Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Three months of Rotary Peace Fellowship were an amazing journey to diversified cultures, different paradigms of knowledge, phases of human emotions and rational critical thinking. It was an effort to fade away the sense of “Us vs Them” by sharing stories and communicating perceptions. Various group activities taught us to accommodate each other and give value to the group thinking. After interacting with my fellow Rotary Peace Fellows I strongly felt that we all are suffering from single story conceptions, especially me being a Pakistani. Initially people (Rotary members and Peace Fellows) were judgmental but later on they expressed curiosity to know about my country. People used to ask me why I am not covering my head? How I am feeling about going back to Pakistan? I was even asked if we have air conditioners in Pakistan. Some fellows admitted that their images about Pakistan have been challenged during these three months.
Therefore I would like to share the Pakistan which has not been propagated by popular media. Pakistan is the 6th largest nation of the world. It is a beautiful land of sufi saints, brave, hardworking, kind hearted people, progressive poets and writers and rich history. Pakistan has one of the oldest great Indus civilization. It has Texila, the capital of the first Buddhist state in the world and “Julian,” the first Buddhist University. Pakistan holds four out of fourteen of the world’s highest peaks including K2, the second highest mountain in the world. The Indus River, the largest river of Pakistan, has blind dolphins. Pakistan has the Khyber Pass, from where the sub-continent was invaded seventy times throughout its history.
Pakistan is the land of the famous Pathan (Pukhtoon) philosopher, Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan, known as Bacha Khan, who is the first proponent of non-violence in South Asia (Gandhi was inspired by him). Pakistan, has sacrificed the maximum number of individuals in the War against Terrorism, while standing against the evil designs of radical forces. Ironically what the world community knows is “Pakistan is a dangerous place.” This reminds me of what Miki Jacevic said in the class, “Pakistan is the most misjudged and misrepresented country in the media.” “Dangerous” is only one indicator of a deteriorating law and order situation but there are several shinning points which are much more vibrant, dominant and long lasting than violence.
Youth makes the future worth living. Pakistan has 85 million youth out of the total population of 170 million. I would like to introduce you with the liberal, intelligent, smart and brave youth. For example, Late Arfa Kareem received the Microsoft certification when she was 9 years old and become the youngest to ever receive this certificate. Arif Ayub, aged 23, was labeled as one of the Asia’s “Best under 25 Entreprenuers” by the leading Business Week. Ali Moeen Nawazish set a world record of securing 22 A’s in A’ level. Ibrahim Shahid set a record of having straight 23 A’s in O-level. Ravender Lal, received the IEEE LARY K WILSON award for his outstanding contributions. Sitara Akbar at the age of 11 has set the new world record in O-Level by passing six subjects. Moosa Firoz holds the first position in International World Maths Day competition. She competed with 5.5 million students from 52,805 schools from 200 countries. Moosa Firoz was ranked at number 1 in the 11 to 13 year old age group. Dr. Hina Siddiqui won the best “Oral Presentation Award” in the 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences where over 200 scientists from 69 countries delivered their presentations. Imran Qureshi, a miniature artist, was named ‘Artist of the Year 2013’ by the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is an Emmy and Oscar award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker for her documentary “Saving Face” in 2012. Malala Yousafzai has earned international fame and recognition for raising her voice against Talibanisation and in favour of girls’ education. TIME magazine voted her the second most influential person in the world, right after the United States’ President Obama, in their annual list for 2012. Furthermore, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon announced that November 10 (the day she was shot) be named as ‘Malala Day‘. She has also addressed the UN General Assembly. Abdul Sattar Edhi of the Edhi Foundation runs the world’s largest ambulance service and operates free nursing homes, orphanages, clinics, women’s shelters, and rehab centers for drug addicts and mentally ill individuals. The foundation has run relief operations in Africa, Middle East, the Caucasus region, Eastern Europe and the US where it provided aid following the New Orleans hurricane of 2005.
Pakistanis are fond of sports. Imran Khan was Pakistan’s most successful cricket captain, leading his country to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, playing for the Pakistani cricket team from 1971 to 1992, and serving as its captain intermittently throughout 1982–1992. Waseem Akram had taken a world record of 502 wickets in 356 One Day international appearances. Jahangir Khan, the legend of squash, has the world record of being unbeaten for 5 years and 8 months; winning 555 consecutive matches.
Pakistan’s army is a force that has long been standing against radicalization and terrorism. It has won a gold medal for having the toughest soldiers capable of patrolling in the most difficult conditions in an event organized by the British Army in 2010 for world militaries. Pakistan Army cadet Asad Mushtaq was awarded the prestigious “Sword of Honour” for overseas cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), in England on August 9, 2013.
Pakistan has the world’s largest irrigation system, largest deep sea port, Gawadar, highest paved international road, The Karakoram Highway, Khewra salt mine, the second largest salt mine in the world, and world’s highest polo ground. Pakistan has the second largest gas infrastructure in the world and despite being the most dangerous country for journalists it has one of the most independent media in the world. It possesses an outstanding road network and the fastest growing telecoms network. Pakistan has joined the aerospace club by producing its own aircraft as well as submarines. Pakistanis ranked as the 4th most intelligent people across the world and Pakistan has the 7th largest pool of scientists and engineers in the world. The country is ranked 9th in the world where the English language is spoken and used as an official language. It has Asia’s highest railway station Kan Mehtarzai that is located 2240 meters above sea level near Quetta. A lake in Pakistan, “Haleji,” is Asia’s largest waterfowl reserve. Pakistan has ranked 16th among 151 countries of the world on the Happy Planet Index (HPI).
In the year 2000, a study by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) discovered that twice as much money was contributed annually by private philanthropy in Pakistan as the then total foreign assistance. In 2006, ‘Pakistanis in America: Portrait of a Giving Community’ estimated that giving and volunteerism by the Pakistani diaspora in the US is worth more than a billion US dollars. It is encouraging that there is a palpable desire and demand for education in Pakistan especially amongst the lower-middle class and the poor. Pakistanis are incessantly and incurably obsessed with Pakistan. This reflects in their discussions, debates and deliberations. Pakistanis are great admirers of democracy despite all its ills. This is one of the reasons that in 2013 the transition of power was swift and smooth between two democratic governments, after completion of their democratic tenure.
Pakistanis are lauded for being hardy and resilient as well as practical and pragmatic. The world may applaud the brave Pakistani nation that gets up in the morning after a bomb blast, goes to work, thinks optimistically about their future even after battling corruption, hopelessness, radicalism, narrow-mindedness, bad governance, and injustice on a daily basis while managing to retain a semblance of faith and, as the index indicates, still they manage to remain happy.
Asma Shakir, Pakistan
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session