One of the key factors why Muslim strength is not reflective of its size is that much of the energy of its upper-crust is squandered on chasing VIPs. Amongst the circle of courtiers, perhaps none is so ubiquitous and omnipresent than that which may be characterised as the 'VIP-hunter'. This breed has an uncanny knack of courting and cultivating power. The VIP-hunter chooses to bet on whosoever is in power, poised to assume power, or with the potential to take power. Without shame, he pursues his game, stalking those with fame. A sociologist can write a PhD dissertation on these carpetbaggers who constantly keep cropping up on the national scene. The same recycled faces keep resurfacing. It is one constant in a ruthlessly shifting landscape. The VIP-hunters are a byproduct and beneficiary of a culture where recommendation often becomes the sole qualification. Invariably, the VIP-hunters justify their loyalty-switching activities under the camouflage of patriotism. The question to ask is: does VIP-hunting really matter? It does matter and it matters to those who teach and who have been taught to believe that honesty and hard work ought to bring its own meritorious recognition, only to find themselves banging against the doors of a closed system which, at the expense of the many, visibly benefits the few with fewer scruples. Abroad, too, the breed continues to flourish. Its modus operandi, in substance, remains the same: wining and dining with celebrities, seeking photo opportunities with top officialdom, and selling to visiting government delegations access to so-called "power brokers", with a view toward onward encashment in Pakistan. Some go to the extent of enthusiastically wooing Israel. The primary impulse, once again, comes less out of ideological conviction and more from the anticipated rewards through the appeasement of a powerful group. If only similar zeal were shown on the Kashmir cause. By itself, VIP-chasing would be relatively innocuous. But hardly so, given the existing conditions in Pakistan, and the severity of the challenge confronting Muslims in the West. Such supplicant behaviour suppresses and deflects attention away from the serious and more bona fide task of uplifting and building the community and giving confidence and direction to Muslim youth, nursing the scars of dual cultures. The VIP-hunter has no qibla - which makes it a lot easier to bow before the false gods of Power and Privilege. VIP-hunters come in many colours; but the common denominator and agenda remain the same: pandering to the powerful, penalising the powerless. A sense of principle is seen as romantic excess baggage, a load, therefore, to be shed in the pragmatic compulsion to see and be seen with those promising quick benefits. To ascertain the true character of the VIP-hunter, it would be instructive to examine past record on issues requiring a bold stance. Overlooked in the pursuit of advantage and easy opportunity is recognition of the damage done and the casualties caused. VIP-hunting is a form of idolatry which undermines inspiration, debases self-esteem, and perpetuates the cycle of subservience by seeking false security under the umbrella of dependency. For their part, VIP-hunters are prone to proudly parade the "trophies" obtained through short-cuts and back-door manoeuvres. But, more significantly, by doing so, they send a message both to society at large and to those plodding on the straight path that perhaps there is little virtue in legitimate effort. It is difficult to motivate the youth to chart a nobler route through toil and sweat when it frequently witnesses venality overtake integrity. The very nature of VIP-hunting leads many to ignore that, in the final analysis, it is the average person who is the rock upon which a decent society with human dignity values can be built and who, in reality, is the genuine VIP. The writer is a senior political analyst and barrister-at-law