Rising Leaders in Washington Spotlight Kashmir Struggle & Quake Havoc


Dr. Fai (above left) and other speakers at the Rising Leader’s meeting

Washington, DC: On October 27, 2005, Rising Leaders marked the 58th Anniversary of Kashmir Black Day in Rayburn House Office Building. Students, legislative staffers, and young professionals, Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike, attended the event to promote understanding and awareness about an issue that is too often neglected by the international community. Although October 27 is traditionally a day of recognition for the Kashmiri struggle and the plight of a people divided, Kashmir Day 2005 also focused on the devastation of the October 8 earthquake that literally shook northern Pakistan and Kashmir.
Fauzia Tariq, Executive Director of Rising Leaders, opened up the program by welcoming the guests and speakers and reminiscing over the beginnings of this now rapidly growing organization. She spoke of the concept of a politically informed and active Pakistani-American community as a dream for a few exceptional students and young professionals based in Washington and how this dream has manifested into a nationwide reality in merely a year with the birth of Rising Leaders. Furhan Shah and Azmat Khan, who are currently interning with Rising Leaders, also expanded on the mission of the organization and its current fundraising activities, which have raised over $175,000 dollars for the President’s Earthquake Relief Fund. This is the largest amount raised by any community organization for the President’s Relief Fund.
The first speaker for the evening was Osman Ashai, a sophomore at Georgetown University who was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. Through a collection of pictures taken from a recent trip to Kashmir, Osman was able to carry the audience across the Atlantic to the land that will forever be known as “Paradise on Earth”. By relating personal accounts and encounters, he was able to tell the story of a peace-loving people in a land of turmoil. Osman emphasized that although the people appeared simple and humble, Kashmir boasts one of the highest literacy rates in South Asia.
Osman really brought the Kashmiri struggle home when he told the audience that his own family is divided between Azad Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir. Osman’s candid presentation left the audience with the image of a beautiful land and humble people that is rarely portrayed in mainstream media.
The second presentation was by Sadia Sindhu, who is currently a freshman at Georgetown University. Sadia spoke on the recent quake that shook her hometown of Muzaffarabad and left behind over 50,000 dead and millions homeless. Sadia’s photographic montage displayed images of the destruction, pain, and helplessness that were experienced by people all over Kashmir and Pakistan. The images provided the visuals that were needed to close the gap of understanding and realize the gravity of this tragedy. Sadia also spoke of her own family’s devastating experience with the earthquake.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, President of the Kashmiri-American Council, closed the evening with remarks on the historical struggle of Kashmir and the most recent adversity it has had to face. Dr. Fai stated that although the damage caused by the earthquake is unimaginable, the Government of Pakistan, with the support of Pakistanis worldwide, has been a blessing for the people of Kashmir.
Dr. Fai reminded the audience that Kashmir Black Day, October 27, is the day that marks the start of the Kashmiri struggle; it is the day that the Indian forces invaded Kashmir. He spoke of UN resolutions that recognize that Kashmir was a disputed territory and should be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Dr. Fai stated that although the peace process and bus service from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar is “a dream come true” for many divided Kashmiri families, it should not mask the fact that thousands have already lost their lives and are still dying because the Kashmir issue has yet to be resolved.
Dr. Fai concluded the evening by thanking Rising Leaders and all those in attendance. He encouraged the audience to donate to earthquake relief efforts and to advocate for a more aggressive peace process in Kashmir.

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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