Nations, don’t just happen

imageThe breaking news was as usual all about dire consequences of one event or the other. One gets used to it. This is the way of all channels and media, world over. Somehow, bad news travels fast, gets more attention and attracts people. Nothing like a good old disaster to get people animated. Anyway, here in Pakistan we have become de-sentisized, as we have plenty of bad news and on top of it, dozens of channels vying for breaking news. Grief!

All the bad news notwithstanding, I would like to add my two bits to the discussion of how things have deteriorated and we are in a mess. My personal take on it is that, it is nature taking its toll. Yes surprise, Nature!

In the past I have written on our nationhood and blamed our lack of belief in our vision. This lack of vision, a desire to be an aspirational Muslim homeland, got diluted and a desire to be a strong economic state took over. We got our wires crossed and really ended up doing neither. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=of+wings+and+visions) However, over time and after due consideration, while I still think we need a vision to take us further – otherwise there is nothing to hold us together – the reality is that nature is taking its toll.

Let me explain my statement, which I assure you is not an effort to be facetious. In the worlds written history, there have been nine great nations. There have been other good ones, but what we would classically call great, are those who have dominated their period in the world, added to knowledge and their traces are left in the working of the world even today. Historically they have lasted an average of two hundred and fifty years or more. Want me to count them out? Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Arabia, Turkistan, Britain, America; more or less chronologically and another interesting point; there have been no repeats. China might well turn out to be the first repeat.

Anyway, think of these nations. They were formed layer by layer. The Egyptians took thousands of years to come to a stage of absolute dominance. Same with the Romans. From the discovery of Romulus and Remus on the banks of the Tiber to Julius Caesar was several hundreds of years. These years comprise a coming together, a homogeneity of purpose, a gathering of strength, conquest and then respect follows from other nations, that you are the leaders. Having reached this peak, the decline starts and at first society declines, then economics and finally the military strength dissipates. That is the round trip of a nation. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/in-the-expiry-of-nations-2/)

Now think back to August 1947. When India obtained independence they had a memory. They remembered the Aryans, Alexander as he came through the Khyber Pass, later the Huns, Mongols and Babur. India owned the Red Fort and Taj Mahal. All these they took as their own. This was as much their history, as Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka or Ranjit Singh. Their culture was a melting pot of homogeneity and in economics they were working together against adversity. So naturally it is easier to bond as a nation and have one identity.

Then there was Pakistan. We had a seven year history (from 1940 resolution), two varying lands and cultures- apart by fifteen hundred miles-, a western part which comprised borderland tribes, who had only shared history of invasions in common and were diverse otherwise. We had nothing binding us, other than a great principle and we competed for the same resources. This was running uphill against the flow of history and nature. No wonder, we shall take time! 67 years is a minuscule time period in history, a dot in time. We are children as a nation and still learning. When we get to our teens our time will be different and hopefully we will mature. It might involve another hundred years for these layers to form. In comparison to other stages of development of nations, I would say maybe we are like the Wild West of USA just now.

We shall get there In-sha-Allah. Just require patience and faith. The good will come through. Nations, don’t just happen.

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Leadership, Personality cult and Institutionalisation

imageAdam (as) came down a father and leader and so from the beginning, man has been cast into this mould.

From my years of witnessing, leadership really falls into two broad styles. The first is iconic and driven by the personality of the leader. The second type is one which is built into the fabric of the system, where the personality of the leader is less visible and the institution is important. Its not my wish to judge, as depending on the need, either could be right for that particular moment.

Personality driven situations happen a lot in developing countries. The reason is simple. There are not enough institutions in place and moreover, the mindset is not controlled enough to have it any other way. So the personality of the leader is dominant enough in the minds of the followers, to ensure they follow his/her direction. Emotions have to play a larger role; trust is the basis of the system. At its extreme demagoguery occurs. A crisis normally has to have such a leader. Pakistan/India politics is very much just such a game. Hence families have thrown up leaders (not necessarily competent) where the family profile has given them that thrust. The Gandhis, Bhuttos, Shareefs are very much from this mould. Imran khan, too is a personality cult. Though to be fair, an attempt has been made towards some institutionalisation. But the recent dharnas have stamped his personality very firmly over his party and this country. This also happened in his cricket days in the Pakistan team, where the gulf in personality between him and others, made his dominance inevitable.

Institutional leadership is something you see a lot in structured systems. The leader is an arm of the system. He/she derives their authority and power from it. The followers respect and follow the seat and system, rather than the individual. Change the leader and it should not make a difference. Many corporates have followed this regime and it has worked well for them. Its cold, calculating, systemised and sustainable. And that is why particularly, it is not ‘Us’ in Pakistan. An army is one institution where the rules of succession are such, that there is very little difference between one leader to another. So then institutionalisation of leadership occurs.

Now within these broad guidelines are variations of style. You might get authoritative people, softer people, people who are loved and people who are hated. This does not shift the eventual effectiveness of leadership, as long as control is practised on the direction and goal of the leader, there is sincerity of purpose and there is the backbone for perseverance. If all these happen, success will come eventually.

Within established systems you will get the odd outlier. Jack Welch of GE was one such leader who created a personality cult within the system. Others one can think of in recent years are Iacocca of Chrysler and Goizueta of Coca Cola. Typically, such outliers will rock the system and make things happen in the short term. But since they differ from the system DNA, they cause longer term damage and eventually the system reverts back to its institutionalised DNA.

Can a system migrate from one to another? Above examples are of those where a personalised leadership was foisted onto an institutional based approach. I have never really seen these work. Typically the system reverts to an institution over time or it will crash and disappear. Think of India and Indira Gandhi in the mid 70s. That attempt to create an authoritative leadership failed and India moved back into democracy mode.

The reverse migration of institutionalisation from a cult personality, almost always happens over time. Mao and China is one very obvious example. There are so many others. The Magna Carta is one very poignant example of how the cult of a leader was replaced by the participation of a system.

We in Pakistan are witnessing this very battle in so many places. The Supreme Court, the Army, the democratic institution and also in many local corporates. If we desire sustainability, then eventually we have to learn that dependence on the cult of a leader will always give us variability and uncertainty over the long term, not sustainability.

The picture is from Wylio.com a free picture site

The ICC Champions Trophy – a tournament too far

ICC Champions TrophyMemories, happy and sad moments, all flavour our lives and make us what we are in the present. My own long affair with cricket comprises just such memories, cherished possessively for decades. And it matters little if the original event was bad, because nostalgia acquires a character of its own, beyond good and bad. In the case of the ICC Champions Trophy, fifteen years is a long time to build memories. Yet, if we be honest, do we really remember any games in the Champions Trophy?  

Well some of those memories have morphed into images of Jamshed Dasti* spitting fire and fury on TV, denouncing Pakistani cricketers. That he was talking about a most brilliant game between Pakistan and Australia in 2009, was a travesty. In all these fifteen years of the Champions Trophy, this game stands out. A typical, out of the blue performance, when all seemed lost for Pakistan. And we almost made it too! It was odder still that it is the only game in almost six decades, where Indian spectators were whole-heartedly cheering Pakistan on. Had Pakistan won, India would have got through to the semis. That was not to be in the end.

 

This was our jewel of the ICC Champions Trophy. Others stand out, but maybe for the wrong reasons. A daft semi-final in 2005 in the Rose Bowl, with the day grey, the clouds low and the ball jagging around everywhich way. That our erstwhile captain Inzimam chose to bat first is a cricketing mystery to this day. Our batsmen duly obliged and were bowled out for 130 odd and the match was handed over to the West Indies. Not that this was so bad! One saw a most fascinating run chase by lower order batsmen in the subsequent final, in bad light, as the West Indies carried the day against England, with a 71 run unbeaten 9th wicket stand.

 

The fates seem to have conspired against this tournament in the past. So, incessant rain led to one tournament in 2003 being shared by the finalists India and Sri Lanka, with both designated days rained out. Could you do that in a normal tournament? No final at all and yet two winners.

 

Memory then harks back to the 2000-1 final. I can remember sitting back in the Pepsi conference room, watching the demolition of India by Chris Cairns. Watching cricket on a workday? But that’s fine, remember Pepsi was the official sponsor of cricket in Pakistan and this was just part of work. That innings of Cairns remains the best individual innings played in Champions Trophy history. New Zealand was dead and buried, five wickets gone and Cairns just upped the ante and took the trophy out of the grasp of India. An incisive century, which you wish some Pakistani would make in a run chase. Something like, Inzi’s 60 in the semis of World Cup 92. 

 

The Champions Trophy was born out of ICC’s need to bolster its coffers. It would allow the coins to jingle in a non World Cup year. Unfortunately, like the old personal computer being superseded by the present tablet or the beef burger making the bun kebab obsolete, so the T20 took the heart out of the Champions Trophy. The crowds, sponsors and excitement migrated to the later format. A rationalization ensued and so 2013 is the year of one final farewell tournament.

 

So what of our beloved Pakistan? We have won everything in our cricket history. Test matches (home and away); World Cups (One day and T20); Sharjah; Australasia Cup; Nehru Cup; and Sahara Cup. Alas no Champions Trophy! We have made it to 3 semis out of six tournaments- an appearance every alternate tournament. Each time we have entered the semis as clear favourites and yet circumstances have intervened.  Maybe that is why I think this tournament is jinxed. Maybe that is why the memories are short. My inner self cannot but look at the world of cricket through a Pakistani kaleidoscope.  A tournament too far! Besides, this next tournament is the 7th and out of sequence for an alternate semi-final appearance. But then, Jamshed Dasti dominates the imagination…I can see him waving the Pakistan flag at Lords…after all we might break the jinx, this one last time.

 

*Jamshed Dasti is a parliamentarian, who showed a lack of understanding of cricket and in the aftermath of the PakvAus game, made some outlandish accusations.

 ** The photograph is taken from the official ICC, FB page.

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