In November 2004 ‘The Islamabad International Consultation of Muslim Scholars on State & Society in the Modern World’ was held under the auspices of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad with the aim of bringing forth proposals to reform Muslim society. Seasoned scholars from all over the Muslim world participated in the consultation. Particularly Mohamed Fathi Osman, the distinguished Egyptian scholar who advocated inter-faith cooperation through-out his life also attended the gathering despite of his ailing health. He held the view that the environment in Pakistan is absolutely ripe for implementing progressive Islamic ideology..
More interesting part of the moot was that many non-Muslim
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philanthropists also attended the consultation on their own expenses as observers. Notable among them was Bobby Sager, the American philanthropist who is founder of the Sager Family Traveling Foundation & Roadshow – a charitable organization. To take advantage of his presence, the organizers requested him to share his valuable views with the participants. In response to which, he delivered a presentation on the perils of leadership in the modern times..
He started his presentation by asking the audience to write down on a piece of paper the names of ten leaders who they think could be classified as international leaders. After five minutes he requested the audience to stop writing and asked them to reveal the names. Not much to his surprise the whole group could come up with just a couple of valid names i.e., Nelsen Mandela and Mahathir Mohamad, although it was highlighted that there is a considerable part of the world where Mahathir’s name as an admired leader may not be accepted so, only Nelsen Mandela is clearly the most admired leader of our times world over. When Mandela came to Islamabad there was so much excitement and those people who never gave much importance to big shots, celebrities or international politicians were eager to see him. This was also partially due to the fact that people yearn for true leaders in this part of the world..
Making the above exercise a basis
for further discussion, Bobby highlighted that people struggle with this exercise as the days of big leaders are over. He emphasized that it has become imperative in modern times to carry-out teamwork and to make use of participatory decision making mechanisms. Bobby also signified the importance of prioritizing by employing the Pareto 80:20 rule. The idea of the whole presentation was to make the scholars understand modern methods for conducting affairs, coping with the menace of inflexible attitude towards difference of opinion and to rise above the nitty-gritty of things.
‘no one is better than all of us’ have been crafted to pin point towards the fading notion of ‘The Big Man’ approach. Not long ago it used to be articulated in leadership training programs that leaders need to create followers as leadership is to influence people. Whereas it has become a necessity of the day to say that good leaders do not only create followers, rather they also create leaders who could follow on their work. .
A teacher in a lecture on leadership asked his young Executive MBA students at a management institute in Karachi some years back to identify their most favorite Pakistani leader after Quaid-e-Azam. Interestingly a majority of the students declared Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) as their most favorite national leader. Some female students opted for Benazir Bhutto though and there were other names too. The teacher asked the students who had considered ZAB as their favorite to explain the reason for their selection. Surprisingly the students revealed that they considered his charismatic personality and emotional speeches as the main reason for their selection. The students were young and they had no idea about the times of ZAB. Most of them never had studied the books written by ZAB; also they barely had any idea what ZAB stood for in his life. They remembered only a few signature clips of ZAB’s speeches that were aired on TV from time to time. Most interestingly they did not know that under the same roof there was a hall from where ZAB started his initial political campaign and a rostrum was preserved on which there a dent was made by ZAB with his fist during address. They did not know of the harmful decisions made by ZAB during his tenure or never had analyzed his leadership pattern. This shows that a
majority of people do not take into account a well thought after criteria in order to assess a leader in Pakistan. Majority hold a stereotype image of the leaders of the past i.e., Ayub, Yahya, Zia, and Junejo etc.
Army could have served as an incubator for leadership in Pakistan as one can imagine how much investment is made on an officer after induction in armed forces onwards throughout his career. But since military bureaucrats remain away from political process throughout their career, and also they receive a different type of orientation which is essentially suitable for military controlled environments so naturally their success in civilian setups become a distant possibility by default, exceptions though are always there.
Muslim scholars lack leadership stature often due to their limited world-wide exposure and religious intolerance or narrow mindedness. In fact inherent disadvantage with Pakistan is that it has been created in the name of religion and since people have different interpretations of Islam so due to this there has been continuous religious divide or rift in the country. There is a view in general public that the religious leaders of today are touts for foreign powers who are using them to cause anarchy in the county or to serve their designs. It would not be unjust to say that religious scholars have lost their trust in the eyes of general public.
Those who come from democratic process compromise so much along the way that their personalities become distorted and they lose track of the significance of values and virtues as essential pillars of leadership. It is extremely difficult for a corrupt person to keep his influence on people.
Civilian bureaucrats learn to maintain status quo so they are best suited to emerge as transactional Php Aide leaders. During their career they learn to interact and influence leaders to a considerable extent. But they also develop a tendency to stay away from any sort of controversy and since it is difficult for a civilian bureaucrat to adopt to the personality changes required for a public leader so only a few took the task but with a marginal success. The case of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is unique in the sense that he is still serving as the head of the judicial branch of the government and
he has so many rules and procedures to follow still he has maintained a position of a public leader with quite success. Although his style is transactional in nature but the impact is transformational by virtue of the nature of his job.
It is interesting to note that journalists have emerged as notable leaders in recent times keeping in view the success of the likes of Mushahid Hussain, Dr. Maliha Lodhi, Husain Haqqani, and Ayaz Amir etc. Also since leadership is the art of influencing people so we can say that in a way Najam Sethi, Mobashir Luqman and Dr. Shahid Masood have clearly been doing well in this regard. It is said that leadership is not a position, as people reach top they realize there is no top. Leadership in reality refers to action!
Researchers and educationists like Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman have also emerged as leaders in their own right, similarly philanthropists like Abdul Sattar Edhi & Ansar Burni also influence a great deal of people. Young entertainers like Abrar-ul-Haq and Shehzad Roy have made their mark too. So much so that Sohail Ahmed (Azizi of ‘Hasb-e-Haal’ Dunya TV), Aftab Iqbal (‘Khabarnak’ Geo TV), Hasan Nisar (‘Choraha’ Geo TV) and Junaid Saleem (‘Hasb-e-Haal’ Dunya TV) have developed a great deal of fan followership recently and have remarkable influence over public opinion.
Another interesting phenomenon to note is that political leaders in Pakistan have started acting like businessmen. A businessman in Karachi once called a renowned Sindhi politician. The politician asked him to introduce himself. The businessman sarcastically introduced himself by saying that ‘Janab mein chota businessman bol raha houn’ (This is a small business entrepreneur on the line). Leaders of popular political parties have adopted a style which is more business management like rather than the one required for public administration.
Once a pseudo-scholar asked a laborer to tell him what’s wrong with Pakistan in a pensive manner? He did not expect any insightful reply rather he just wanted to have fun, but the reply of the laborer was stunning, who said that in fact the biggest problem with Pakistan is that it has no ‘waris’ (heir apparent or custodian)!
Though numerous leaders have emerged from the middle class but they have failed to leave significant impact on masses because of their leadership qualities. The channels of military & civilian bureaucracies, social welfare, law and journalism have been used for social mobilization rather than demonstration of true spirit of leadership. Under the present scenario it can be said that in terms of the conventional definition of leadership only those who are not labeled as leaders qualify rather than those who are the so called leaders!