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Subject: Shahida Jamil, Pakistani Environment Minister.

You have said today's leaders are driven by crowds. What do you mean?

Populism is a serious challenge to democracy, especially in developing countries. Many leaders rely on a huge mobilisation of passion, emotion, and sloganeering. They make promises to the crowd, but these promises can never be kept. For one thing, they donít feel any obligation to keep their promises. For another, they make different promises to different crowds and these promises often contradict one another.

So once these leaders get into power, governance inevitably suffers and you end up with a crisis. People think this is democracy, but it is not.

So what needs to change?

Well firstly, we need to question that public support actually is. There is a trend to assuming a huge crowd means public support, but a populist wave isn't a democratic one.

A truly democratic leader wins a vote based on informed consent. He has made a social contract with the people and he comes in with his manifesto and then tries to implement it

The populist leader comes in on a populist wave. He doesn't have true democratic support - he has emotional support. When you see these huge crowds, you have to ask: did these crowds come by themselves? Or did transport come up and pick them up, giving them a joyride, letting them have a wonderful time and then go back home.

So we need to challenge perceptions of what leadership is. We need to create a new breed of leader and a new conception of the importance of public service.

What do you think the consequences of populism are?

It gives democracy in developing countries a bad name and is throwing it into crisis.

We suffer from each leader and each leaves his problems behind. Debts mount and misappropriation adds to debt. Poverty increases and the environment becomes degraded.

How has this crisis in democracy affected Pakistan?

Pakistan has suffered very badly. We used to have a real democracy in this country, when we had to struggle for the country to exist. Then the crowds would come on their own. Trucks didn't have to be sent to pick them. People wanted to support and follow their leaders. They were part of an active movement for independence.

Now are institutions are totally degraded. Just getting them back into running order has been a huge job. Let me give you a tiny example. In October 1999, when the situation in Pakistan changed, our post offices were in a terrible state. No money had been spent on them for years. Their franking machines were not working. Yet money had been allocated and money had been spent. There had been a massive amount of expropriation - very little of the money had reached the right places.

So where does Pakistan go next?

The most important thing is to create a pressure for quality performance from our leaders. Otherwise, we will continue to get a series of bad governments and democracy will simply lose all credibility in Pakistan - and in the rest of the developing world.

What is Pakistan trying to achieve at the World Summit?

We have so much to learn here at the summit. I have brought my team here so that they can meet people and gain new experiences.

It is not Rio +10 we should be thinking about, but Johannesburg +10. That is when the networks we are forming now should be ready to show results.

27 August 2002

 

 

 

[sidelights]

 

 

 

 

 

Profile
Who?Shahida Jamil
What?Federal Minister for Environment, Local Government, and Rural Development
Where?Pakistan
 

"A truly democratic leader wins a vote based on informed consent.

The populist leader comes in on a populist wave.

He doesn't have true democratic support - he has emotional support."

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