Rise for Pakistan
By Dr Shahnaz Khan
Philosophers and thinkers, through the ages, have debated and discussed issues of social, political and economic justice and even though no society in history has yet achieved this ideal, this has not deterred people from dreaming about and striving for. Rise for Pakistan is an effort in this direction. It is very distressing for many of us to watch the fundamental principle of equality and egalitarianism violated in Pakistan in particular and the world in general. Over the past several decades poverty levels in Pakistan seem to have increased and the difference between the rich and the poor has widened. A country founded on a promise of a bright tomorrow has not brought much except dark days and darker nights for the majority.
Many individuals and organizations are attempting to bring about improvement in the situation through offering free education, healthcare, micro-credit and skills training programs in the hope to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. There are well intentioned individuals, small local charities, and international NGOs with the agenda of improving the lot of the poor. Enormous amount of money and other resources are being poured into this black hole of a problem. However, in spite of all the micro-credit and vocational training program, poverty levels have actually worsened; in spite of free food distribution by generous philanthropists the problem of hunger stays unsolved; in spite of many charitable clinics and hospitals the burden of disease and death for the poor remains unaltered; in spite of gazillions of educational NGOs majority of the nation’s children don’t have access to education. These are just some examples to prove that charity and NGOs are not the solution to systematic, structural, and institutional problems of the country. The root cause lies somewhere else.
We believe that the underlying cause of many of the problems in the country is that a few people control all means of production like land, natural resources and factories. There is a close web of these people who get elected to political offices, get appointed to important posts, have access to financial systems, control the media, manipulate legal system in their favor, control the army, get all government contracts, have access to all licensing authorities to expand their businesses and control the legislative process, thus effectively blocking any laws against their interests. Their children, born with a silver spoon, go to the elite schools, are educated abroad, get cutting edge training and then come back to rule the poor and exploit the wretched of the country. While the children of the poor are born to malnourished mothers, have stunted physical and intellectual growth, bare minimum access to education and are lucky to find a job when they grow up. This vicious cycle gets repeated through generations.
We believe unless this cycle is broken, no amount of charity and reformism can change anything. The solution lies in a complete restructuring of the current system, replacing it with a more egalitarian one. The fundamental change has to be in how the economic resources are owned and distributed.
Rise for Pakistan was initiated with this background in mind. We believe that the change has to come from within. Unless people themselves develop consciousness about their rights and their powers and are willing to take action, things will not change. Unfortunately, the ruling elite have made life so difficult for the poor that they neither have the time nor energy to think about these issues.
The organization was founded on the fundamental principle that all human beings are equal, regardless of race, religion, nationalism, ethnicity or such other differences; but equality is just an empty word unless there is equality of opportunity and access to resources. This equality is a fundamental human right. However, the lesson learnt from history, whether it was civil rights movement, labor movement or women’s suffrage, is that rights are not granted because of the goodwill of those wielding power but have to be demanded, fought for and seized.
The goal of RFP is to raise socio-political consciousness of people and promote activism to facilitate a mass movement of all the oppressed segments of society so that they can demand, fight for, and obtain what is rightfully theirs. In order for people to accomplish this they have to have political consciousness, a sense of empowerment, organizational skills, and discipline. Rise for Pakistan is working in three dimensions at this time: students/youth, workers/peasants, and general public. To build momentum, we have set up a membership based organization, International Youth Movement, which is open to all regardless of age. Rise for Pakistan is a not for profit 501 c 3 organization in the USA. It is also registered in Pakistan. Jawad Ahmad, the well known musician and singer, chairs the organization in Pakistan.
For more information please visit www.riseforpakistan.org . We also invite you to like our face book page.
(Dr Shahnaz Khan is a practicing physician in Florida. She is a founding member of Rise for Pakistan. Her articles are published in some Pakistani newspapers also. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)