Pakistan: A PrimeMinister Wanted -- by Masud Akhtar Shaikh Back   Home  
The military government is in dire need of a prime minister who should be able to take over his new assignment at a moment's notice. Although the slot has been lying vacant for the last about two years, a situation seems to have been developed recently, due to which a suitable person has got to be discovered at once so as to fill the post without any further delay. We all know the government had been stubbornly resisting the persistent international demand for the disclosure of a roadmap for reversion to democracy in Pakistan. The authorities had a reasonably sound plea that this nation, with the benevolent assistance of its armed forces, had repeatedly proved that conventional democracy inherited at the time of independence, did not suit the genius of our people, that the concerned military agencies were busy evolving a new system of true democracy based on the principle of devolution of power at the grassroots level, and that the required roadmap for democracy could not be issued till true democracy was put on road.

Now that the new system of democracy has already become operative in the country, it is essential that at least a symbolic prime minister be put in place. Over the years, the people of Pakistan have become so used to the office of the prime minister that without one, any type of democracy would appear to them as orphan. In any case, after the Presidential Chief Executive has announced the roadmap for reversion to democracy, there is no justification for not having a prime minister.

Although the military government has all along been emphasizing upon the need for having transparency in all affairs of the state, it has somehow deemed it fit to keep that principle on a back burner at least during the process of selecting a suitable candidate for the post of Pakistan's future prime minister. There is no doubt that the man at the top has been hobnobbing with certain individuals to unobtrusively assess their suitability from that point of view, without taking the nation into confidence. That is against the rules of the game which demand that at least the prerequisites for such an important slot be made known to the public so that those who consider themselves to be qualified enough for the job do not miss the chance of their life to offer their valuable services 'in the supreme interest of the nation'.

Unlike all sorts of examinations, tests, and interviews held in Pakistan, there are no model test papers, coaching classes, or advisory services for helping candidates aspiring to appear for an interview for the prestigious post of the country's prime minister. That is rather unfair. It is high time some adventurous entrepreneur thought of minting money by offering such facilities on a regular basis. Keeping in view our historical tradition of throwing the incumbent prime ministers out of the job market so frequently, thereby creating fresh opportunities for new comers, the potential investors should have no fears about the economic viability of starting such a venture.

In the meantime, in a country that can genuinely feel proud of having produced such public-spirited people as the Edhis, there should be no dearth of those who could voluntarily come forward and offer their services to help candidates for the prime minister's job, by providing them some golden tips that could brighten the chances of their success. It is surprising that out of a population of a hundred and forty million people, not a single Pakistani has so far volunteered to participate in this noble task. Even our scientists have shown complete lack of interest in this direction. While their counterparts in the West have successfully developed such notorious medicines as Viagra, Pakistani scientists have not been able to invent as much as a small pill that could give our prime ministerial candidates the necessary confidence to keep their wits about, while talking to a head of the state who is also wearing a multitude of other hats, and on top of that, happens to be a commando by profession. One needs very strong nerves to be able to prove one's mettle when confronting a giant of Musharraf's stature. Mr Vajpayee would bear me out on this after his Agra encounter with the latter.

In view of this disappointing situation, and purely on humanitarian grounds, I volunteer my humble services by extending a helping hand to those of you interested in trying their luck. My advice consists of just some tips I have been collecting through close observation of many a prime minister of Pakistan whom lady luck had favoured in the past with a sceptre and a crown, under circumstances similar to the present ones.

First and foremost, remember that when the head of state happens to be a man in uniform, you must do your utmost to assure him of your unstinted loyalty at all times. It is up to you to convince him that you will remain his humble servant all along, that you will obey all his orders, even if these are received by you while in a dream, and that you will never argue with him on any point, especially on the need to amend the constitution in order to create a permanent council for national defence. A safe rule for you to follow would be to always side with the man on top, particularly when it comes to matters of controversial nature.

If you are relying for success on your previous career as a technocrat, you need not apply at all unless you have been serving as an executive in the higher echelons of the IMF or the World Bank. Even then, the chances of your success would not be very bright because in the present situation, a person with suitable political background stands a far greater chance of selection. Remember that in this particular case, the person to be selected would be on probation for about a year after which he may be considered for elevation to the enviable status of a duly elected prime minister of the country. And that demands not only some political experience but also some inborn political traits. Thus, if you do have a political background, it will be a great asset for you.

However, in that case too, there are a number of other factors that matter a lot in your selection. Firstly, it would be a plus point if you have been changing parties from time to time. You know a person who continues adhering to the same party for years on end, is likely to become a staunch believer in his party's political philosophy. This tends to make him too rigid to change his views and compromise with the political doctrines a military regime may be expecting him to sponsor.

Secondly, the party to which you owe allegiance should not be very substantial in size. If it does happen to be a major party, you should have the knack of creating a visible split within its ranks so that it can no longer pose a serious threat to the regime that is going to engage you. Thirdly, you should provide enough evidence to convince the regime that you have the will, the ability, and the necessary political contacts to create a new party of the right. This new party should be proud of being unofficially referred to as the "king's party". It should adopt the entire programme of the regime as its manifesto and use all the available official resources to turn itself into a sounding success. Its success would be determined by the extent to which it could ensure continuity of the various reforms introduced by the military government during the three years lease of life given to it by the country's supreme court.

Here, a final word of friendly advice may not be out of place. Even after you have become the proud occupier of the prestigious prime minister's house in Islamabad, you should never forget one thing. And that is: it may be a very difficult job to get into that building but it takes just a few minutes to be thrown out from there, and with no ceremonies accompanying that unkind act. To avoid that humiliation, keep studying the history of those who have been on this track previously but their journey was brought to an abrupt end. In this connection, a study of the circumstances leading to the late Muhammad Khan Junejo's ouster may be particularly of interest to you. Good luck and god-speed, dear candidates.
Published in Pakistan Newspaper Jung. The writer is a retired Pakistan Colonel and freelance columnist