As the election day draws nearer, Pakistan is once again facing a crisis of leadership, due to the deadly ‘self above all’ virus that infects our leaders and this nuclear nation is again adrift in stormy waters, without a rudder and a captain.

Over the years, this land of the Pak and the Pure has lost respect and credibility it enjoyed in the 50s and 60s and today, no nation wants to deal with us, as they do not respect or trust the leaders of this country.

When Field Marshal Ayub Kahn, even though he was a military dictator and the godfather of Pakistan’s first Martial Law, visited the US in 1961, he was given a rousing welcome.

Trumpets had heralded his arrival and President John F Kennedy and his entire cabinet had been there to welcome him.

Full military honours were laid out, including a 21-gun salute and he was given a rousing welcome wherever he went, with American citizens waving the flags of both the countries. The visit had been a proud moment in our history and we were referred to as an ‘Important and Powerful’ friendly country. But that was in our glorious past. However, we had not spared even the Field Marshal and he was forced to leave in disgrace.

And today, history is repeating itself, as General Musharraf, who removed Nawaz Sharif’s democratically elected government and governed us for over eight years, has returned to save Pakistan.

When General Musharraf had taken over the reins of the country and announced his 7-point agenda, there was a sigh of relief and we had hoped that the General would steer this battered and sinking Titanic, to a safe harbour.

We believed all his promises of change and accountability and the course that he set for the first three years and his slogan of ‘country above all, convinced most of us that we were finally on the right track.

His bold U-turns and his stand on war against terror, had won him International admiration. World leaders were falling over each other to just shake his hand and financial assistance pored into our coffers and the future looked bright. But suddenly things began to change and the former general decided that he had become indispensable. As such, the die was cast.

The seven-point agenda, including accountability of the corrupt, were thrown into the dustbin and over time, his ‘Country Above All’ turned to the usual ‘Self Above All’ and his compromises and adjustments replaced the rule of law and accountability.

As he changed course and tried to become a ‘political leader’, the vultures and the wolves saw the chink in his armor and gradually starting chipping away at his protective shield and one blunder followed another.

He sacked the CJ, incarcerated the judges and lawyers, tried to muzzle the independent print and electronic media, which he had initiated and finally, declared an emergency.

The seven-point agenda, including accountability of the corrupt, were forgotten and ‘compromises and adjustments’ replaced the rule of law and accountability.

This was followed by ‘quick fix’ policies of his banker PM, which benefited the privileged, while the masses were advised to wait patiently for the ‘trickle down effect’.

Finally, a stage came when reality was replaced by a mirage and like the three proverbial monkeys, the General could see, hear or speak no evil and lost touch with reality.

The country lurched from one crisis to another and within eight years, the former general lost the adulation and support of his admires, both at home and abroad and from hero, his popularity graph dropped to zero.

The chant of ‘Go Musharraf Go’ had grown louder and finally, on Judgment Day’, he had no choice but to bow to will of the Awam and in the ‘larger interest of Pakistan’ and in his last speech to the nation, he bid farewell to the country, with ‘Pakistan ka Khudahafiz’ and went into self-exile.

He too, like our past leaders, had betrayed the nation and now after five years, in spite of serious charges of murder and treason, he has returned to save Pakistan from the very mess that he had created.

Unfortunately, even our National Assembly with its graduate(?) members, betrayed us and became a bunch of corrupt parliamentarians, who have violated Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution and destroyed the system of governance and the rule of law in the country.

They were not interested in strengthening democracy, improving the system of governance or the quality of life of the 180 million citizens of Pakistan and made no positive contribution on important legislations.

Besides desk thumping and walkouts on non-issues, they played musical chairs in parliament and were only interested to complete their five year term, by hook or by crook and rob the nation with their ‘Self above all’ mind set.

Over the years, Pakistan has come across numerous cross-roads and has tumbled from one crisis to another. We have tried and seen various forms of democracies and military rules under deceptive leaders, ideologies and different disguises.

Corruption, deceit, misuse and abuse of authority, mismanagement, bad governance, military takeovers, manipulating the Constitution and ridiculing the judiciary, have made a mockery of democracy and have left us confused and economically and morally poorer, but some how, we have managed to survive them all.

The democratic process has finally come to a grinding halt, but has failed to produce good and honest leadership, with a sense of purpose and commitment to good governance.

And now, as we approach another defining moment in our political history and the much heralded ‘free and fair’ election draw nearer, the question arises, as to whom should we vote for? The Knight in shining armor, the two political parties, who have failed us twice or the born again General, who also betrayed us and lost the opportunity that was given to him on a golden platter?

Which of the above leaders have a proven track record of being sincere and honest and inspire confidence and trust and will ‘Walk the Talk’? Unfortunately, none of these leaders possess “leadership qualities” and we are back to Ground Zero.

May God protect Pakistan from the crisis of ‘Self Above All’ leadership that the country faces!

(Email: trust@helplinetrust.org)