“Exemplary leaders make a commitment to strengthen others”

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Jim Kouzes (Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University) says the most significant shift in leadership has been from the notion of leadership as command-and-control to one of serve-and-support.

What are the most important qualities a leader must demonstrate?
The truth is that credibility is the foundation of leadership. This is the inescapable conclusion we’ve come to after thirty years of asking people around the world what they look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willingly follow. The key word here is “willingly.” It’s one thing to follow someone because you think you have to “or else,” and it’s another when you follow a leader because you want to.

What does it take to be the kind of person, the kind of leader, whom others want to follow, doing so enthusiastically and voluntarily? It turns out that the believability of the leader determines whether people will willingly give more of their time, talent, energy, experience, intelligence, creativity, and support. Only credible leaders earn commitment, and only commitment builds and regenerates great organizations and communities.

A leader’s credibility makes the difference between being an effective leader and being an ineffective one. Credibility determines whether others want to follow you or not. It determines how loyal they will be, how committed they will be, how much energy they will put into the cause, and how productive they will be. And the effect of personal integrity of leaders goes far beyond employee attitudes. It also influences customer and investor loyalty. People are just more likely to stick with you when they know they are dealing with a credible person and a credible institution. In business, and in life, if people don’t believe in you, they won’t stand by you.

How can a leader lead and inspire a team to perform their best and strive to achieve goals?
In our research examining Personal Best Leadership Experiences, we identified Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® that leaders enact to make extraordinary things happen. When performing at their best leaders:

  • Model the Way—they clarify values and set an example based on a set of shared values.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision—they envision an uplifting future and they enlist others in a common vision.
  • Challenge the Process—they search for opportunities and experiment and take risks, learning from the accompanying mistakes.
  • Enable Others to Act—they foster collaboration and strengthen others.
  • Encourage the Heart—they recognize contributions and celebrate the values and the victories.

For each of these practices there are many specific behaviors and methods that leaders use to engage and inspire teams to perform their best and achieve significant goal, but these Five Practices are descriptive of the fundamental skillsets of exemplary leadership. We know from our 30 years of research that leaders who employ each of these Five Practices more frequently are seen by their constituents as more effective, have higher performing units, and have significantly higher levels of workplace engagement than those who employ these practices less frequently.

How important is time management and ability to effectively delegate tasks to others?
How you spend your time is the single clearest indicator of what’s important to you. Constituents use this metric to judge whether you are serious about what you say is important. Visibly spending time on what you say you value shows that you’re putting your money where your mouth is, that you’re practicing what you preach, that you’re doing what you say you will do. For people to believe what you say your values and priorities are, those principles have to show up on your calendar and on meeting agendas. Take a look at your daily planner. What’s the connection between how you schedule your time and what you say are your key values and priorities? Take a look at your agendas. When you’re in meetings, what do you spend most of the time discussing?These are the ways in which people measure your personal credibility.

Exemplary leaders make a commitment to strengthen others. They create a climate in which people are fully engaged and feel in control of their own lives. They enable people to take ownership of and responsibility for their group’s success. Delegating meaningful and significant tasks — not just trivial or unimportant ones — is one of the ways leaders strengthen others and increase their self-determination and accountability.

There are other things they do to strengthen others. They listen to and act on others’ ideas. They involve people in making important decisions. They acknowledge contributions and give credit to others. They publicly support the decisions their constituents make. They share useful and important information. They invest resources in helping people to learn and grown. In a climate of competence and confidence, people don’t hesitate to hold themselves personally accountable for results, and they feel profound ownership for their achievements.

What is the most difficult part of being a leader?
The hardest leadership practice to master is also the one that differentiates leaders from individual contributors. The truth is that focusing on the future sets leaders apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. And, our data tells us that this is the most difficult set of skills to learn.

Developing the capacity to envision the future requires you to spend more time in the future—meaning more time reflecting on the future, more time reading about the future, and more time talking to others about the future. It’s not an easy assignment, but it is an absolutely necessary one. It also requires you to reflect back on your past to discover the themes that really engage you and excite you. And it means thinking about the kind of legacy you want to leave and the contributions you want to make.

A pessimist can do none of this. You must remain optimistic and hopeful about what is yet to come. You must truly believe that the future will be brighter and be confident that we’ll all get there together. Only a positive leader can make a positive difference.

How critical is it for a leader to embrace change and communicate it to others?
The truth is that challenge is the crucible for greatness. All you have to do is reflect on leaders throughout history. We’ve been asking people for three decades to think about historical leaders they admire — leaders they’d willingly follow if they were alive today. The lesson from this simple exercise is always the same: Challenge is central to every situation.

When people think of the business leaders they admire, they think about people who have turned around failing companies, started entrepreneurial ventures, developed breakthrough products and services, or transformed industries. When they talk about community, government, military, or non-governmental leaders they discuss men and women who liberated people from tyranny, fought for human rights, won wars, struggled against oppression, organized movements for change, or suffered greatly for their causes. Challenge was the context in which these leaders operated, and change was the theme of all their campaigns.

But you don’t have to study historical leaders to learn this lesson. You can just look at everyday leaders such as yourself and those down the hall or across the street. When we first analyzed the initial set of personal-best leadership cases nearly three decades ago, what immediately struck us was that people always chose situations in which they were challenged in very significant ways. It’s the same story today.

The personal-best leadership cases are about triumphs over adversity, departures from the past, about doing things that had never been done before, about going to places not yet discovered. They are all about challenge and change. What’s significant about this finding is that we didn’t ask people to tell us about challenge or change. We asked them to tell us about personal-best leadership experiences. They could have discussed any leadership experience, but they chose to talk about times when they were tested. Not one single person claimed to have achieved a personal best by keeping things the same.

As a leader, what are the most difficult decisions to make?
Your ability to excel as a leader depends on how well you know yourself. The better you know yourself, the better you can make sense of the often incomprehensible and conflicting messages you receive daily. Do this, do that. Support this, support that. Decide this, decide that. Change this, change that. You need internal guidance to navigate the turmoil in today’s highly uncertain environment. I think the most difficult, but also the most important, decisions to make are the ones that are the most personal.

As you begin and continue your journey toward exemplary leadership, you must wrestle with some of these difficult decisions:

  • What are the values that should guide my decisions and actions?
  • What are my beliefs about how people ought to conduct the affairs of our organization?
  • What are my leadership strengths and weaknesses?
  • How consistent is my view of my leadership with how others see me?
  • What do I need to do to improve my abilities to move the organization forward
  • Where do I think the organization ought to be headed over the next ten years?
  • How clear are others about our shared vision of the future?
  • How much do I understand about what is going on in the organization and the world in which it operates? What are the challenges we face, and how prepared are we to deal with them? How prepared am I to handle the complex problems that now confront my organization? What gives me the courage to continue in the face of uncertainty and adversity?
  • How will I handle disappointments, mistakes, and setbacks?
  • What keeps me from giving up?
  • How solid are my relationships with my constituents?
  • How much do my constituents trust me and trust each other?
  • How can I keep myself motivated and encouraged?
  • How am I doing at sharing the credit and saying thank you?
  • What can I do to keep hope alive—in myself and others?
  • Am I the right one to be leading at this very moment? Why?

All exemplary leaders have wrestled with questions like these. Such personal searching is essential in the development of leaders. You can’t lead others until you’ve first led yourself on a journey of self-discovery.

Ideally, how should a leader go about developing his or team?
Building relevant individual and team skills is essential to delivering on the organization’s promises and maintaining the credibility of leaders and team members alike. The first thing you have to do to develop your teams is to make up-front investments in training and educational initiatives.

Research finds that companies that spend more than the average amount on training have a higher return on investment than companies that are below-average spenders. Organizations that have invested more than the average amount of money on training enjoy higher levels of employee involvement and commitment and better levels of customer service, along with greater understanding of and alignment with company visions and values.

Training, of course, is only one way that people learn. Hands-on experience is perhaps the most important teaching method available, so you need to make sure that people get an opportunity to apply what they learn.

But experiencing something without proper guidance is unwise and imprudent. While we can only prove we can swim by getting into the water, we could drown if we don’t know the basic strokes or if the pool is too deep. You need to coach constituents, because no one ever got to be the best at anything without the constructive feedback, probing questions, and active teaching of respected coaches. People also learn by watching those who are already skilled in something. Provide opportunities for people to observe others and learn from them.

As a leader, you need to make yourself available. In a three-year study of the impact of training, it was found that the high-improvement learners were four times more likely to have had one-on-one conversations with their managers than individuals who showed little or no improvement.

It wasn’t the training that had the most effect on improvement; it was the coaching that followed it. Be available to offer advice and counsel as people apply what they have learned in real-time situations.

And one other thing, we found in our research that the best leaders are the best learners. Leaders who engaged more frequently in learning activities were rated by their constituents as more effective leaders than those who engaged less frequently in learning. What applies to your team also applies to you. To be the best you can be, you have to put time and energy into improving your knowledge, skills and abilities.

Do you think there is enough leadership in management today? What needs to be done?
And that’s just not my opinion. It’s shared worldwide, and not just by leadership scholars, but also by practitioners, and especially senior executives. A study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the Economist Intelligence Unit found that over three-quarters of executives around the globe indicate that the most critical people issue related to their organization’s success is leadership development, especially as it relates to developing their future pipeline of leaders. They also find that developing leaders is at the top of the list of the three most pressing talent concerns. These executives are even more concerned because the baby boomer generation is quickly approaching retirement, a consequence of which is that vast numbers of experienced leaders are expected to retire or to step down from full-time employment by 2020, creating a leadership vacuum. A lack of leadership bench strength is of great concern to organizations worldwide.

To close this leadership gap, the best organizations are investing more heavily, despite the worldwide recession, in leadership development at all levels, and leaders at all levels get to participate. They also create a culture of leadership in which everyone, not just executives at the top, is expected to exercise leadership. There are processes designed to accelerate the leadership development of high potentials. They have succession planning processes in place and the leadership development programs are tied to the business strategy. Senior managers are role models for the leadership behaviors that are expected of others, and people get rewarded for exemplary leadership and not simply for results. The Boards of the best organizations for leaders devote a large percentage of their time making sure that the leadership pipeline is full. Leadership competencies are measured and are a regular part of performance reviews.

In other words, in the best organizations for leaders leadership development is not an event, it is part of the culture. It’s a way of life in those organizations, and everyone knows it.

How important is it for a leader to know that his or her role as leader is to serve, not to be served?
Perhaps the most significant shift in leadership has been away from the notion of leadership as command-and-control to one of serve-and-support. Credible leaders serve a purpose and they serve the people who have made it possible for them to lead. They put the guiding principles of the organization ahead of all else, and then strive to live by those principles. They set the example for others and are the first to do what has been agreed upon. In serving a purpose, you strengthen credibility by demonstrating that you are not in it for yourself but instead have the interests of the institution, department, or team and its constituents at heart. Being a servant may not be what you had in mind when you chose to take responsibility for the vision and direction of your team, but serving others is the most glorious and rewarding of all leadership tasks.

Alan Mulally, president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company, made that point directly. When asked by the Washington Post, “How has your leadership style changed over the years? What have you learned? What do you know now that you didn’t use to?” Alan responded, “I think that just always remembering that we’re here to serve. We have the honor to be selected to be the leader, but we’re actually serving our customers, we’re serving our employees, and the more that you have a servant perspective or a servant attitude, then the more inclusion you’ll have, the more respect for people’s ideas [you’ll have]. You’ll seek to understand before you seek to be understood.” Alan maintained that this servant attitude played a large part in the turnaround process at Ford during the difficult years at the end of the twenty-first century’s opening decade.

As a pre-eminent leader on leadership and management, what tips would you give to other aspiring thought leaders?
The title of a new book by Georgetown University professor Cal Newport says it all: So Good They Can’t Ignore You. That title, Newport says, actually comes from an answer Steve Martin gave in response to a question from Charlie Rose during a TV interview about the advice Martin would give to aspiring performers. Martin replied, “Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how your write a script,’…but I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’”

That would be exactly the same advice I’d give every aspiring thought leader. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” There’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no such thing as a fast track to excellence. Like Cal Newport, I firmly believe that to be a credible source of information on anything you have to study, study, study and practice, practice, practice.

I typically devote the first couple hours of every day to learning. Usually it’s reading—that’s my preferred approach—but it might also be watching videos, listening to interviews, attending a seminar, or talking to people who are knowledge and practice experts. I spend another two hours writing. Writing for me is not just a way of producing product. It’s a means of learning. You might say I also learn through my fingertips.

It might be a blog, an article, pages for a book—even a 140-character tweet—but I can only stay sharp if I write every day. I also like the advice of Dave Balter, the founder of BzzAgent, the leading word-of-mouth marketing company. He said, “Dig a hole, throw your ego into it, and pour concrete on top. Find humility instead.” I am by no means the smartest guy in the room. I don’t know everything there is to know about my subject matter, and I’ll never know it. But I love to learn. I love to explore new ideas. I love to engage in research on something related to my field. It’s this passion for learning that really drives me.

When it comes to leadership and management, what are the notions people need to reframe their thinking on?
As technologically advanced as our world is, there still persists an insidious myth that leadership is reserved for only a lucky few who genetically inherit the trait. We are confronted with it nearly every time we give a speech or conduct a workshop when someone asks, “Are leaders born or made?” Let’s get something straight. Leadership is not preordained. It is not a gene, and it is not a trait. There’s no hard evidence to support the assertion that leadership is imprinted in the DNA of only some individuals and that the rest of us missed out and are doomed to be clueless.

Too often images of who’s a leader and who’s not a leader are all mixed up in preconceived notions about what leadership is and is not. Conventional wisdom portrays leadership as something found mostly at the top. Myth and legend treat leadership as if it were the private reserve of a very few charismatic men and women. Nothing is further from the truth. Leadership is much more broadly distributed in the population, and it’s accessible to anyone who has passion and purpose to change the way things are.

Over the last few years we’ve analyzed data from five million respondents around the globe to the Leadership Practices Inventory, our tool for assessing the practices of leaders. The numbers reveal that the behavior of leaders explains much, much more about why they people feel engaged and positive about their workplaces than any particular individual or organizational characteristic. Factors like age, gender, ethnicity, function, position, nationality, organizational size, and the like together account for less than 1 percent of the reason that people feel productive, motivated, energized, and the like in their workplaces. The leaders’ behaviors, on the other hand, explain nearly 30 percent of the reason. Leadership is not about who you are or where you come from.

It’s about what you do.

 

 

Advertisements

The Deadly Momentum Of Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Clashes

AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Pakistani soldiers patrol at the Torkham crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency on June 14, 2016. Afghan and Pakistani forces clashed in an escalation of tensions between the neighbouring countries, killing at least three people and forcing the closure of the main border crossing, officials said. / AFP / SAJJAD MIAN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD MIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

What starts as intermittent exchange of fire can sometimes escalate to a full-blown war with far-reaching consequences. Over the past one week, these fears were ignited when estranged neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan resorted to brinkmanship, flexed their military muscle and fired artillery at the Torkham border, leading to many casualties.

After four days of hectic negotiations, the two sides finally blinked and agreed to de-escalate the blazing military and political tensions, thus averting the inevitable. Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, said there were “central and regional level negotiations” to break the deadlock.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country.

It all started after Pakistani border rangers started constructing a gate too close to the disputed border, beyond the Zero Line, which Afghan troops saw as a blatant violation of the bilateral agreement and international law. In the ensuing clashes, both sides suffered casualties.

As the news broke out, doves in Kabul extended an olive branch to hawks in Islamabad, calling for a truce. Omar Zakhilwal, the newly appointed Afghan envoy to Islamabad and the former finance minister, held a series of closed-door meetings with the top political and military officials of Pakistan in a bid to prevent the escalation of violence.

While Pakistan insisted on building a barrier at the border crossing “to prevent terrorists’ entry into Pakistan”, Afghanistan took umbrage because it does not recognize the colonial-era Durand Line drawn up in 1893. Torkham connects eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

For almost a week, both sides refused to back down from their respective positions. Zakhilwal even threatened to resign and reveal the details of his closed-door meetings with Pakistani officials. He dismissed reports that he had earlier agreed to the construction of the gate at Torkham.

On Saturday, the border was reopened after six days, much to the relief of stranded truck drivers and traders. On Monday, an Afghan delegation led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai visited Islamabad to discuss the Torkham border issue.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country. Border incursions and setting up of military bunkers by Pakistani troops along the border in eastern and southern provinces has always been a matter of consternation for the Afghan government.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering provinces…

Earlier last year, Pakistani rangers had established check posts in Maroof district of southern Kandahar province before the Afghan border police forced them to retreat. Before that, some Pakistani rangers had secretly crossed into Goshta and Spinboldak districts of eastern Nangarhar province and built small military bases there. In July last year, Pakistani forces had tried to build illegal constructions in the border district of Barmal in southern Paktika province. In the ensuing firefight, one Afghan police commander was killed.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan, though, is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering Afghan provinces, killing civilians and security forces and rendering many others homeless. A large number of people in these border provinces — mainly Kunar, Nuristan, Paktika and Nangarhar — have been forced to evacuate their homes and move to safer locations.

Former Afghan army chief Shir Mohammad Karimi, who was summoned by Parliament last year, said these attacks are used as “pressure tactics” by Pakistan to force Afghanistan into recognizing the Durand Line as an international border.

Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul has been summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs many times since last year to register protest against the continued border incursions and cross-border shelling by Pakistani troops. In July last year, deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai took reacted strongly to the mortar shelling in Speen Zhay, Dwa Khula, Chunchro Tangai and Kamary Lakar areas of Nazian district in eastern Nangarhar province. At least three civilians, including a woman, were killed in the shelling.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years.

In August last year, hundreds of people including tribal elders and local political leaders gathered in Khad Al Jadid area of Kandahar city to protest against the cross-border shelling by Pakistan. A few days later, a large number of people carried out a protest march in Asadabad city of eastern Kunar province against the border shelling by Pakistani troops. Similar protests have been held in many other parts of the country, denouncing Pakistan’s adventurism.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years. Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani had vowed to pursue the peace process with the support of Islamabad. At the London Conference in December 2014, President Ghani said his government seeks regional cooperation and has started an “active engagement” with all neighbours, including Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reciprocated by saying that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities against Afghanistan. “If our soil is used for terrorism activities against Afghanistan, we will take serious action against the insurgents,” he said.

However, he seems either incompetent or unwilling to stop Pakistan-based militant groups from mounting attacks on Afghanistan. And more importantly, he has failed to rein in his soldiers manning the border.

The author is a Kashmiri journalist based in Kabul. He can be contacted at armaan.journo@gmail.com

Like Us On Facebook | Follow Us On Twitter | Contact HuffPost India

Also see on HuffPost:

8 Heart-Warming Public Service Messages On Saving The Environment

Suggest a correction

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

Syed Zafar Mehdi

What starts as intermittent exchange of fire can sometimes escalate to a full-blown war with far-reaching consequences. Over the past one week, these fears were ignited when estranged neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan resorted to brinkmanship, flexed their military muscle and fired artillery at the Torkham border, leading to many casualties.

After four days of hectic negotiations, the two sides finally blinked and agreed to de-escalate the blazing military and political tensions, thus averting the inevitable. Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, said there were “central and regional level negotiations” to break the deadlock.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country.

It all started after Pakistani border rangers started constructing a gate too close to the disputed border, beyond the Zero Line, which Afghan troops saw as a blatant violation of the bilateral agreement and international law. In the ensuing clashes, both sides suffered casualties.

As the news broke out, doves in Kabul extended an olive branch to hawks in Islamabad, calling for a truce. Omar Zakhilwal, the newly appointed Afghan envoy to Islamabad and the former finance minister, held a series of closed-door meetings with the top political and military officials of Pakistan in a bid to prevent the escalation of violence.

While Pakistan insisted on building a barrier at the border crossing “to prevent terrorists’ entry into Pakistan”, Afghanistan took umbrage because it does not recognize the colonial-era Durand Line drawn up in 1893. Torkham connects eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

For almost a week, both sides refused to back down from their respective positions. Zakhilwal even threatened to resign and reveal the details of his closed-door meetings with Pakistani officials. He dismissed reports that he had earlier agreed to the construction of the gate at Torkham.

On Saturday, the border was reopened after six days, much to the relief of stranded truck drivers and traders. On Monday, an Afghan delegation led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai visited Islamabad to discuss the Torkham border issue.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country. Border incursions and setting up of military bunkers by Pakistani troops along the border in eastern and southern provinces has always been a matter of consternation for the Afghan government.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering provinces…

Earlier last year, Pakistani rangers had established check posts in Maroof district of southern Kandahar province before the Afghan border police forced them to retreat. Before that, some Pakistani rangers had secretly crossed into Goshta and Spinboldak districts of eastern Nangarhar province and built small military bases there. In July last year, Pakistani forces had tried to build illegal constructions in the border district of Barmal in southern Paktika province. In the ensuing firefight, one Afghan police commander was killed.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan, though, is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering Afghan provinces, killing civilians and security forces and rendering many others homeless. A large number of people in these border provinces — mainly Kunar, Nuristan, Paktika and Nangarhar — have been forced to evacuate their homes and move to safer locations.

Former Afghan army chief Shir Mohammad Karimi, who was summoned by Parliament last year, said these attacks are used as “pressure tactics” by Pakistan to force Afghanistan into recognizing the Durand Line as an international border.

Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul has been summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs many times since last year to register protest against the continued border incursions and cross-border shelling by Pakistani troops. In July last year, deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai took reacted strongly to the mortar shelling in Speen Zhay, Dwa Khula, Chunchro Tangai and Kamary Lakar areas of Nazian district in eastern Nangarhar province. At least three civilians, including a woman, were killed in the shelling.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years.

In August last year, hundreds of people including tribal elders and local political leaders gathered in Khad Al Jadid area of Kandahar city to protest against the cross-border shelling by Pakistan. A few days later, a large number of people carried out a protest march in Asadabad city of eastern Kunar province against the border shelling by Pakistani troops. Similar protests have been held in many other parts of the country, denouncing Pakistan’s adventurism.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years. Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani had vowed to pursue the peace process with the support of Islamabad. At the London Conference in December 2014, President Ghani said his government seeks regional cooperation and has started an “active engagement” with all neighbours, including Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reciprocated by saying that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities against Afghanistan. “If our soil is used for terrorism activities against Afghanistan, we will take serious action against the insurgents,” he said.

However, he seems either incompetent or unwilling to stop Pakistan-based militant groups from mounting attacks on Afghanistan. And more importantly, he has failed to rein in his soldiers manning the border.

(First published in Huffington Post)