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Sunday, 28 December 2014

World Cup down-under: A Test of Misbah's Leadership

Dunkwart A Rustow in the book “Philosophers and Kings” said that it is pertinent to ask to who is leading whom from where to where? The book is riveting to say the least for students of leadership since many academics have pitched-in their thoughts. However , for the consumption of the readers let us dissect the above statement in light of the uphill task that the men in green are to face in a matter of 51 days : The World Cup.

Indeed, the most coveted event in cricket happens to be the World Cup; 4 years are worth waiting for as teams lock horns to get their hands on the trophy. Right from 1975's first edition to that of 2011, the skippers of the teams that clinched top spots (not necessarily the title) performed exceedingly well.

The 11th edition of ICC's premier event begins on the 14th of February in Australia and New Zealand. The two trans-Tasman rivals last hosted the World Cup way back in 1992. the green shirts out of nowhere won the title under the inspirational and charismatic leadership(Weberian sense too) of the legendary Imran Khan.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has named Misbah Ul Haq as skipper for the mega event. One could argue and bicker over it, but the fact is that in him the board has reposed confidence. Leadership is a function of the leader; the led and the cause. Hence, it is about Misbah-Ul-Haq , the team and the World Cup.

Misbah Ul Haq, a man known for his doggedness and excellent temperament took over the reins of ODI cricket on the 28th of May, 2011. He has led the team continuously since then. He certainly has been a vital cog in Pakistan's fledgling batting line up, amassing runs when others fail to deliver. Under his command the ODI performances have been oscillating from good to pathetic. Much to his credit, he has been a prolific run-scorer , but has been chastised on many occasions. At times the criticism was justifiable because if we look closely, there has been a negative paradigm shift in Pakistan's ODI approach. Certainly, the captain is the most important corollary and hence the brunt of the credit and the opprobrium has to fall on him. However , to be fair to this dedicated gentlemen , we must admit that the troops under his command let him down on many instances.

With great powers come great responsibilities ; Misbah knows this well and has never shirked his duties. The task is an uphill one. He will be leading a mediocre, yet dangerous team. The skipper is short of resources in his arsenal. What can he do to eke-out the best from his boys ? What he must do to achieve an elusive glory , something which Pakistan as a country really needs. A country beset with terrorism and all other kinds of epidemics find solace by seeing the men in green overhaul opponents that come their way.

Misbah realizes the magnitude of the World Cup. He is the linchpin of the batting as aforementioned, but there is always room for improvement. He needs to come up and raise the bar, in both his batting and captaincy.

When the going gets tough; Misbah has to show the way. He has to be aggressive and proactive tactically. He has been found wanting in regards his approach, though he is not the only one to be blamed. Decision-making power is essential to the success of a leader; Misbah needs to think on his feet. There is a need for more flexibility.

Yes, vagaries in situations demand leaders to change their tactics. Attack is the best form of defense. Misbah has to imbibe this spirit in his team. (Mix caution with aggression)

Pakistan is beleaguered with injuries and suspensions, which include the likes of Saeed Ajmal and Muhammad Hafeez. This will certainly dent the likelihood of the team pulling off the cup, but the picture is not as bleak as portrayed by the chairman.

The captain has many highly talented match winners in his armory. The mindset needs to be tinkered with. Experienced players like Shahid Afridi must take the mantle of responsibility and help their skipper. Juniors must be given full confidence and they should compliment the seniors. The captain must let them be themselves. Greatness lies in doing something when it is most desired. The careers of the likes of Haris Sohail and Yasir Shah can take a great-leap forward if they are able to make a mark in the World Cup.

A combination of bold leadership; response from the players and luck can help the men in green replicate history. But Misbah must rise to the occasion; he must take the bait and adopt audacity as important element in his leadership. However , his soldiers must stand up to his call.

All the best skipper

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Zarb-e-Azb: A quest for Azaadi

Freedom is something that we all covet. History is rife with examples showing  that the quest for freedom became a major casus belli. Perhaps, the preservation of freedom is the most vital interest of any state. I am hastily penning-down this piece on the eve of our independence day. 67 years have passed since Pakistan adorned the map of the world after a colossal yet controversial struggle. The focus of the piece is on the current impediments which mar us in fructifying our potentials. What can or should be done is something which worries one and all. However, I would not paint a morbid picture because despondency is in sin.

Pakistan and her inhabitants are typified with resiliency. The country has borne everything, from continual political instabilities to foreign incursions . Much of this is a product of our own inanities. The despair and frustration of the populace is shunned aside on this festive day, wherein one and all show their veneration and love for their motherland. When Shahid Afridi was up against R Ashwin in the famous Asia Cup clash, all Pakistanis regardless of class, religion or color were praying for the former to smash the ball over the ropes. When the wish actualized all rubbed shoulders with each other in ecstasy . But that is not enough. Bouts of unity alternate with those of open disregard.

Zarb-e-Azb should  not just be  a name of a CT MILOPS being carried by the armed forces to clear North Waziristan from the clutches of the enemies of the state. It should be a philosophy of every Pakistani.We know our  fighting and non fighting corps will clear, hold and built areas like Ghulam Khan and Miranshah at the cost of many more YOs and Jawans. But when will we  launch an operation individually ? Every Pakistani must stand up against injustices of all kinds and types. As the English saying goes that penny and penny make up many, we must stand up in unison for a better Pakistan. We must pitch-in to make this country safe for all minorities as enshrined by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Yes, we need a Zarb-e-Azb against those who kill innocent Pakistanis on the basis of their beliefs.

I hope sense dawns upon us, wherein we can start owning our follies. A realization must be there that tells that only Pakistanis can ameliorate the milieu of the length and breadth of this country. It is upon us alone to protect and propagate our vital and secondary interests. Indeed, we must not  be oblivious to the malignant intentions of foreign actors, but instead of cribbing , measures must be taken to obviate actual and potential threats. The modus operandi (MO) is plain and simple: augment all sinews of national power, to include military , economic, hard, soft and smart. Power is currency and as the likes of Waltz and Morgantheau say that it is all about national interests.

Mere slogans of Pakistan Zindabad won't do the trick; we need to  back-up choruses with actions.

Let's be proud Pakistanis.

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihad and Modernity. By Tariq Ali

The vocabulary of politics has always been rife with buzz words. Vigilante, extremism and other such phenomenons have certainly left an indelible impact on high power politics and inter-state ties, thereby having its underpinnings  on world order. Every religion is inherently rigid in one way or the other; therefore, elements of fundamentalism and obstinacy creep-in somewhere along  the line.  
Islamic Fundamentalism has been a bogey , to say the least. In fact many see extremism and Islam as hand in glove. This is something exacerbated and based on farcical analysis, but this write-up  doesn’t aim at challenging the very assumption. Many scholars have looked at the anatomy and nature of Islamic fundamentalism. The work that this piece looks at is one of Tariq Ali’s famous works “ The Clash of Fundamentalism: Crusades , Jihad and Modernity. Tariq Ali is a renowned scholar with visible leftist leanings. He has written extensively on world history and politics. His leftist proclivities; atheist make-up and the fact that he has been very critical of the West makes this an interesting study.
However, before going into the review itself, it is imperative to briefly tell readers as to what this book is addressing. Firstly, it sheds-light on the evolution of Islam right from its inception till contemporary  times. How fundamentalism took shape? What has been Islam’s take on various aspects, ranging from private affairs to diplomatic gimmicks  . There has been an accentuation on the Middle East. This is because Tariq Ali had to bring everything within the ambit of American and Israeli foreign policy. A closer review will make up the subsequent part of this write-up.
The ill-fated events of September 11,  2001 became the launching pad for the book in a way. Ali , from the very outset positioned himself as one who was critical of the behemoth empire  of the West in particular the United States. The prologue not only gave readers a framework of the book, but also posed pinching questions. Why was the Western centre of gravity attacked by erstwhile sidekicks? Why there was jubilation in many countries when the news of the cataclysmic events reached every nook and corner of the globe? Ali squarely put the mantle of responsibility on capitalism. One should not be surprised, given his leftist tilt, so to speak.  The prologue entailed a bit about his background, especially his averseness to religion right from the start. This gives readers some confidence when he chastises  the West on being stern on Islamists. His criticism is hence free from emotions or closeness with Islam.  In fact, the first chapter is regarding his upbringing; it is aptly titled “Atheist Childhood”. Herein, Ali frankly described his detest for Islam and its incumbent practices.  Ali’s tutor of the Quran and his uncle were compelled to give up on inculcating in him the love lost for Islam. Such is his link with the very religion even to-date.  The author rightly pointed out that many were critical of his family being away from religion. “But these children should be given  a chance… They must be taught their religion.”  This fascination with “must” continues to haunt Islam today. Perhaps this word becomes the launching pad for fundamentalism. Ali ended the chapter by terming the  Gulf War of 1990 as a milestone, for he started to seriously show keenness in studying Islam through various prisms. For the consumption of readers , a succinct survey of this lengthy book is the needful.
Ali’s analysis of the swift rise expansion of  Islam was coherent and well-knit . He started off his description from the 8th year of the Islamic Calendar i.e. AD 629, when Hazrat Muhammad mandated the destruction of a Meccan Goddess . One can debate on many views that Ali proponed during the course of the chapter. Though, we agree that the Prophet had a tactically shrewd mind , but never did he conceal or delay his message for tactical gains. He also did not consider truces with the polytheists as bitter pills.
Thereafter, Ali  lucidly and briefly delved on the rise of Islam across the globe.  He looked at the swiftness by which Islam spread. Ali attributed this to many factors, to include sympathy towards the invaders and battle-field deployments.  The meteoric rise in the imperial stretch of the Muslims was quite assiduously explained by Ali. The frenzy of the Muslim conquerors was very much akin to that of any other imperial power. For avid readers and aspirant critics, his chapter on the response of Chrisitanity to the ever-expanding Islamic jaggernaut , must not be skipped.  Ali rightly pointed out that regional Muslim kingdoms had need-based ties with the non-Islamic world.  Readers would find it easier to grapple with the tug-off war between the Crusades and the Muslim over the city of Jerusalem by reading this chapter, for the account is a short one. Jerusalem remained within the realm of the Muslim until the dawn of the twenteith century. Subsequent events are well-documented. Again, he shifted the discussion back to the sprawling rise of Islam ; this time he looked at the forays of Islam in Asia.
As regards Islam , Ali broached upon the rise of heresy; the bickering  within various sects, most notably the anatomy and rise of the shia strand in Islam. However, the chapter is a  mere narrative of the historical evolution of debates, dissent and heretical elements.  The chapter on women and their untamable desires  is certainly a good inclusion; however, Ali by picking up a few verses shows Islam as a monster for women. This has indeed meant that the exalted status given to women in many respects was deliberately circumvented. However the author can get away with it , for the chapter was on Islam and women’s  sexual proclivities.
The fact that the Saudi Clout has been way too potent or rather a crutch for Western Imperialism, his chapter on the genesis of Wahhabism is a must read. The excursion to glory of the Wahhab-Saud nexus was unbridled; however, they were overhauled by the Ottomans. Ali found another reason to castigate imperialism. He rightly attributed the re-emergence of Wahhabism to the British.  Thereafter,  Ali tried to develop a linkage between elements of international diplomacy and the rise of vigilante. How the dominant Western powerhouses poured-in money which expedited the expansion of monarchy in Arabia. The decade preceding the Second Great War provided a preparatory period for the elongated Cold- War politics and the role of the then newly-freed Islamic states.
Ali, one must admit, took a rigid stance against  capitalist imperialists, especially the United States. He allowed visceral to cloud his analysis. The subsequent, paragraphs will just briefly touch upon a few thoughts of the author on  Middle Eastern politics post World War II; USA’s preponderance and lastly, the case of a nuclearized South Asia.
The rise of Islamic obduracy  in the twentieth century is a direct product of the simmering conflict between Israel and Palestine. This along with other conflicts which have marred stability , were explained just in light of capitalist undercurrents. Zionism was seen as a movement espoused by the strategic interests of the Western imperialists. In other words, the blame for all the wrongdoings in the Middle East to-date was squarely put on the US and its allies. This is where Ali needs to be questioned. Isn’t the international system anarchical by its very nature? Wasn’t the Soviet Union equally interested in creating spheres of influences? Wasn’t the Soviet Union hell-bent upon increasing their cache of ICBMs, SLBMs and other deadly weapons?  It is noteworthy that superpowers are exploitative in nature and they leave no stone unturned to outwit their competitors. If Ali labels the United States as imperialists then certainly  USSR was second to none, but that’s a debate which merits another write-up.
Ali’s analysis on South Asian politics was rather na├»ve. Especially , ascribing the fall of Field Marshal Ayub only to the strength of the student movement is way too simplistic. There were many other factors, which led to his political capitulation, one being the burgeoning crisis in the Eastern wing of the country. Ali, tried to gloss over the fact that USSR  invaded Afghanistan, which pushed Afghanistan into a perpetual quagmire; he was insistent upon blaming the US for de-shaping the erstwhile centre of the Great Game. Ali perhaps could have explained as to why the conflicts between India and Pakistan continued unabated. Certainly, Soviet clout was never used to mediate, barring Tashkent. Russian-made  MiGs kept India steadfast, and who can forget the Soviet’s role in the breakup of Pakistan in 1971. Though, one should agree to most of his assertions about the US, but there are certain analytical exaggerations.  The United States was, during the Cold War era acting in the pure action-reaction syndrome, an important concept of International Relations. However, Ali failed to delve on the diplomatic and military incursions made by the Soviet Union, be it in Vietnam, Korea or the Middle East.
In sum, despite the fact that there are some issues of unwarranted berating, the book provides a very good analysis of Islam, its rise; the induction of fundamentalism and heresy. However, the best part of the book is the focus on various issues of international politics and foreign policy. This shows how Islam and Muslim states have been used as a plank of superpowers’ expansionist  designs. For all those who aim to learn a thing or two about Islam’s socio-political evolution and the role of Muslim States in global politics must read this book. There were other chapters in this book, but in the interest of time were not scanned through in the review. However, that does not mean that those were less important, in fact the analysis on the Iranian Revolution must be carefully studied.