Leadership and Crisis Management

Leadership needs to deliver in times of a national crisis. It needs to galvanize the entire nation together so that it can overcome the crisis. If the ability of the leadership to unite is lacking then the crisis will overcome the leadership and the nation will crumble. If the top leadership’s comprehension of the challenges faced by the nation is weak then too the nation is doomed.
There is always one supreme commander in the state who has to lead by example at the top. And below him or her is a general leadership tier – both at the political as well as the social level. The political leadership is that of the respective political parties while social leadership is that which heads the civilian community. Both need to work together to get the nation through a time of crisis.

Managing a crisis means identifying it first, developing a consensus strategy to resolve it, and then implementing that strategy. A consensus cannot come without taking into consideration suggestions made by the entire political spectrum inside and outside parliament as well as by community leaders. Secondly, when a government implements a particular policy then it needs to take the nation into confidence informing it, periodically, of the progress of such action. The problem – and a serious one – arises when the government begins to implement without first developing a consensus, a clear strategy and means of communication with the people. This is the crux of the current crisis regarding the fight against militancy.

Both, in the drawing rooms of the elite and in the dhabas of ordinary Pakistanis, there is a sense of despondency, disbelief and confusion. The leadership have already said that the country is at war but now they need to explain to the nation who the war is against. How can we win the war if the enemy sees disjointed resolve? It can’t be left to the media to fulfill the responsibility of identifying who the real enemy is; since that is in fact the responsibility of the government. This has to be delivered unambiguously, by the top leadership, to the entire nation. Similarly, similar policies have to be made against all our enemies, not just against some of our enemies. Also, they need to be made keeping in mind popular sentiment and ignoring foreign diktats. Only then will the nation have the courage to face the suicide bombs and attacks on our sovereign territorial integrity.

We truly need to ask ourselves two questions. Are our national interests different to those of foreign powers? Are our national interests different to those of the militants? If the objectives of the militants and ours are separate then there can be no truce with them and a declaration of war once made has to be fought with vigor despite the high costs. As one of the many solutions, we need to be proactive in terms of legislation which can be used to contain the spread of terrorism by going after its perpetrators. We need to be bold and courageous and not appease the militants since that would be counter-productive in the long run and only help them – at the expense of the nation.

We are either at war or we are not. If we are, let us learn from those countries which have also faced suicide bombings. Obviously as God-fearing Muslims we cannot have any justification for suicide attacks. It should be obvious that when faced with such attacks our political and community/civil society leaders need to speak out with a common voice against such attacks. Both leaderships need to clearly identify and accept each other’s roles and responsibilities in fighting this war as well and should also contribute to formulation of the policy to fight this menace.

Perhaps as one of the many solutions, it may now be time to have – along the lines of the tribal lashkars – to have training for the citizenry in general. The roles of various government agencies need to be clearly defined – within the context of fighting this war – and ordinary citizens should be informed of them. Psychological warfare should be used against the terrorists and also on the impressionable population in order to make them understand that the war is very much in their own interest. We need to stop this overemphasis on protecting VVIPs since that sends the completely wrong message to ordinary people and balance it with emphasizing on protection and security measures for the general population.

At no point should the threat be understated – one reason could be that the government does not want to create what it feels may be undue panic – because this may cause complacency or create an artificial atmosphere of safety for ordinary Pakistanis. Also, no point in blaming each other with regard to how the terrorist threat came to be what it is today, since that only helps the enemy and divides us. The fact is that there will always be differing views on such matters and it is best to move and not get stuck on them.


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