Sometimes when I reflect on the life I have led, from its beginning to its heights, I thank God for the mercies and kindnesses that He has showered on me. Born into a middle-class family and living in an elitist society, one should never, ordinarily, expect to reach the top.
Starting from the dangerous train journey during our migration from Delhi to Karachi, I have led a turbulent life. I did not demonstrate or even possess intellectual brilliance that would have predicted a bright future for me. In army service I was considered a casual, happy-go-lucky, confrontational officer, rather than a serious professional. I never took life too seriously. I landed myself in serious trouble for disciplinary reasons every now and then in the early part of my career. Seeing my overflowing record of indiscipline, you would never have expected me to have a great future.
God has always been kind to me. He protected me from certain death not only during the two wars in which I fought, but also in the face of assassins, air crashes, and one politically inspired hijacking. I
My promotions from brigadier upward invariably faced obstacles-some political, some merely because I was competing against the elite, against officers born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Yet I kept moving up. That speaks volumes in favor of the promotion system in the army. My strength was my performance in wartime, my performance as a commander, my handling of troops on the ground, and most of all my relations with my bosses, my colleagues, and my sub-ordinates. Along the way I raised my intellectual and professional acu‑
men to a level where I was considered an able military tactician with a strong sense of strategy.
Whatever my weaknesses or strengths, my final step up to the position of army chief reinforced my belief in destiny. As a lieutenant general commanding the most prestigious strike corps, I had resigned myself to retiring gracefully. But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to take the power of appointing service chiefs away from the president changed all that.
I firmly believe that success in one’s life and careerdepends more on the wholesome development of personality than on mere intellectual brilliance. Everyone needs a healthy balance between intellectual development, moral development, physical development, and social development.
Your intellect keeps developing long after physical development stops. Each individual has a natural, inherent intellectual capacity, but personal efforts to sharpen it are essential.
Moral development forms your core personality. Honesty, truthfulness, contentment, and humility are the most important qualities of character. First, I have seen for myself that honesty-even under adversity, even when it could lead to a negative outcome-always disarms the other person. Second, truthfulness is a sine qua non of good character. Third, contentment with whatever I have possessed or achieved has kept me from greed or overambition. I was fortunate to rise as far as I did, but I would have been content if my fortunes were different. I have never lost sight of people who have been less privileged, and I remain thankful to God for His bounty. A person should be like a tree that can bend and sway even more as it grows higher. Fourth, being humble in greatness raises one’s stature. One should never argue over one’s qualities; instead, let others see these qualities for themselves. My character traits were instilled in me by my parents through direct teaching and personal example.
Leadership is inborn to a degree, but it can be acquired through effort. It is an art, not at all a science-or as my friend Colin Powell puts it beautifully, “It is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” It is the art of interacting and talking with people; it is the art of reacting to situations; and it is the art of meeting challenges. What people like most in a leader, aside from his character,
is decisiveness, as well as boldness and a cool temperament that remains unruffled in adversity.
A leader must understand his environment in all its intricacy. He must always have a finger on the pulse of the times.
Selecting a person for a critical position or a team is perhaps the most important duty of the leader. He has to be extremely circumspect and incisive. Loyalty, honesty, and uprightness are essential prerequisites in colleagues, but they are not all that is required. A person must have professional capabilities and the will to deliver in accordance with the leader’s thoughts and ideas. Loyalty can be direct or indirect. Personal loyalty to you by your subordinate I call direct loyalty But more than that, if a person is motivated by the same cause and believes in the same
aims and objectives as you, and with conviction, he is bound to you more strongly.
Having grasped the environment and selected his team, a leader must evaluate the tasks ahead, prioritize them, and then evolve strategies for addressing them. This process has to be done in a manner that is embraced by the whole team. The best way to ensure this is through a democratic process, rather than having the leader work out strategies himself and dictate them to his team. A thorough debate of all pros and cons, in which everyone is encouraged to speak out, especially about the cons, is essential. The leader’s task then is to make the final decision. This he must do efficiently-the earlier the better. A leader must never, as Richard Nixon says in his book Leaders, “suffer paralysis through analysis.” I agree. Napoleon said that two-thirds of decision making is based on study, analysis, calculations, facts, and figures, but the other third is always a leap in the dark, based on one’s gut. Anyone who increases that one-third is too impulsive. Anyone who increases the two-thirds lacks decisiveness and is no leader. I agree with this too. Of course it goes without saying that the leader must make the right decisions most of the time.
After the leader has strategized and made decisions, there remain two more aspects of leadership. First, decisions are final and the whole
team must accept them-including anyone who may have voiced different ideas. There is no room for dissent after the final decision. Any-one not on board must quit the team. The leader must be cold and
ruthless in firing a team member who refuses to accept the final decision. The second aspect is that the leader must delegate all authority of implementing his strategy to a subordinate, and back that subordinate up fully with all his strength and support. A leader must never get involved in micromanagement. He should only lay down the road map of what he wants to see at various stages and then monitor progress at the right intervals. Such monitoring is especially essential in Pakistan, because in any developing country there is always a big gap between formulation and implementation of policy.
No policy is ever 100 percent successful or perfect. I have come to the conclusion that while pushing for optimum results, you should accept partial success as long as you are moving in the right direction. A glass at least half full is a good thing. You can always add to it.
Leaders of nations have a much larger overall responsibility: to motivate their people and their nation, inspiring them, infusing confidence into them, and generating in them a spirit and urge to perform. This a leader can best do through personal example. The nation must see the leader perform up front. Only a man of real substance can be a true leader. A true leader will always be loved by his people. They will be prepared to follow him not because of his rank and position but because of their respect and esteem for him.
In fact, I strongly believe that while a leader must flow with the cur-rent of public opinion, a time and situation will always come when he will see that the flow of the current is wrong. It is at such times that true leadership qualities emerge, for the leader must change the course of the public current. The leader must have the will to change public opinion in the true national interest.
During the period that I have been at the helm of affairs, I have faced one crisis after another. I started with the biggest domestic challenge: having to steer the ship of state out of troubled waters before it sank. I crystallized the areas of focus in the form of a seven-point agenda and then identified my special areas of focus. Things were moving well domestically despite the external constraints being imposed on me by the West in its demand for “democracy.” I fought my case, applying the logic of the essence of democracy that I wanted to introduce versus the artificial label of democracy that they were shouting about. I continued this struggle on the internal and external fronts for almost two years, quite successfully taking the country out of trouble and onto a path toward growth.
Then came 9/11 and its aftermath. The whole world changed. The world powers focused new attention on five areas of special concern: counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, democracy, human rights, and narcotics. Pakistan sits at the center of each, and the external pressures are diametrically opposed to domestic sentiment. It is not that the majority of our public supports tenor, or drugs, much less nuclear proliferation. Small factions support the first two, and even fewer people have been greedy enough to pursue the third. But a majority of Pakistanis do oppose our cooperation with the West in the war on terror. They opposed punishments aimed at Dr. A. Q. an. I believe my positions on all these issues are in our interest, and morally strong. But there are times when the behavior of our western allies undercuts our alliances.
This is particularly true of western counterterrorism policies. The West rejects militant struggles for freedom too broadly. The United States and Europe too often equate all militancy with terrorism; in particular, they equate the struggle for freedom in Indian-held Kashmir with terrorism. Pakistan has always rejected this broad-brush treatment. We demand that terrorism be seen “in all its forms and manifestations.” This is a serious statement, because when states ki11 innocent civilians in an effort to crush struggles for freedom, we call it “state terrorism.” I feel that the killing of innocent civilians, whether by a state or by any group, is terrorism. A state causing atrocities and killing civilians in violation of resolutions passed by the UN Security Council is certainly carrying out state terrorism. I differentiate between killing civilians as collateral damage in an attack on a military target on the one hand and targeting civilians intentionally on the other.
Pakistan’s position becomes more difficult to sustain, however, when the mujahideen fighting for freedom in Indian-held Kashmir are guilty of involvement in terrorist activities in other parts of India and around the world. It is not just that one man’s terrorist can be another man’s freedom fighter; sometimes a man can be a legitimate freedom fighter in one context and a terrorist when he does something else. My efforts
toward rapprochement with India and the significant thaw in our relations have saved Pakistan to a large extent from the blame of abetting what the world calls terrorism and we call a struggle for freedom in Indian-held Kashmir.
The issue of democracy is a recent, post-Cold War obsession of the West; and unfortunately this obsession clouds its vision. I have always believed in democracy, but I certainly oppose any fixed formula for all countries. If democracy is to be functional and sustainable, it has to be tailored to local conditions. I have traveled the world to present the case of Pakistan, and I have seen countries where democracy was failing because it did not meet local needs and dictates. Every nation must fulfill the basic principles of democracy: freedom of speech and expression through unfettered media; true empowerment of the people, including women and minorities; a guarantee of the vote for people to elect their own representatives; and, most important, a continuous and significant improvement in the human condition. Beyond this, the particulars of the system, the political and administrative institutions the people introduce, should be left to suit the national ethos. The sooner the West accepts this reality, instead of thrusting on every country ideas that may be alien to people’s aspirations, the better it will be for global harmony. I still am struggling to convince the West that Pakistan is more democratic today than it ever was in the past. Ironically, to become so it needed me in uniform.
Ever since October 2002, when we held parliamentary national and provincial elections and I handed over governance to elected representatives, there have been complaints. I personally have been criticized for not ensuring a certain level of quality in our ministers and other government functionaries. I am even blamed, in some quarters, for forming a coalition with unscrupulous elements or a much-maligned political party. These accusations are true in many cases, but I prefer such “wrongs” to the alternatives.
Democracy in illiterate, feudal, tribal, and parochial societies has a serious downside. People are not elected on pure merit. They rise in the political hierarchy because of family connections and financial resources. From 1999 to 2002 I was selecting individuals purely on merit; now the people are electing them. If you want democracy, then you must also be responsible enough to vote for the right people. If you don’t, then don’t bellyache about the poor quality of parliamentarians and ministers.
Pakistan is accused of having a poor record on human rights. I agree that our record is nothing to be proud of, but I have always maintained that it is no worse than the record of most other developing countries and even of some developed countries. We have taken major strides to improve our record. We liberated the media, allowing freedom of speech and expression. We empowered women politically. We main-streamed minorities in political life by giving them a joint electorate system. We passed an ordinance banning honor killing. We are addressing the issue of child labor. We have introduced administrative measures to prevent the blatant misuse of the law against blasphemy. The most thorny issue of the Hudood law is being examined by a parliamentary committee. These are no mean achievements.
The drug trade is an international ill. Pakistan has been accused in the past of growing poppies and transporting drugs through carriers. We clamped down on poppy cultivation, reducing it to zero growth. We have strengthened the antinarcotics forces, and they are quite effective against drug carriers. We hope to continue improving our performance to the satisfaction of the world community.
In my first year in office-the year 2000-I put in over fifteen hours a day at work I used to leave home about at nine AIvI, work the first shift till around six Plot, return for a shower and a change of clothes, receive some working group or other at seven PM at home, continue with them till about ten Plot (with or without dinner), and finally receive another working group at around eleven PM, to continue till around two Alvt. This routine remained constant for over a year. In these sessions, through sheer hard work, we evolved strategies for many elements of governance that had simply been nonexistent. I realized then how the state was being run on a day-to-day basis in a directionless manner. It was also through these laborious sessions that I learned all I did not know, especially about the economy.
There are innumerable things that have yet to be done. But I believe that one has to judge Pakistan’s condition optimistically. Those who see every half-full glass as half empty tend toward cynicism, pessimism, and negativism. The alternative is to focus on the half that is full, and try hard to fill the rest. I remain ever conscious of what more must be done to sustain Pakistan on a path of progress and prosperity.
We have to stabilize the North-West Frontier Province by defeaing al Qaeda and checking the region’s Talibanization.
We have to suppress extremism and intolerance and eradicate them from our society.
We have to sustain our huge economic growth through better irrigation and agriculture, increased foreign direct investment for industrial growth, and enhanced exports. We must convert Pakistan into a regional hub of trade and energy. All this has to be done while our fiscal deficit is kept in check.
We have to transfer our economic gains to the people through alleviation of poverty, creation of jobs, and control of inflation. We have to improve the quality of life by providing everyone with access to electricity, clean drinking water, and natural gas.
We have to concentrate all our energies on developing human resources through improved education and health facilities at every level.
We have to consolidate our democracy and ensure the supremary of the constitution.
Last, but not least, we have to maintain and further enhance our international diplomatic stature.
Pakistan still has a long way to go. We have made great progress, but we cannot rest. With determination, persistence, and honest patriotic zeal, God willing, we will become a dynamic, progressive, and moderate Islamic state, and a useful member of the international comity of nations – A state that is a model to be emulated, not shunned.