Khush Bakht Shujat Visits San Francisco Bay Area
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Pictures above: Glimpses of Khush Bakht Shujat’s address in the San Francisco Bay Area
Khush Bakht Shujat, popular TV anchor-turned-politician and now an MNA, feels that the current ‘war on terror’ has affected all sections of Pakistani society but poses no threat to the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. She strongly rules out any threat of the Army overthrowing the present government since it was busy in the ‘war or terror.’
Khush Bakht Shujat, who visited the San Francisco Bay Area recently, was addressing a community gathering at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark.
On the current political and security situation in Pakistan, Khush Bakht Shujat said that overseas Pakistanis are more concerned about the situation than the people living in Pakistan. The reason: “You get information from the electronic media which often dramatizes the situation that causes distress, unease and anxiety.” She said that the media, which was unfettered by General Parwez Musharraf, was playing an important role in public awareness but sometimes it created a stir and a great deal of commotion.
Enumerating the political ills of the country, Khukh Bakht said that feudalism is the biggest problem of Pakistan. She said that unless the middle class and poor class people are elected to the parliament there is no hope of breaking the domination of the feudal lords in the politics of Pakistan.
She went on to say that the MQM is the only political party that provides opportunities to the middle and working class people. She disclosed that “all of its 25 members in the National Assembly belong to the middle and lower class. They are well educated and include doctors, lawyers and other professionals.” She elaborated that the MQM believes in the empowerment of all people.
Khukh Bakht said that the MQM can claim to be the only well organized party that maintains a constant contact with the people at the grassroots level. “Our MNAs and MPAs are required to visit their constituencies in order to help resolve the problems of the people. We have to post regularly our party leadership about our activities in our constituencies.”
On the target killings in Karachi, Khush Bakht was of the view that these killings were aimed at destabilizing the city which was the economic hub of Pakistan. She said it was not clear who was behind these killings but the objective was to halt the economic activities of the metropolis. She said whenever there was a reconciliation between the MQM, ANP and PML, there was a sudden escalation in the target killings.
She chose to contest elections against a seasoned politician, Mirza Ikhtiar Baig of the PPPP, instead of opting for the safer reserved-for-women seats. Khush Bakht had in fact initially been nominated for a reserved seat but did not feel comfortable about it. “I was offered a nominated seat but I told the MQM leader Altaf Bhai that I will prefer a contested seat.” She defeated her main opponent with a significant margin.
She was against mid-term elections. Khush Bakht Shujat said that the present government came into power through fair elections and it should complete its five-year mandated term to strengthen the democratic process. She added that no major political party of the country was in favor of mid- term elections with the exception of Jamat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf. Ironically, both the parties had boycotted the 2008 general elections.
Khush Bakht appeared manifestly optimistic about the future of Pakistan which has a large youth population. According to UN statistics, Pakistan has a large population that can be categorized within the UN’s definition of youth. An estimated 103 million Pakistanis, or 63% of the population, are under the age of 25 years. The UN defines ‘youth’ as people between the ages of 15 and 24 years.
Khush Bakht Shujat the youth population has to be educated and trained properly to play its effective and positive role in society. Alarmingly, as a result of endemic poverty, the majority of youth in Pakistan do not have the opportunity to experience a childhood. Youth Literacy Rate (age 15/24) is estimated to be 53%. Female youth literacy (age 15-24) conforming to the wider pattern in Pakistan, is even lower at 42.0%. Tellingly, the UN has declared August 2010 to 2011 as International Year of Youth.
Responding to a question from the audience, she said the MQM leader Altaf Hussain may meet the fate of Benazir Bhutto if he were to return to Pakistan. She added that Benazir was advised by her party leaders/workers not to return to Pakistan but she came back against their wish. Khush Bakht said the MQM workers have advised Altaf Husain not to return because there is a threat to his life.
At the end of the question-and-answer session, Khush Bakht Shujat thanked the community for arranging the gathering, particularly Syed Sarwat, owner of the Chandni Restaurant for his hospitality.
Earlier, Firdous Kamran, a prominent SF Bay Area activist, introduced Khush Bakht Shujat who is one of the 13 women to have won a place on the general seats in the National Assembly during the 2008 elections. She has made a transition from television to education to politics over the years. She had been awarded “Pride of Performance” for her TV work.
Born in Bhopal, India and raised in Karachi, Khush Bakht is now devoting most of her time and efforts as the Principal of the Kids University, for grooming of children and providing quality education in Pakistan. She is a Director of HAM TV network and chairperson of Qalam Dost, a literary organization. Khush Bakht has served as the first woman Vice President of the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
She did her masters in Journalism and Mass Communications in 1973 from the University of Karachi.