A culture of research and development to seek knowledge is the path to reclaiming lost glory
There was a time when Muslims ruled the planet. They civilised the world in all areas of life like economy, astronomy, medical science, diplomacy, trade, management, military studies, foreign affairs, art, literature, etc. This was when the rest of the world, particularly the west, was experiencing dark ages. This golden era for humanity led by Muslims illuminated the dark worlds of those left behind.
However, since the fall of Muslim Spain and persecution of the Spanish Inquisition by Christian fanatic Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand, the Muslim world has plunged deeper and deeper into an abyss. There are various reasons for this downfall and historians have written detailed accounts covering various aspects. One key element has been the disassociation with research and development. A nation whose beginning was with “Iqra” meaning “Read” ignored the importance of seeking knowledge. The order to seek knowledge from mothers’ lap to grave (signifying importance of knowledge) got lost in the disillusionment with the vitality of knowledge. The carriers of the legacy of personalities like Al-Beruni, who was seeking knowledge even on his death-bed, left seeking knowledge at the bottom of its priority list. It is not surprising then that the nations which took over the legacy of research and development to seek knowledge had been bestowed with ruling the world.
One key aspect of the knowledge based culture of these developed nations has been the development of independent and high-standard think-tanks. These think tanks vary by ideological perspectives, sources of funding, topical emphasis and prospective consumers. In developed countries, not only governments but corporate sectors also fund think tanks. Their importance is realised to such an extent that many countries allow tax-exemptions to these institutions in addition to other incentives to promote a culture of research and knowledge seeking.
One key aspect of the knowledge based culture of these developed nations has been the development of independent and high-standard think-tanks.
Pakistan, like the rest of the Muslim world, has lagged behind in this area. Unfortunately the culture of research has not been properly developed in Pakistan. The value of research and development is highly under-rated if realised at all in the circles making key decisions. As if that was not enough, the few think-tanks that do exist are mostly handicapped by their patronage’s interests, mostly foreign. Their limitations due to foreign funding or from sources with vested interests result in questionable reputes.
It was against this backdrop and keeping the importance of independent think-tanks to the development of a nation in view, I along-with some key people sharing the thought, started working towards addressing the situation by taking some positive actions. After deliberations, it was decided that a step in the right direction would be the formation of an independent think-tank, aspiring to international standards.
A team lead by Mr Zaheer Ahmad Meer (chairman professionals’ social network and senior advocate) and comprising Mian Khalid Habib Elahi (advocate supreme court and ex-deputy attorney general), Mr Omer Meer (chairman liaison committee LTBA, qualified FCA & certified anti-money laundering specialist), and Mr Wajih Ur Rehman (agriculturalist and social worker), worked day and night to turn this dream of the first totally independent and international-standard think-tank of entire Muslim world in Pakistan into a reality.
This led to the formation of the phenomenon called Millat Thinkers’ forum (MTF). The mission statement of Millat Thinkers’ forum (MTF) is Diagnose (the issues), Deliberate (on the different aspects and complexities) and Decode (to understand and recommend/develop a solution). These traits have been lacking and highly required not only in Pakistan but the entire Muslim world.
The few think-tanks that do exist are mostly handicapped by their patronage’s interests, mostly foreign.
Millat Thinkers’ Forum‘s model involves quality research by a highly competent team followed by monthly events where the best brains of the country are brought together to provide inputs. Finalised reports then form the basis of MTF’s recommendations and sent to concerned departments. Its membership is focused on high quality induction to ensure accomplishment of the objective of meeting international standards. The members include top professionals, successful businessmen, scholars, media personalities, parliamentarians, social workers, academics, research scholars, students, etc.
MTF has been working informally for some time and has even assisted some policy makers during this time. Information related to Millat Thinkers’ Forum including event information, pictures, videos, research and even finalized reports are now shared on Millat-Facebook (www.MyMFB.com), the largest social network ever by Muslims. However, growing demands and a desire to institutionalise led to the formal inauguration in Lahore.
The keynote presentation covered the topic of “ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham/Levant): Implications for Pakistan and the way forward, followed by contributions from distinguished attendees.
Many dignitaries including Mr Hamid Khan, Mr Asad Umar and Sardar Asif Ahmad Ali moved their engagements to attend the event. Honorable Dr AQ Khan sent his felicitation message for Millat Thinkers’ Forum in which he appreciated the endeavour and urged to continue the good work. Patrons Zaheer Ahmad Meer and Mian Khalid Habib Elahi shared the importance of research and reasons for formation of the forum. Asad Umar pledged his support saying that this forum has the potential to become the best contribution to changing the fortunes of the nation.
Overall the event was an astounding success and all dignitaries not only pledged their support but appreciated the high quality of the research, attendees and management. The keynote presentation on ISIS was particularly praised.