A leadership index

Published: August 13, 2010
The writer is a freelance journalist, blogger and director at Core Consulting

The writer is a freelance journalist, blogger and director at Core Consulting wajahat.khan@tribune.com.pk

Listing the Who’s Who of contemporary Pakistan isn’t difficult. Thanks to decades of systematic ‘elitist’ education, entrenched biradari politics, circular khandani business networking and ‘society-specific’ (the new-age version for class/caste) familial practices, those ‘who matter’ are dated/married/related to or have worked/served with everyone else ‘who matters’ as well.

In this modern jungle of highbrow society and below-the-belt politics, where ‘everyone knows someone’ and all the players are A-Listers, the ‘Real Elites’ need to be separated from the dispensable and irrelevant: behold, our qualified analysis of this Islamic Republic’s “Most (Un) Important Leaders” or, in jet-setter lingo, the “Politically Hot or Not”.

First up, Asif Ali Zardari: Hot. In fact, the president is too hot to handle. Even though his PR advisers are probably double agents for the PML-N (his recent trip to Europe is case in point enough — why else would he go?), AAZ is the “Lord and Master” of a party which has been constructed around the cult of lords and masters. The PPP loves “personalities” and AAZ exudes a yaaron ka yar charisma that they find irresistible. He is no ZAB or BB, but Zardari’s got game — no-holds-barred, Machiavellian game. Also, his serving time as well as being a single dad who’s raising the Bhutto scions might not rub off on everyone, but most jiyalas agree that he’s “worked hard” to get where he is. A veritable “survivor”, the prez might be a lot of things, but he is not unimportant.

Next: Yousaf Raza Gilani — Not hot. The PM of Pakistan aptly lives up to his title (isn’t it in the “PM” that we are most tired and ready to pass out?). During 2009, Gilani enjoyed brief popularity when the press lauded him as a “middle of the road” premier with “pragmatic” policies. Gilani was the Dusk Warrior — one who could negotiate between the dazzling spotlight of parliamentary politicking and the dark depths of the establishment’s ego. But what was the prime minister’s “moderation” last year is perceived today as “mediocrity”. Though Gilani is no John Doe – he couldn’t have come this far by being a nobody – one gets the feeling that Pakistani democracy won’t suffer a major brain drain if aliens were to suddenly abduct him.

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — Hot. Even though the “soldier’s soldier” wears four stars, he gets five stars on our hotness scale. Kayani is war general, spymaster, chief diplomat, political operator and grand-strategist all rolled into one, sombre chain-smoker. Everyone, everywhere wants to know the “golfer-in-chief”. The Gates/Mullen Pentagon is enchanted; the Clinton/Holbrooke State Department doesn’t have an option; the CIA/DIA boys are policy-less without him; Centcom wants to give him another star; the Indians are nervous as they’re now dealing with a real-life ISI man versus the semi-imaginary ones of the past; and the Chinese, well, them having the COAS visit the PRC on an official trip the week of his tenure’s extension announcement is reason enough to believe that Kayani is the hottest thing in Beijing since chopsticks were invented.

To reiterate — being “hot or not” in Pakistani politics is a game of “value addition”. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, bespoken and well-attired, runs a Foreign Office that is, unfortunately, not allowed to make a lot of foreign policy. Thus, he is not hot. Nawaz Sharif – contradictive and opportunistic, the classic example of a provincial mind operating at a global level, much thanks to patronage and fate – is very hot. That’s because he’s capable of making political hay in all sorts of circumstances — lawyers marching and rivers flooding are like sunshine for the Royal of Raiwind.

Making some “hot or not” decisions are easy: for example, the PCB’s Ijaz Butt is simply not hot (everyone feels a bit of Trotsky in them whenever our cricket czar holds a press conference). Other verdicts, like who’s the hottest in a collection of frumpy “not-hots” – our four chief ministers – are difficult to ascertain: Qaim Ali Shah’s missing backbone, Aslam Raisani’s “fake-or-real, at-least-it’s-a-degree” logic, Amir Hoti’s “War? What war?” defensiveness and Shahbaz Sharif’s “It’s still the 90s” approach to running Punjab make it all so confusing — speaking of which, I’m feeling kind of dizzy. After all, it’s always hot in the MQM’s Karachi.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (22)

    Aug 13, 2010 - 6:48AM

    very witty, u must hav put a smile on gen kayani face aftr writing the truth about him/ u should get a star azwellRecommend

  • Saran
    Aug 13, 2010 - 8:16AM

    you are one of my favourite writer in Pakistan! Taking all pressing issues in ligh hearted manner but never fail to give a strong point reader’s to think! Good one! Keep Writing good and neutral articles like this Wajahat S Khan!Recommend

  • Sahar
    Aug 13, 2010 - 11:25AM


    Love the pompous voice over tone but …really? The piece lacks meat. The throw-away last paragraph is almost funny (not in a good way).Recommend

  • SKChadha
    Aug 13, 2010 - 11:42AM

    Excellent blow of hot and cold. It was funnier when I started comparing them with their Indian counterparts.Recommend

  • Aug 13, 2010 - 11:49AM

    @ Hussain: thanks mate. Fortunately/unfortunately, I don’t have a uniform to put that star on

    @ Saran: you’re very kind. For a longer, more comprehensive perspective, check out this piece’s “uncut” version on my blog at


  • Anonymous
    Aug 13, 2010 - 12:01PM

    That was a pretty hot take on the hotties of Pakistan! Fun read. Recommend

  • Saad Farooq
    Aug 13, 2010 - 12:10PM

    The hotness scale would get the real acid test on the completion of the five year term of this government… Recommend

  • Fatima Ali Khan
    Aug 13, 2010 - 1:15PM

    7 stars for u gen.wajahat!!! ;) dis was so goood! Your wits at its best!!Recommend

  • Murtaza Khurshid
    Aug 13, 2010 - 1:30PM


  • Rao Hamid
    Aug 13, 2010 - 1:44PM

    Write on! Great work, give yourself a pat on your back. Recommend

  • Aug 13, 2010 - 2:10PM

    Tough and compelling! Loved the humor and sarcasmRecommend

  • trahim
    Aug 13, 2010 - 2:12PM

    @Waj: Good one! Very telling. Thank god somebody said it. It’s amazing what the reality of political roles are in this country. Stalwarts like Shah Mehmood Qureshi are reduced into diplomatic mouth pieces for the powers that be while his real capacity as a policy maker is never realized due to the time-honored disfunction of governmental infrastructure in Pakistan. Shame!
    But it makes a great story though. The reality of Pakistans wheeler and dealers is a dialog worth exploring.
    @Sahar: Real feedback please!Recommend

  • parvez
    Aug 13, 2010 - 2:40PM

    You missed Iftikhar Chaudry ???Recommend

  • Waqas Shabir
    Aug 13, 2010 - 3:10PM

    It was lovely reading this writing…

    Sizzling Saucy’Recommend

  • trahim
    Aug 13, 2010 - 3:15PM

    @parvez: Wow good one man! Yea wat about IMC?!?!Recommend

  • rehan
    Aug 13, 2010 - 4:50PM

    Did you really write this Wajahat??..LOL!!!! Well it is a different Wajahat really..witty,factual,rivetting and balanced.Well done.Nice ramazan Special.Yes I agree with you Wajahat,this Tribune at times ‘over uses’ the SCISSORS!Recommend

  • Z. Waseem
    Aug 13, 2010 - 9:21PM

    Haha. Very hot piece. I can almost hear you saying this out loud!Recommend

  • WR
    Aug 14, 2010 - 12:50AM


  • hussain
    Aug 14, 2010 - 6:52AM

    Nice of u 2 reply back waj, waiting for ur next opinion
    Hav u left work from dawn news

  • Aug 14, 2010 - 12:25PM

    @parvez, @trahim: You know what – you guys are right. So here’s a bit about the ‘missing’ IMC

    Justice Ifitkhar Mohammad Chaudhry: Hot – With his flowing robes and his yet-to-be-seen “chambers” deep in the belly of the SC building, IMC is the untouchably hot Dark Knight of Pakistani justice. Doling out sentences to the corrupt and taking suo moto notices for the downtrodden, Chaudhry is Pakistan’s grandest Chess Master – but as he wages a methodical war of reason and logic against the Bishops of Badness and the Pawns of Power, IMX is yet to implement his master move to put the ‘real players’ – the Queens of Chaos and the Kings of Conspiracy – out of commission, permanently. Recommend

  • Aug 14, 2010 - 1:30PM


    very clever by half;)

    missed out on the real hotties!

    the media barons who unabashedly manufacture consent Recommend

  • Anjum
    Aug 14, 2010 - 3:01PM

    Hi, wajahat. Great article. Like your style of writing. Only thing is that I would hesitate to glorify any army general. Don’t want to encourage them to dream greater dreams. Also we already have been brain washed and bred to exalt the generals but ridicule the elected reps of the people. Case in point; the recent floods. we keep praising the army for its efforts for flood relief, but criticize the Govt. But isn’t the army an institution of the Federal Govt. Are they not under the Directive of the federal Govt? (tricky question, I must admit) An institution that is given two thirds of the national budget should naturally be better equipped and have more capacity and resources than other civilian institutions to meet any crises.
    I am not defending the civil institutions; they need to step up to the task of flood relief but in this message, my point is altogether different.Recommend

More in Opinion