It is broadly recognized and largely accepted that all organizations and governments should be helped by special cells to critically analyse the practiced policies, and lend constructive advice in formulation of strategies.
Whether or not, the government of General Pervez Musharraf enjoys the benefit of the services of such a cell is not the subject of my reflections in this column. It is infact not in my knowledge that any such cell ever existed in any government’s time. If a cell of this nature did exist, in the times of Ayub Khan, of Zalfikar Ali Bhutto, of Ziaul Haq or of any subsequent ruler, it certainly failed to warn the governments-in-power against the ‘folly’ of acting contrary to common sense and self-interest. If Ayub Khan had been advised well in time, and had paid heed to such an advice, he would have hastened to act in the direction of finding a feasible alternative to his practised policies. He continued to march on the path of folly till he was showed the door by General Yahya Khan, a protégé of him. ZAB undoubtedly was a far more brilliant and accomplished practitioner of politics. Yet he too failed to respond intelligently to the unfolding of unrest well in time, and continued to rely on his power till he too was shown the door by his protégé.
My intention here is not to go into all the follies committed in our history and their unintended but not illogical consequences. My subject is the dynamics of the term folly itself.
Dictionary defines ‘folly’ as foolishness, foolish idea or foolish action. In political terms, the right alternative to ‘folly’ is woodenheadedness, i.e. a state of mind in which a course contrary to common sense is pursued.
When the cases of folly are studied, a common principle that emerges is that folly is a child of power. We all know, from frequently repeated dictum of Lord Acton that power corrupts. But we are less aware that it breeds folly and that the power to command frequently causes failure to think. If someone’s mind is open enough to perceive that a certain practsed policy is harming rather than serving self-interest, and that ‘some one’ is self-confident enough to acknowledge it and wise enough to reverse it, that can easily be regarded as a summit in the art of good governance.
Are we going to witness in the coming days a rare triumph of common sense over folly?