National PSA & Rising Leaders
Fall 2004 Conference
By Adnan Tahir
Washington, DC: The Pakistani-American
youth organizations - Rising Leaders and the National Pakistani
Students Association - organized their Fall 2004 Conference
at the Embassy of Pakistan, Washington DC, on November 20-21,
Rising Leaders is a professionally managed organization
that operates at Capitol Hill and is a joint venture of
the Pakistani-American youth and the Embassy. The National
PSA was also established by the Embassy and brought together
on one platform chapters of the Pakistani Students Association
operating in major university campuses across the US.
L to R:Ambassodor Jehangir Karamat,DCM
Sadiq and Dr.Akbar Ahmad
The theme of the conference
was “Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s
Challenges.” It featured panel discussions, presentations,
leadership workshops, etc. Prominent Pakistani professionals
such as Mr. Shahid Javed Burki, former Finance Minister
of Pakistan; Ms. Bapsi Sidwa, renowned novelist and author;
Dr. Akbar S. Ahmad, Ibn Khaldum Chair of Islamic Studies,
American University; Mr. Shahid Hussain, former Advisor
on Finance to the Government of Pakistan; and Mr. Mowahid
Hussain Shah, Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab, author and
political analyst were among the speakers at the conference.
The main highlight of the day was a banquet hosted by Ambassador
Jehangir Keramat for the delegates during which he also
delivered his first address in the US as Ambassador of Pakistan.
After the inauguration of the conference and a brief ice-breaking
session, a Professionals Panel began its deliberations.
The theme was “Politics is not just for Politicians.”
The participants included Dr. Akbar S. Ahmad, (academic),
Ms. Bapsi Sidwa (author), Mr. Shahid Hussain (economist),
Dr. Rafiq Rahman (physician), Mr. Tariq Khan (engineer)
and Mr. Haroon Khan (lobbyist). The speakers called upon
the young audience to become more involved in the American
political system because the present was a time of great
challenges and great opportunities. They called upon them
to learn m ore about their faith, their religion and cultural
heritage in order to build a bridge between the East and
the West. Ms. Bapsi Sidhwa stated that politics came naturally
to all Pakistanis and in Pakistan they had a strong tradition
of dissent, particularly among the poets. The panelists
emphasized that it was the age of ideas and young Pakistani-Americans
could only become more effective by being more aware of
their rights and by participating in the politics of the
Sidhwa and Akbar Ahmad at the book signing
Another important presentation
of the day was “Kashmir: Paradise Lost.” Three
young Kashmiri Americans and former interns at DCM Sadiq’s
Office - Mr. Osman Ashai, Mr. Hyder Syed and Ms. Hafsa Kanjwal
- highlighted the plight of Kashmiris in the Indian Held
Kashmir. They had visited Indian Held Kashmir in summer
this year. Ms. Hafsa Kanjwal in her narrative focused on
the psychological and mental trauma endured by the courageous
women of Kashmir who have been the long suffering victims
of unending t ragedies unleashed upon them in the form of
rape, torture and murder. She, however, said that people
had pinned their hopes in the ongoing Pakistan-India dialogue,
and hoped that a solution to the problem would soon be found
so that the energies and resources of the people could be
diverted to their socio-economic uplift. Mr. Hyder Syed
dwelt at length on the harder political and factual side
of the issue, and highlighted the record of crackdowns,
checkpoints, curfews, human rights abuses and use of rape
as a weapon of war, torture and murder in Indian Held Kashmir.
Mr. Osman Ashai’s presentation included screening
of strikingly beautiful pictures he took during his visit
to Kashmir. The keynote speaker, Mr. Mowahid Husain Shah
(a regular columnist of Pakistan Link) said as a result
of his frequent interaction with the American academia he
felt that there was a “hunger” to know more
about Kashmir, to find out the causes of the dispute, and
to explore possibilities of a lasting solution. He called
upon the Pakistani-American community to seize the moment,
to be vigilant and to respond to the challenge in order
to educate the people of the true nature of the issue. He
emphasized that “facts, principles and law”
were all on the side of Kashmiris and it was imperative
for the Pakistani-American community to reach out and play
a positive role in the resolution of this dispute.
at the conference
The presentation on
Kashmir was followed by a debate on “Pakistani-Americans:
Leaning Left or Right.” The participants included
Mr. Faizan Haq, Secretary General of the Pakistani-American
Congress; Mr. Nasim Ansari, elected Kalamazoo County Commissioner;
Mr. Umair Khan, Congressional Staffer from “Muslims
for Kerry;” and Mr. Akir Khan Congressional Staffer
from “Muslims for Bush.” The participants debated
the policies of the Republican the Democratic parties.
Day one of the conference also featured readings by Ms.
Bapsi Sidwa and Dr. Akbar S. Ahmad form their books followed
by book signing.
In the evening, the Ambassador hosted a banquet for the
delegates. DCM Mr. Mohammad Sadiq introduced the Ambassador.
He referred to the Ambassador as a “distinguished
soldier”, “great scholar” and a “fine
human being”. Ambassador Keramat paid rich tributes
to the initiatives launched by the Embassy to benefit the
Pakistani community and particularly praised the DCM for
providing leadership to various community projects. He also
commended the Deputy Chief of Mission’s efforts in
involving the second generation Pakistani-Americans in various
initiatives launched by the Embassy.
Ambassador Karamat praised the leadership qualities of the
Pakistani-American community and emphasized that in the
globalized world countries flourished because of the strength
of their diasporas, and added that "Pakistani-Americans
could do a lot for Pakistan by being proud of their Pakistani
heritage.” He also praised the young generation for
their flexibility of thinking, energy, and analytical perspective,
and most importantly, their leadership skills. He noted
that the second generation Pakistani-Americans were incredibly
educated and talented, and had the skills required to interact
with and to integrate in the American society. He stated
that they represented the balance between the East and the
West and referred to the young generation as a bridge between
two different sets of tradition, history, culture and societies.
He hoped that the young generation would one day become
a part of the mainstream US political system as Governors,
Judges, Senators and Congressmen. Ambassador Keramat said
the United States needed people like the young Pakistani
Americans to be active in civil society and politics, and
stated that they should plan their future accordingly.
He stated that the Embassy of Pakistan had taken several
initiatives to help the community achieve its ambitions.
In the end, however, the Embassy could only be a catalyst
and the success or failure of these initiatives depended
on the involvement of the community.
Audience at the banquet
Day two of the conference
started with a number of Leadership Workshops which took
place simultaneously at the Embassy on topics such as Pubic
Speaking, Networking, and the Role of Literature in Politics.
This session was followed by a presentation on Pakistan’s
economy, “Issues of Economic Disparity in Pakistan”.
The keynote speaker was Mr. Shahid Javed Burki who spoke
at length about the challenges faced by Pakistan in the
field of economy. The presentation was followed by a lively
DCM Mohammad Sadiq delivered a lecture on Pakistan-US relations.
He pointed out that relations between states were always
based in national interest. The relations could transform
with a change in national interest. Coincidence of national
interests provided an opportunity to establish the relationship
between Pakistan and the US on firmer foundation. He said
Pakistan was an import ant country for both the Democrats
and the Republicans. Talking about the war on terror, he
emphasized that the US needed to pay attention to dealing
with the root causes of terrorism that included disputes
of Kashmir and Palestine. Resolution of these disputes will
bring about a major change in the situation.
Commenting on the domestic situation in Pakistan, Mr. Sadiq
stated that five important developments had taken place
in Pakistan in recent years: women had gained unprecedented
representation in electoral politics at all levels; Pakistan’s
economy had been transformed; defense expenditure had been
reduced as a percentage of GDP; a media explosion had brought
about a new awareness in the society; and Pakistan’s
relations with all its neighbors and major powers had improved.
He acknowledged that the system was not perfect; however,
a start had been made and now needed to keep up the momentum
and to concentrate on improving the lot of common people.
Mr. Sadiq’s lecture was followed by the last panel
discussion of the two-day conference. The Professional Pakistani
Women’s panel comprised Ms. Bapsi Sidwa, Ms. Alfreda
Gill, an educationist and Ms. Nayyera Haq, a Congressional
staffer. The topic was “Breaking the Glass Ceiling
of Culture and Society.” The panelists spoke at length
about their varied experiences in their field of professional
expertise and underlined the need for a greater participation
of women in all walks of life.
The conference ended with a debriefing session by Mr. Sadiq.
The next Youth conference is scheduled to be held in Los
Angeles in January 2005 that will be followed by a conferences
in Houston and New York.