns. What I walked through were spotlessly clean corridors, manicured and clean swathes of turf and a general aura of professional efficiency – all signs that here was a healthy institution, where all was well.

It is even now, not too late for national leadership to understand that we are passing through a phase in our history, which demands speedy and courageous decision making. The PM must grasp the moment aggressively, with boldness backed by the knowledge that Pakistan is blest with outstanding military leadership and response capability. Failure to do so will inflict a severe setback to national pride and perhaps even the process of democracy.