Archive | March, 2013

What It Means to Be Pakistani

31 Mar

We’ve all heard the comments, some made for the sake of humour whilst others are more serious. We’re a controversial nation, with the minority of violent extremists trying their best to defame the entire populous of more than 170 million. The international community wonders, “If these aren’t their representatives, who are? Is it the corrupt and failing government? The cricketer turned politician leading under a banner for change and a new Pakistan? Is it the group of extremists that targeted polio workers?” It may seem a little tricky to state our identity in a clear, eloquent sentence, let alone a single word, especially considering the identity crisis we’ve been both the perpetrators and victims of for longer than I can remember. So who are we? What does it really mean to be Pakistani?

We’re a nation that has been exploited in the past by a combination of self-serving leaders backed by external powers with their strategic interests that have always been diametrically opposed to ours. We’re a nation that has not had the opportunity to give its youth hope of a better future, due to the lack of education and awareness that plagues our society. We’re a nation that pinned its hopes on the Bhuttos, Sharifs and even the odd military dictator, who shouted the slogans for change and prosperity but never fulfilled those promises when time came to deliver. We’re a nation that has failed to eradicate polio which will cripple future generations of potential that could have led Pakistan somewhere. This paints a dismal picture, but is the unfortunate reality. However, as with all stories, Pakistan is a country where there are two very contrasting stories.

Pakistan is the country that developed an economic plan adopted by countries like Malaysia, which stand where they are today due to the foundation those policies established. Our country is that country which took in an influx of Afghan refugees when our neighbouring country (historically always hostile towards us) was engulfed by conflict. We are the nation that produced genius in the form of Dr. Abdus Salam and Dr. AQ Khan (to name a few), sporting legends like Imran Khan, Aisam-ul-Haq, music gurus inclusive of but not limited to Nusrat Fateh Ali and Noor Jehan. We are also one of the biggest contributors to the UN’s blue beret peace-keeping missions. Pakistan is a country that has institutions like Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital that pose as examples in the international arena of what determination and commitment to fight against a disease like cancer can achieve. We come together in times of disaster, like no other country I have ever seen in the world. We rush to sites of bomb blasts to help possible survivors. We rush to help an old man cross the road because our culture teaches us to respect and give back to our elders and live as a community that helps the less able make the most of what they have.

Pakistan has natural resources any other country in the world would have exploited and used to benefit the economy. We have mountains like K2 and natural beauty in the form of valleys (Swat Valley to name one), rivers and plains. We have youth that wants to develop and learn but have never been given the opportunity, whilst the elite use their heaps of cash to acquire fancy degrees and never come back to their soil. Where does a country like Pakistan go from here; an economy that gets worse on a daily basis, a society in the midst of an identity crisis, engulfed in violence and bloodshed caused due to the hatred spread by a few? The truth is there is no single solution to Pakistan’s problems, but the answer lies in the belief that we can only move forward from here. We may have hit rock bottom, which leaves us with nothing to lose. We have to unite as a society, Muslims and non-Muslims side by side, struggling to achieve Jinnah’s Pakistan that is nowhere to be seen. It isn’t just about casting a vote or supporting a political party – it is about giving back and spreading awareness however you can. Those who have the means have a duty to their soil – a duty to educate those who have not had the same opportunities as them. If we are lucky enough to study abroad, it is our duty to make the most of our degree for our country and for those who deserve to be where we are but were left behind because they couldn’t afford it. If we are lucky enough to have parents that have supported us throughout our lives, emotionally and financially, it is our duty to stand by those young boys and girls who are the victims of domestic abuse in Pakistan. If our families are big political players, it is our duty to encourage those with lesser means such as Badam Zari (the first female from FATA to file nomination papers to contest the 2013 elections) in their struggle for a better and more equal Pakistan.

We must give back to Pakistan every day, in whatever capacity, to ensure our country does not suffer at the hands of another Asif Ali Zardari. We must end the tradition of dynastic politics where feudal lords hold a gun upto a farmer’s head and get a vote in the ballot box. We cannot sit silently and watch our brothers and sisters in the tribal belt murdered in cold blood by the US government and their drone attacks. We must ensure that when we see or hear hatred being spread against minorities, we stand up against this injustice. When we choose to turn a blind eye to our surroundings that is when we lose sight of what truly matters. So, stand up and be counted before you’re on the not-so-pleasant end of the spectrum where more than half our population is forced to stay till we get our acts together and move forward. 

EXCLUSIVE: Shireen Mazari in PTI – Press Statement

18 Mar

 

 18 March 2013

PRESS STATEMENT

Just as I had left PTI on 25th September with a heavy heart so today I am rejoining the Party with a clear mind and a commitment to the vision of change for a Naya Pakistan that has gained a new momentum with the intra party elections. In my resignation letter I had raised a number of issues relating to the Party but somehow at the juncture the country is in right now, there is a greater task to be tackled – that is rescuing our beloved Pakistan from the looters and criminals in the garb of political leader. In this context, as I had stated to Khan in my resignation letter, I had never doubted his integrity or commitment, so it is this that has brought me back into the Party.

 

While everything may not be as one wishes it to be, the intra-party elections with all their glitches have provided for a culture of democracy within the Party which will improve with each election the Party goes through. What has been the most positive part of these elections has been the resurgence of the old ideological workers in the form of electoral success in most instances, albeit not all. But which other Party has moved even an iota towards having such extensive intra-party polls with all members voting. I still hope that eventually it will not be a pyramid voting structure but that all members will vote directly for their top tier leadership.

 

My misgiving that big money was taking over the party has been set aside in the wake of the intra party elections and the commitment of the youth and ideological workers of the Party. In fact, the youth and old ideological workers of the Party kept my faith going in PTI even while I was out of it. And today they are mainly responsible for my coming back to the Party. In retrospect I feel I should not have gone public with my misgivings and should have dealt with it within the party.

 

I did some harsh criticism of the Party but on policy issues and refrained from any personal abuse or criticism of Khan as his credentials were never in doubt. In that context, I stand by the position I had taken at the time on principles but I am glad on most counts the intra-party polls removed the misgivings/misperceptions. Also, despite my having left the Party I never sought to party hop simply because I did not see myself comfortable ideologically with any other political party. I had told Khan in my resignation letter that I would be there to serve the Party in any way because for me coming into electoral politics through PTI was simply to affect national agendas in a way that qualitatively changes Pakistan for the better. As the PTI leadership knows, I have continued to work with it on many issues even while remaining outside the Party. But it is time to be formally part of the PTI team again.

 

It is time to stand up and be counted. There is no room for any “me” or “I” if we are to collectively save our country. Faith in Khan’s commitment and integrity were always there but faith in one man is a starting point because the Party is defined by its collective leadership and the intra party elections plus the exit of many party hoppers has restored faith in the PTI’s collectivity for me.

 

The development of my neglected and underdeveloped area Rajanpur and its downtrodden people’s welfare, is very critical for me and I am hoping to bring Khan to the district to show people the difference between PTI and the traditional Tumandar-dominated political parties.

 

Things may never be perfect but we must unite to change the status quo and work towards constant improvement. So it is with a renewed dedication and commitment that I rejoin PTI.                                                                                             

 

Shireen M Mazari

 

A stupid remark too many

5 Mar

The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, has made US intentions, with regard to Pakistan, even clearer for those who needed a wake-up call. By stating that Pakistan should go through with the TAPI Pipeline Project Deal, Olson has proved not only that the US feels they are entitled to dictate our domestic affairs (as they have always done), but that they also have the authority to decide what countries Pakistan should pursue a more active foreign policy with. This clarifies another crucial point: Pakistan and the United States cannot call themselves strategic allies, with such differing views as to what is required in the region. While the US wants to build up a strong India to counter Chinese and Iranian influence in the region, it is in Pakistan’s best interests to pursue a friendship with the latter countries, which have always supported Pakistan, not just in monetary terms.

To even suggest that Pakistan should engage in the TAPI Pipeline Project shows US ignorance of our historical ties with Afghanistan and India. Afghanistan was the only Muslim country to vote against Pakistan’s admission into the United Nations. Despite this hostility, when the US waged war on their country, Pakistan took in thousands of Afghani refugees, with open arms. Their refugees then went on to be the root of the terrorism problem in Pakistan, which Karzai conveniently forgets when he makes statements regarding Pakistan’s “terrorism problem.” Meanwhile, India has been opening fire left, right and center on innocent Pakistani soldiers on the Line of Control, in addition to accusing us of supporting terrorists, conveniently forgetting Samjhota Express. Considering all this and more, I don’t understand how it’s possible for a supposed educated diplomat (who I’m sure is aware of these historical facts) to make such a ludicrous statement. What Olson forgets is that, while the US may exert ‘sufficient’ control over the ruling elite of Pakistan, they’re really pushing their luck with the rest of us. They bomb our Northern Areas and wonder why people want to enact revenge against the United States. They violate our sovereignty on a daily basis and wonder why there is widespread anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. You’d think they’d learn from Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and the numerous other countries in the world where they’ve already made these mistakes, but they never seem to learn.

The US threat of sanctions if we go through with the Pipeline Project shouldn’t be viewed as a reason not to go through with the project. It should be seen as an additional incentive to strengthen ties with Iran, so we can finally distance ourselves from the country that has exploited us for much longer than a decade now.