By Misbah Azam, Ph.D.
“For an hour I was transported to a place where every new minute inspired me to fall in love with Pakistan again.”
Above are the words of one brilliant Pakistani entrepreneur of Silicon Valley, Dr. Safwan Shah, which he wrote to convey his tributes to a dynamic young Pakistani lawyer, politician and social activist, Mohammed Jibran Nasir, after attending his talk in a USA Talk Series 2015 seminar in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area. The Silicon Valley seminar was organized by the local Think Tank Talk4Pak-iKolachi (Faraz Dervesh, CEO; Riaz Haq; Ali Hassan Cemendtaur; Misbah Azam; Sabahat Ashraf). Jibran shared his experience to the large gathering of people, predominantly, from members of Pakistani and Indian community, local organizations and students’ body.
In his talk Jibran apprised the audience about his movement’s goals and activities against religious intolerance and sectarian violence. He emphasized the role of state-institutionalized extremism, the bigotry ingrained in Pakistani society which is becoming lethal and driving the country towards the self-destructive path. He highlighted the role of the civil and military establishment in aggravating the problems Pakistan is facing now from 1980s. Jibran suggested some solutions about how to slowly tackle these issues and educate the public about the pernicious path Pakistan is progressing. He strongly urged Pakistani Diaspora, which he believes, is a big potential political force, to play an effective role in shaping the political landscape of Pakistan. He reminded the audience about how the centuries old civilizations perished within weeks when these were assailed by the forces from within.
In this trip, some of places he spoke at various universities in the US. Large number of participants were curious to know about how he is funding his trip and all the seminars he is speaking to. Also, section of Pakistani society – in Pakistan and in abroad — and media insist that Jibran is secretly supported by the Intelligence Agencies of Pakistan. They complain that Jibran is defaming the democratic process, by vilifying the political forces and the parliament while he is reluctant to highlighting the negative role of military establishment which should bear even more responsibility of the situation on the ground. Jibran flatly denies these allegations and defended his position in an exclusive interview on a Talk4Pak TV talk show, Viewpoint from Overseas,
“The people who are alleging that I am showing Pakistan’s ugly face to the Diaspora are those ones who may never have listened to my talks. The title of my presentations is ‘We are not the country of Taliban apologists’, so how I can show the negative image of Pakistan. Sure, I am telling the people about the good and bad things about Pakistan. I am not a Cultural Ambassador of Pakistan so I am not going to talk about Bhangra, national dress and Mehndi. I am an activist and I’ll talk about my cause. I love Pakistan and I did not come here in US to apply for the political asylum, my family lives in Pakistan, I keep Pakistani passport, pay taxes in Pakistan and I am proud of being a Pakistani citizen. I am here to engage and apprise Pakistani Diaspora, who live here and remit millions of dollars to Pakistan, about the painful realities of the country they belong”.
Jibran raised a counter question that if the agencies are funding him, why all his trips, boarding and lodging, and huge seminars are arranged by the individuals, local Think Tanks, Foreign Students from Pakistan and other small media organizations which focus on the issues related to Pakistan? When he was asked why he does not raise the Baluchistan issue in his speeches, he said that he believes that Baluchistan problem is a political problem which should be tackled politically. There are even other social problems in Pakistan which he does not talk about because he wants to be very focused on the terrorism problem which is slowly consuming the country like termite from inside and which may lead to a crash one day and even its huge nuclear arsenal will not be able to save it.
After his talks, the general impression among the listeners was predominantly very positive and most of the people believed that he is sincere about what he is saying. However, when he was asked about how he is planning to fix the problem he could only offer the long term solutions and insisted that there may not be any short-term fix of the ailments by saying that revolution is not an order of pizza which you get right away after you order it, revolutions take long times to takeover and brig about the change.
People also showed concerns about his well being and security issues and reminded him about Raza Rumi and Hamid Mir, but he was unable to satisfy his listeners because he relied on some comparative statistics and his calculations about the odds between dying in a car accident and him being attacked by some terrorist. Some people asked him about the future possibility of his movement getting hijacked by those with personal vested agenda and it will be abused to serve their interests. He made it very clear time and again that although he has no political ambitions but he keeps his eyes on such forces which may want to abuse his support to further their vested interests.
Jibran seems to be among the most brave activists who raise their voices against the terrorism. Although, in his ideas, there are some loose ends, but he seems very well aware of the issues Pakistan is facing and at the least, he is trying to do something for it with very well thought process. As Dr. Safwan Shah wrote on Facebook, “…Seeing and hearing Jibran, I had profound guilt for turning our back and letting these demons flourish and spawn into millions of ideological killers. Seeing Jibran today gave me hope, far more than a glimmer, a gleam, a sustained lightning that kept thundering – my entire body exclaimed, we have people like him too”.
Jibran said time and again that he is open for not only the new ideas but also ready to hear from his critiques for the course correction. For that, he requested help from all those who want to save Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism. We the Diaspora must know and understand, that no matter for how many generations we live in abroad, we are never called as Americans, Brits or even Saudis. We must remember that we are “Pakistani-Americans”, in similar way the Indians are Indian-American, Koreans are Korean-American, Chinese are Chinese-American, even those who live in America for over 200 years are the African-American – US President Barak Obama inclusive — and last but not least, the real owners are the “Native-Americans”. Pakistan is our identity and if ever – God forbid – we lose this identity, our new status will not become “Americans” by default, we will be “Pakistani-Refugees” with no home.
Do anyone of us would ever want that?
No problem in feeling proud of being an American — and we all do — because we live here, work here, pay our taxes, raise our children in safe environment, remit money to Pakistan, we have freedom of speech, freedom to elect our leaders without fear and much more, but we must – as well — help and serve to build a better Pakistan with stable democracy, vibrant economy, growing businesses, good law and order and free of terrorism, which is not only beneficial for our people and coming generations but it will be propitious to world at large.