By Ali Imran & Nuzaira Azam
Americans just witnessed a long, expensive and fiercely contested fight for the White House leadership. Pakistani-Americans were very much a part of the political system as they backed candidates of their choice, raised funds for them and voted.
But what does leadership mean for Pakistani-Americans? Is it something that is only innate? Can it be acquired, honed and polished and in what ways can that be realized for individual success and to the benefit of all?
A discussion on some of these thoughts and qualities of leadership came at an exciting annual conference of OPEN, the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (http://www.openwashingtonDC.org).
It is the context that makes such an endeavor engrossing. As individuals, Pakistani-Americans are reputed to be highly motivated and brilliant success stories in wide-ranging fields of endeavor. And they have led with distinction
Yet, as a community, they have not yet been able to leverage their influence in Washington quite the same way as immigrants from some other countries have. So any discussion on the importance and secrets of leadership is a welcome initiative.
Speakers including Salman Amin, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Pepsico, Sonny Hashmi, Deputy CIO & CTO at General Services Administration, Aneesh Chopra, First US Federal Chief Technology Officer (former), Abbas Valliani, Entrepreneur and Angel Investor, Ahmed Khattak, Founder & CEO, GSM Nation, Muslim Lakhani, an international entrepreneur and philanthropist, shared their insights into success and provoked some thoughts on how ingenuity, innovation and creativity distinguishes extraordinary from the ordinary.
Rizwan Ibrahim, an MIT graduate, who runs his own business, said the conference also provides a useful opportunity to young professionals and aspirants to interact with prospective employers.
The organizers added color to the event with a fashion show that highlighted women entrepreneurs including Zara Saeed, Coco 101 and MSR.
The broader issues of U.S.-Pakistan relations and Pakistani-Americans’ role towards bolstering the bilateral ties also gained spotlight by high-profile speakers including Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman and Director Pakistan Affairs at State Department, Time Lenderking.
In her speech, the top Pakistani diplomat the ambassador drew on her experience as journalist, parliamentarian and diplomat and underlined that passion, public service and probity are hallmarks of true leadership.
The ambassador, who worked closely with late Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, said the former prime minister was her mentor and inspired her to have hope in the face of challenges.
“Benazir Bhutto also taught me the value of commitment to the goals we set for ourselves,” recalled Ms. Rehman, who traveled with the former prime minister in the caravan upon her return on October 18, 2007 in Karachi.
Tim Lenderking, Director Pakistan Affairs at the State Department, in his remarks, reiterated US commitment to close ties with Pakistan on the basis of mutual respect.
Lenderking appreciated the tremendous passion and commitment shown by the OPEN leadership in providing a platform for sharing entrepreneurial ideas.
He particularly hailed the US-Pakistan Women’s Council, jointly launched by the two government, saying it would contribute to efforts towards women’s empowerment. He also read out a message sent by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the OPEN in which she said US-Pakistan relationship is vital to shared prosperity and security of both countries.
The most heartening aspect of all was lively participation by young people of Pakistani descent, who, according to US government figures, are among the highest achievers in the highly competitive and creative U.S. environment.
Their participation in organization of the event, as noted by Imran Malik, the current President of OPEN, was all the more encouraging because it is this generation that would define overall success of the community in the years to come.