Ambassador Aizaz Urges Second Generation of Pakistani-Americans to Play Due Role
A Pakistan Link Report
On Sunday, April 30, 2017, His Excellency Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, visited the University of Southern California. He delivered a speech to a large audience, mostly comprising students of Pakistani-American descent. The event was organized by the USC Pakistani Students Associationand UCLA Pakistani Students Association.
Mahnoor Umair, President of the USC PSA, and Nader Khaqan Abbasi, President of the UCLA PSA, delivered speeches on the occasion to welcome the Ambassador and the guests. The Ambassador’s speech was followed by a lively question-and-answer session. Present on the occasion were the Consul General of Pakistan Los Angeles, Mr Abdul Jabbar Memon, and the Deputy Consul General of Pakistan Los Angeles, Mr Qamar Abbas Khokhar.
Ambassador Chaudhry also granted an exclusive interview to Pakistan Link – Mansuri Show/ARY Digital on the occasion. Below are the highlights of the interview.
PL: Mr Ambassador, you’ve recently taken over charge as the Ambassador of Pakistan to the Untied States and this is your first visit to the West Coast. Would you please share with us the nature and objectives of your visit.
Ambassador: Yes, of course. In the name of Allah the most merciful. I am here in California. Right now I am sitting in the University of Southern California. I have talked to a big group of Pakistani-origin students here. The students came to attend the event on a Sunday morning that shows their deep love for Pakistan. Day before yesterday, I was in Boston where I met Pakistani students of Harvard University and Fletcher School students at the Tufts University. I have a feeling that today’s Pakistan is conveying a message of love, security, and peace. Its message is development and prosperity. This is our efforts and success against terrorism. This is the progress of Pakistan in the economic field.
There are more than one million Pakistanis in America - we should join together to tell the American nation that Pakistan is a country of love and peace. We want the relationship between Pakistan and America to grow stronger. For this purpose, the second generation of Pakistani Americans have to play their role. The first generation of Pakistani Americans have played their vital role, now it’s our children’s time to bring the two countries closer. This is the purpose of my visit. I will go to different states to meet the Pakistani community, especially Pakistani students, to seek their help in the progression of this task.
PL: It was certainly a remarkable sight to see so many Pakistani-American students attend today’s event at USC - the hall was full-to-capacity with students. Would you please share your future plans regarding your engagement with the Pakistani-American youth.
Ambassador: Pakistan and America have seventy years of diplomatic relationship. This is also our seventy years’ independence story. We want that Pakistan Embassy, Pakistan Consulates and all Pakistani organizations, especially students, shall join together to celebrate it. We want to spread Pakistan and America seventy years’ friendship message, all over the world and take this friendship further ahead. We are preparing many banners and logos. InshaAllah, we will spread them in order to convey this message that the Pakistani Government and people consider Pakistan-America relationship very important and want this relationship to get more strong.
PL: You wrote a book “Pakistan Mirrored to Dutch Eyes” during your stay in Netherlands as the Ambassador of Pakistan to the Netherlands.In this book you talked about sports diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. Can you please explain these forms of diplomacy? How successful you were in implementing them and did you achieve the intended goal of bringing the two countries together?
Ambassador: I was Ambassador of Pakistan to the Netherlands from 2009 to 2012. The Pakistani community in the Netherlands was also very patriotic. I worked with them and introduced a new term, ‘Public Diplomacy’. We thought of experimenting with it in order to show the real and beautiful face of Pakistan to the Dutch people. We initiated many efforts in sports like Hockey Tournaments, Cricket Tournaments, Golf Tournaments and cultural events like music related to Sufism. So I decided to write a book about these efforts. The Queen of Netherlands also read that book. The Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry wrote its foreword. Government of Netherlands held a book launching ceremony for this book. The book is also available in their library. We made a record and wrote a story how the Pakistani Ambassador and Pakistani community achieved goals and success by working together.
PL: You have taken charge as Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States of America now but you are considered to be an expert on Pakistan-USA relationship. You received a master’s degree in International Relations from Tufts University. You also represented Pakistan in the United Nations as the Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN. You Also served at the Pakistan Embassy. How will your experience and background help you in your current assignment?
Ambassador: It will help me a lot because I understand that Pakistan and America relationship plays a vital role. Pakistan-America relationships are almost seventy years old. Both have worked together in diversified fields and are still working in different sectors. Many Pakistani students are also studying in America. There are more than fifty thousand doctors of Pakistani descent in the USA – Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) has eighteen thousand registered doctors. Beside the health sector, there are other fields in which a lot of joint ventures are going on like the IT field and the agricultural sector. California University and Faisalabad Agricultural brought a revolution in this field and are still working together. I am hopeful that there will be progress if we work passionately. Here people are interested to work in all sectors with Pakistan and want to have a strong relationship.
PL: You said in your speech that there is ‘never all black in nations nor all white – there are always shades of grey’. Although there are incidents likethe murder of Mishal Khan in Pakistan, the current literacy growth rate is tremendous, national reserves have risen to 18 billion dollars and the growth rate has increased to 4.7%. How do you perceive Pakistan’s future?
Ambassador: I foresee Pakistan future as very bright. This is not only mentioned by Price Waterhouse Cooper, Forbes, Goldman Sachs - but anyone can see where this country is heading to. InshAllah this country will progress ahead - just keep faith in yourself and your country.
PL: What message would you like to give to our community?
Ambassador: My message to the community is to keep faith in your people and country. They are a loving people. They love peace. Try to be a bridge in the relationship of both countries - in this way you will render services to this country and also to the country from where your forefathers came. If you have commitment, then Allah will help.
Below are the highlights of the Ambassador’s speech at the USC, Los Angeles:
Thank you so much, first and foremost, for getting up that early in the morning on a Sunday and coming over. This is a pretty organized event. I must say that I am impressed already with the Pakistani Students Organization. Thank you Mahnoor, thank you Nader, for putting it all together. I want to tell you that I'm really happy to be here amongst you.
When I came here, it was about a month and a half ago, I noticed that there were certain perceptions about Pakistan that were prevailing, which were certainly in my mind lagging behind today's Pakistan. So I began meeting people, talking to different think tanks, telling them what has been happening in Pakistan and how we have been able to defeat the forces of terrorism. We still are busy doing that, but we have made considerable gains. And how our economy is re-surging and picking up and how many US companies are now actively participating in the Pakistani economic life.
While I was doing that ... I was struck by a fact that the first generation Pakistani Americans, who came somewhere in the 60's and 70's, are bound by that nostalgia to the country that they had left behind. But the torch, the baton is not to be carried forward by them. It is to be carried by the second generation and the third generation Pakistani Americans - who are Americans but of Pakistani heritage. Each one of us has many identities. You know, you have these circles of identities, which define you. And therefore, one of the primary identities that you have is that of your heritage.
The United States is a remarkable country because it assimilates and accommodates so many cultures at the same time. And yet, leaves room for more. I like this country. I have been in this country for more than once. I did my Master's from Tufts University in Massachusetts. And then I came back here in 1999 to serve in the Pakistan Embassy. And then later I worked at our mission to the United Nations in New York where I stayed six years plus. So, in that sense it is my fourth stint here. My children grew up here. My family loved this place. And I believe this is a remarkable country. It is a country that is comprising of resilient people. A country that has fascinating values, which have kept the country together and also given it the strength it needed to assume the leadership rule that it has played.
So, all this endears us - me and my family - to this country. I was very happy when I was chosen to come here, to represent a country with which I believe this country has a very close bond. When I came here and I felt that somehow the image of Pakistan had suffered a blow in the past, especially two decades, since 9/11. The older generation, your fathers, your mothers, your aunts your uncles, they did a wonderful job. - and I think they contributed to the development of this country - and I think that they still are doing in many ways. But, my desire would be to engage more and more with the second generation and third generation of Pakistani Americans - and to see how they, like their fathers and mothers, could continue to serve as a bridge between this society and that society.
Pakistan and the United States go back in time. Seven decades of friendship and working together. We shared the values of freedom, of democracy, and of rule of law. And I think these are values worth preserving. We learned from the US experiences back home, our own democratic experiences as you know have been interrupted in rough times. But, now democracy is deepening. Democracy sometimes can be very noisy, very bumpy, but that is the only way to go. Your own country is now seeing another form of democracy. But that is how it is. One has to respect the choices that people make and carry on the good work that needs to be done.
Pakistan, I want to tell you, is resurging at a time when our region, broader Middle East, is still grappling with the forces of terrorism - and it was not that we were like this. We are a country and people who believe in love and peace and blessings. But unfortunately, when the Soviet Union came into Afghanistan and the concept of Afghan Jihad was introduced, and after that Jihad was over but the militants stayed back, and after 9/11 when Tora Bora was bombed, most of them came to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
That is where the people of Pakistan first came to know hand to hand, face to face, what is suicide bombing and what terrorism is. So, we started suffering from that and there was a confusion created in the minds of people at that time, by these militants, who say that, look Afghanistan is under foreign occupation and to resist foreign occupation is a holy duty.
We know now that it was a flawed narrative. It was flawed because when you kill innocent people on the streets, in the schools, in the mosques, in the markets, that's no holy duty. Islam never authorized that. Taking one human life amounts to taking out the entire humanity. These people are wrongly using the name of Islam to do all of these ghastly and nasty things? They don't represent me.
So then there was a reaction within the nation. Political parties came together a couple of years back and they formed this nationwide consensus that no, no terrorism of any kind whatsoever is justifiable in any name or at any cost. And that enabled the armed forces of Pakistan to move into the tribal areas ... and remember these tribal areas, many of you are studying history ... how many are doing history as one of the subjects?
The area that straddles between Pakistan and Afghanistan - when you go back in history you'll see that there was a Russian empire in the 19th century and part of the 20th century, and there was a British empire in British India. So they deliberately took this part as sort of no-mans-land. So to avoid any clash, this area never saw any guidance of any kind. And here we are ...
When I was growing up – and was about your age I went to the independent territory, where no rules apply and you have all the smuggled goods available at half the price. And if your car was stolen, you go there and recover that. This was the kind of area it was known as. So they had never seen any kind of guidance. It was ruled by a local system called Maliks. And when the Taliban and the Al Qaeda and other terrorists came into the territory, they knocked the Maliks out and there was chaos. There was chaos all across.
Now, the good news is that the authorities of Pakistan have taken over the complete territory - 90% of the people have come back. They are now stitching together their lives, from building their shops, and hospitals, and schools, and roads. We are now introducing political reforms there, just like all of the settled areas. We have in a way, rewritten history. What could not have been done in centuries has now been done, or is still being done.
But is our job over? No. Many of them fled to Afghanistan. Many of them fled to our urban areas. We are combing them out and we are very clear that it will improve. That has had a significant effect on the economic situation. Our economy is buoyant now.
How many of you are studying international economics? All right. Any course that you have taken on international economics? A couple of hands - it is a very interesting subject - you must do ... You know even as an option that you can ... You used to do the audit thing. Where you don't get the credit but you still go and sit in a few classes. It's a fascinating subject. How this country has played the futile role in setting up what international economy looks like. These political institutions post-World War II, the entire setup was created by the American leaders. So, it's a very, very fascinating subject.
We are now rising as an economy. 4.7% growth this year. We are likely to take it to 5% plus. Most of the forecasts are good, fiscal deficit is down. It was predicted 2 months ago that Pakistan would join the G20 by 2030. In twelve years. Goldman Sach thinks it could be done by 2025. Bloomberg and Forbes, and all the crediting agencies are predicting a lot about Pakistan. There's a theme of connectivity that is sweeping all across Asia and also Pakistan. This whole China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that is being built is going to unleash inordinate opportunities, not only for Pakistan and China, but also for Central Asia, for the whole region, for Afghanistan.
All of our gains are tentative. Why tentative? Because, next door Afghanistan is still unstable. And when Afghanistan is unstable, our history has shown that instability flows into Pakistan. And that's the instability that we have. That is where your country of residence today, United States, and your country of heritage, Pakistan, come together. We come together because we both have an interest in stabilizing Afghanistan. Pakistan wants to see peace in Afghanistan because we think that peace in Afghanistan is required in order to guarantee peace in Pakistan. And the United States needs peace why? Because the United States has invested.