by Humayun Gauhar

The ‘Man on Horseback and the ‘Man of Destiny’ have a symbiotic relationship – one begets the other in an unending cycle of shame and infamy. Both suffer from the delusion that they are on a trip to God-ordained greatness. Surrounded by mediocrities, sycophants, opportunists, charlatans and freebooters, misled by intelligence, isolated from reality by hysterical and incompetent security, they start imagining that they are ‘Messiahs with a Mission’ and soon come a cropper.

Men on horseback and real men of destiny always make a difference for the better. They are anchored in a coherent ideology with the ability to hone it to ground realities without compromising their principles. Their ideological compass helps them to think long-term, beyond their lifetimes, absorb temporary pressures, do only what is in the best interests of their country and protect the God-given sovereignty of their people and their prosperity. Such men are rare.

The world has had its unfair share of man on horseback. They manage to do well for a time but only at the micro and cosmetic level, never at the fundamental and structural level for lack of ideology. Such men are hurdles in societal evolution. The world has had its unfair share of the delusional ‘Man of Destiny’ too. These men are products of societal evolution. Such men are charlatans. Both do much damage. True men of destiny have been few and far between. Such men are revolutionaries regardless of whether they come riding a horse or on the backs of the people.

Three men on horseback spring to mind that changed destinies for the better: Lieutenant General Oliver Cromwell, Major General George Washington and General Charles de Gaulle. Some would include Kemal Ataturk amongst them. They and their comrades automatically ended up being true men of destiny.

True men of destiny but not on horseback, apart from Prophets, were people like Mao, Castro, Iqbal, Jinnah, Gandhi, Mandela and the like. Some never took state office but changed the course of history. A common trait that threads them together is that they never suffered any delusion about being men of destiny. They didn’t suffer fools and were surrounded by competent and honest people faithful to their objectives. They just went about their work. Another trait is that they were incorruptible in all respects, had tunnel vision and never compromised on principles to attain their objectives in the name of pragmatism and realism, those imposters that define an iniquitous status quo – exactly what they strove to change.  That copout, ‘the end never justifies the means’ was not for them.

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The first sign of a fake is that he thinks that he is a true man of destiny on a mission. A real man of destiny doesn’t countenance pomp and panoply. He is humble, not supine. He is kind yet firm but not inflexible. He earns love and respect by example, not fear. He is intellectually, financially and morally honest and God-fearing. Even if he is a non-believer he end’s up doing God’s work by improving the lot of humanity and becomes God’s agent. 

Fake men of destiny insist on what is loosely called ‘protocol’ using security as an excuse – endless motorcades, scurrying guards, hysterical factotums, dizzying strobe lights, sirens wailing like banshees, traffic snarl ups driving people nuts, attracting utter and total contempt. They are small men whose real mission is to show the world how small they are because they cannot achieve greatness by their results. They rise to their incompetence and fall back on ‘protocol’ and rhetoric. A person doesn’t become big by the amount of his nuisance value and the disequilibrium he causes in society. They should see the neglected graves of earlier fake men of destiny to see God and their own insignificance.

Someone should tell these charlatans that real men of destiny are remembered in history because of the good they do. Hitler thought he was a man of destiny but he is remembered only for the destruction he caused, a damage that persists to this day with innocent people having to pay for it. That is hardly the way anyone should wish to be remembered, unless he is Dajjal, an agent of Satan.

Real men of destiny are great in their minds, their actions and, foremost the positive results they produce, not because of their rhetoric, the fright they engender or how they destabilize societal evolution and cause disequilibrium. Such men are Fitna that cause Fasad – mischief-mongers that spread discord and disharmony in the land. Such men mutilate the destinies of nations. They are gods of clay, fraudsters and freebooters. The world has had far too many of them, too few real men of destiny. If only they really could see the small man in the mirror they would be ashamed of themselves.

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Pakistan has had its share of men of destiny. The only true one was Jinnah. If one reads the note Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan wrote for himself one night in Washington about how Pakistan should be run, one suspects that he also imagined that he was a man of destiny. He did very well after he took over, but not being a product of the political process he came a cropper. Our political process has been mutilated ever since, for Ayub begat another man on horseback Yahya and a fake man of destiny Bhutto, who hand in glove lost half our country.

Came Bhutto as chief martial law administrator and we saw the amazing sight of a ‘Politician on Horseback’. He destroyed our economy and launched an internal war on Baluchistan. He was first to uncork the bottle that let the mullah genie out. It will take another Iqbal to bottle him again. Finally this man of destiny rigged elections and was thrown out by his handpicked General Zia who hanged and made a martyr out of him. Zia was Bhutto’s final kick to us.

This man on horseback also thought he was yet another man of destiny charged to make Muslims out of us. Behind the smokescreen of fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Zia tore up our social fabric, introduced gunrunning, drugs and the advent of multifarious Mafiosi, one of which is the government itself. Worse, he unleashed the minority Deobandi-Wahabi faction on Islam and allowed America to dig deep roots in Pakistan by establishing the largest CIA base outside America that persists to this day.

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s product was Benazir. She had truly suffered. She never thought she was a ‘Man of Destiny’. Educated but not wise, she became a victim of poor governance, a horrible team and pelf and plunder and – let it be said – powerful men who could not suffer a woman’s rule.

Zia’s product Nawaz Sharif was fine until his second term. His ‘heavy mandate’ sent him off his head. Delusion of being a man of destiny gripped him. He committed political suicide. Enter yet another man of horseback, Sharif’s choice as army chief, General Musharraf.

Musharraf never thought he was a man of destiny. He started out with a small and good cabinet. The economy revived and did better in his time than now. In search of legitimacy from those who themselves need it, he entered the mutilated political process instead of straightening it out and fell victim to it. Like all those who rule long he lost touch with reality, helped along by a team of mediocre and sometimes unfaithful advisers. However, the boss chooses his advisers so the buck stops with him. Its common to all Pakistani rulers: while they pride themselves on being good judges of men they actually are not.

Musharraf played a very clumsy hand and begat an unlikely new ‘Man of Destiny’ – the Chief Justice of Pakistan. His pomp and ceremony have to be seen to be believed. That thing floating above his head is not a bright halo of greatness but a dark cloud of misgiving, not least about his son’s alleged corruption that he unbelievably claims he couldn’t see, though he could see Atiqa Odho’s bottles from a distance. His erstwhile legal storm troopers have since slunk back into their bills. That he too is not a true man of destiny is patently clear except to those who are blinded by thrall of him.

This stage of our evolution is in progress. One dreads the outcome for it might lead to a ‘Judge on Horseback’ or yet another ‘Man on Horseback’. More charlatans. Our ability to suffer fools is amazing. Eid Mubarak.