Warm Welcome for Visiting Officers of Pakistan Civil Service in San Francisco
A Pakistan Link Report
Dr Abdul Jabbar organized a meeting with a visiting delegation of senior officers of Civil Service of Pakistan. The venue was City College of San Francisco, California. The topic was US-Pakistan relations.
Qamar Zaman Khan, a prominent member of the Pakistani community in San Francisco Bay Area, welcomed the guests and invited Dr Jabbar to conduct the meeting. Dr Jabbar extended a warm welcome to the guests and started off with an entertaining story that sums up the nature of US-Pakistan relations: The fact-based story pertains to a couple’s litigation seeking divorce. Throughout the course of legal proceedings, they quarreled and quibbled with each other on every item. In conclusion, the judge decreed that he would refuse to grant divorce to that couple because they were equally abusive and deserved each other. That seems to be the fate of Pakistan-US relations. The two countries cannot be complete friends or enemies, given the strategically important geopolitical location of Pakistan, the US need of Pakistan’s help in keeping under control the anti-US elements in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas, and Pakistan’s need of a powerful ally like the US.
After a period of estrangement and mutual distrust, especially in relation to the handling of Osama bin Laden, the countries now seem poised to enter a phase of close cooperation both militarily and economically. The visit of the esteemed group of Pakistan’s high-ranking civil service officers and their exchanges with their American counterparts in the area of public policy formulation and implementation is just one manifestation of the close ties between the two countries. As long as America’s war on terror continues in that region, there will always be some bumps along the road, but, essentially, the two countries have placed their relationship on an even keel.
The head of the Pakistani delegation, Mr Muhammad Ismail Qureshi, who is the Rector of National School of Public Policy, gave an optimistic analysis of the recent developments in Pakistan. On the foremost problem of endemic terrorism that has plagued Pakistan for decades, Mr Qureshi stated that Pakistan has never been closer to the goal of ending this problem. The success of the ongoing operation against terrorism has stirred hope that Pakistan can once again earn the trust of local as well as foreign investors to shore up the country’s economy that is crucial to its political stability and societal health and welfare. Barring a few tragic episodes that crop up every now and then, life on the streets of Pakistan is once again becoming vibrant and full of hope, enterprise, and promise.
Mr Qureshi shared with the audience a very hopeful initiative that the Government of Pakistan has launched to end hate speech, sectarian, and interreligious violence. For violating the law against hate speech, a cleric was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Implementation of this law will put a stop to violent intolerance. Emphasizing pluralism and tolerance as the hallmark of civilized behavior, Pakistan’s government is now fully equipped to prosecute and punish the criminals.
While appreciating the attention that Pakistan is getting from China in solving Pakistan’s energy shortage and similar problems and expressing relief that the US has endorsed this China-Pakistan deal, which envisages China’s spending $47 billion on Pakistan, Mr Qureshi stated that ultimately Pakistan has to be in charge of its own destiny. In spite of myriad problems during the last three decades, Pakistan’s growth rate of 5.1 % demonstrates that its economy has been able to stay abreast of India’s economy, a country that has enjoyed a relatively stable political system.
After Mr Qureshi’s presentation, Dr Jabbar invited several speakers. Mr George McCown and Mrs Talat Qadeer Khan, members of Central Asia Institute’s Board, spoke of the paramount need to promote education in Pakistan. They shared their stories of how they have helped this cause individually as well as in their capacities as members of the CAI Board. Central Asia Institute, co-founded by Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, is the same US charity that Dr Abdul Jabbar also served as a Board director for ten years, including three years as its Chair. This organization has opened over 100 schools in Pakistan and a similar number in Afghanistan in the two countries’ most underserved and remote regions.
Prof. Lauren Muller, Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at City College of San Francisco, spoke about her supportive role in getting approval and funding for several Pakistan-related courses, designed by Dr Abdul Jabbar and taught by him and other colleagues. Such courses include Current Issues in Pakistan and India, Asian Humanities, Introduction to Islam, American Cultures in Literature and Film (which has a unit on Asian Americans). Commenting on Jabbar’s constructive role in Pakistan-US relations, Prof. Muller took the audience back to Dr Jabbar’s opening story and said: “There will be no divorce between the US and Pakistan because Dr Jabbar is here.”
Among others who spoke were Prof. Javaid Sayed, who teaches a course on the United Nations, and Prof. Moazzam Sheikh, who team-teaches several courses in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. On the potential US role as a problem solver, Prof. Sayed stressed the need to solve the menacing problem of Kashmir that has been the cause of three major wars between Pakistan and India. The US government can use its influence to persuade India to honor the UN Security Council Resolution of 1948. According to that Resolution, the people of Kashmir are to decide about their own future in a UN-monitored referendum. India has refused to honor that Resolution and, therefore, the problem continues to fester, making the people of occupied Kashmir live in utter misery under India’s military rule.
Prof. Sheikh expressed confidence in Pakistan’s ability to meet all challenges that have been thrown at it by circumstances, mainly because of the country’s strategic geopolitical location. He reiterated his strong ties to his native country that has nurtured his love for Pakistan’s literature, some of which he himself has produced in the form of books of short stories.
Mr Iftekhar Hai, President of United Muslims of America’s Interfaith Alliance, was the last speaker. He shared his 30 years’ experience of promoting interfaith alliance and emphasized pluralism as the only viable way to coexist peacefully in any society today.
At the end of the program, Mr Qureshi presented to Dr Jabbar a beautiful plaque of the National School of Public Policy. Informal and lively exchanges continued at the reception hosted for the honorable guests from Pakistan at the residence of Dr and Mrs. Abdul Jabbar. The guests from Pakistan offered many valuable suggestions and exchanged experiences with Pakistanis in diaspora. Prof. Javaid Sayed recited his freshly crafted poem to welcome and honor the guests and offered it to Mr Qureshi in an attractive frame. He also gave an autographed copy of his collection of poems “Diar-e-Maghrib se to all present at this reception.