Two Great Conferences
By Kamran Shafi

I write this from St Louis, Missouri, where I am attending the yearly conclave of Pakistani-American medical doctors under the umbrella of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.

There are several organizations that operate as a part of APPNA, my host being the American Pakistani Physicians for Justice and Democracy. I was invited by Dr Mohammad Taqi, the last president of this body, and Dr Zahid Imran, the current president.

The seminar on the radicalization of Pakistan that I participated in, and in which Shehrbano Taseer was the star speaker, was jointly hosted by APPJD and the women’s wing of APPNA, whose president and president-elect, Dr Humeraa Qamar and Dr Shaheen Mian, did so well in conducting the seminar seamlessly. Senator Robert Casey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, stayed throughout the proceedings and came across as someone who understood the region and the tamasha going on in our part of the world.

Taqi, incidentally, writes incisively and eloquently about the present tragedy of the half-fought war on terror and the immense heartbreak being faced by the people of Pakistan and of his beloved Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the Taliban now resurgent with the announcement of the impending American withdrawal from the region. He has for long sensitized people on what is going on in Fata, particularly Kurram, and the unholy shenanigans of the Deep State in its mad quest for the domination of Afghanistan.

This was the first time that I saw young Shehrbano and was most impressed by her humility and soft-spoken assurance. She is a brave girl and spoke most movingly about her father’s savage murder by his own bodyguard, the radicalization of Pakistan, and how those who should be checking the scourge are mindlessly ignoring it and letting it grow to monstrous proportions.

Indeed, what could be a more damning example of the extent of the malaise than the questioning Salmaan Taseer’s son Shehryar was subjected to just the other day during a hearing of his father’s murder case?

What one would immediately like to ask is why this line of questioning was even allowed. What does Mr Taseer’s drinking alcohol or not drinking alcohol have to do with the fact that he was shot dead by his own guard while six others stood around watching? What do his marriages have to do with the fact that the sitting governor of Pakistan’s largest province was brutally assassinated in broad daylight, and in the country’s capital, no less? What does his personal behavior have to do with the fact that a well-known cleric had called for him to be assassinated in a Friday sermon at which his assassin was present, and seen on film as being in a trance? When will the madness stop? Are you listening, My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry? I know you will agree with me that the line allowed the murderer’s lawyer by the court is beyond the pale.

But back to the seminar: it was interesting to hear Dr Fareeha Peracha tell us about Sabaoon, the de-programming of suicide bombers in Swat that was inaugurated by the army chief and which she now runs. I was quite mystified to note, however, that the very army that considers the militants its strategic assets is de-programming young terrorists programmed by its own assets in the first place. How does this work, please? If the army is even half-way serious, and if this is not just a PR exercise in which ISPR seems to be making great strides in the days after Abbottabad — such as encouraging films showing the army’s heroics — could it first announce that it no longer considers the Taliban its asset? I mean, this is mindless.

On the heels of the APPNA meeting in St Louis came the gathering of the Sindh Association of North America that my old friend Aziz Narejo was conducting in the same city, so off Taqi and I went to that august meeting too. It was great to see Sindhi intellectuals, professionals and businessmen standing up for their province’s rights and condemning those dark forces that would put down Sindhi nationalism. Our senior friend and guru Dr Manzoor Ejaz was there too, and set the precedent for Taqi and I to speak to the seminar in our own dialects of Punjabi and Hindko. I have to say with much pride that our Sindhi friends understood every word of what we spoke, their language being close to Seraiki.

Incidentally, I also quite fortunately made the acquaintance of the remarkable Dr S. Amjad Hussain, emeritus professor of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of Toledo, Ohio, and an op-ed columnist for the daily Toledo Blade. Dr Hussain has a great sense of humor and can keep you laughing until you get cramps. Like Taqi, he too is a Peshawari and speaks the local dialect as if he came to America just three days ago. He has published a book containing his articles and readers’ comments, which make for some very vivid, very unkind and also very warm-hearted reading.

A word or two about St Louis: it seems like a tired old city, but still genteel in many inner-city areas. The St Louis Cardinals baseball team has the city as its base, and its stadium (Busch) is located here too. The great Mississippi River also flows alongside the city, and gives the city a whole new look. All in all, it was a great trip. – Courtesy Dawn

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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