Working with the President of a country is usually a dream that comes true only for few people and luckily I am one of them and that too when I was just 21-year-old. I joined the Office of the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, as Media Assistant in November 2008 when Mr Zardari assumed his office. I got this opportunity because of my interest in writing blogs and actively supporting Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) on social media platforms. As a matter of fact, I was termed one of the trendsetters of political activism through social media in Pakistan. My three years of experience working with the President’s Office not only enhanced my professional skills and knowledge but also gave me opportunities to meet with the international leaders, diplomats along with working with the senior government dignitaries in Pakistan.
Sharing the 5 Leadership lessons I learned from the President
1. In order to gain a buy-in, keep others interests in mind
Politics is all about deals and sacrifices. Deals can be defined as what you commit with your people to get their votes to reach the Parliament. Deals with your allies to form a strong government, deals with the world leaders on issues of mutual interests, etc. What I learned from the former president is to make deals when you have a better idea of others’ interests. He is good at dealing because he knows what will make the other person sit on the table – once they are on the table with him, they eventually leave the table with a YES.
2. Quick response is the key
I still remember the situation after a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound by the U.S Marines when a majority of voices in the international media (particularly the U.S Media) portrayed that the Pakistani government protects terrorists. The very next day, the ex-president wrote a piece for Washington Post “Pakistan did its part”. The piece includes statistics on sacrifices of Pakistan’s soldiers and the assassination of his wife Benazir Bhutto, who lost her life in a terrorist attack. This timely response to the international audience very much helped the Pakistani government present its stance on war against terrorism.
3. Maintain good relations with everyone
The former president used to maintain good relations not only with the opponent political parties in Pakistan but also brokered fruitful relations in the international arena. Despite having differences with the opponents who once put him behind the bars as part of alleged political victimization, the ex-president opted for the policy of reconciliation to deal with them. He used to repeat one thing during his five-year tenure – Democracy is the best revenge. At one time when Pakistan was striking a gas pipeline deal with Iran which had troubled relations with the U.S. at that time over developing nuclear weapons, the former president clearly told the U.S that Pakistan is an American ally but it would not affect its ties with the neighbouring country Iran.
4. Patience is important
One of the most crucial challenges the former president faced soon after assuming his office was the restoration of the Supreme Court judges sacked by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. Zardari took a stance that it is a political and constitutional matter as and it is not a wise move if he restored the sacked judges by removing the current ones judges. Though a very journalist and analyst shared the same opinion with the former president back then; however, he took the opposite stance and kept severely criticizing the former president on broadcast and print media but Zardari remained patient. Few days back, the same journalist wrote a column and admitted in it that “I lost and the President won”.
5. Equal distribution of power for better and effective results
One of the greatest achievements of the former president was to give back his powers to the Parliament and pioneered the devolution of power from the Center to the provinces. Since Pakistan is a parliamentary form of government so the President is supposed to ensure the Prime Minister and his/her Federal Ministers have all constitutional powers to perform better. The provinces were given control over education, health, food and other provincial departments for better and effective results. This step not only bridged differences between the Federal and Provincial governments over the power distribution but also empowered provinces to introduce customized solutions keeping in view the ground realities.