Do you remember your first day of school? I remember my first day of school in bursts: in Miami, Florida, where I went to my first day of preschool, we mixed paints; in Buffalo, New York, where, when looking around the room, I immediately knew there was not a single person who looked like me; in Rochester, New York, on my first day of college, I met some of my forever friends; and in Washington, DC, the first day of grad school, my peers all told stories about their aspirations, and I cracked a joke…and was forever known by it. Every time, it has been my peers who stood out the most to me. My first day at my placement school in Medellín was no different, but it was also so much more.
I have lived all my life in Pakistan which is not only a predominantly Muslim country but also a highly religious society. Though there are many traditional religious schools of thought being followed by Muslims in Pakistan (and elsewhere in the world) most of them are based on same principles and share same beliefs. So I never faced any difficulty in talking about my religious views publicly as these were aligned with those of the majority of population and people living around me.
Post 9/11 era brought a totally different image of Pakistan to us – the citizens of Pakistan. We used to be a Country that was a heaven for tourists but after 9/11 we turned into a heaven for terrorists. The seeds General Zia-ul-haq sowed were now grown trees who have produced several more terrorists through trainings they got through the ISI and the American support for war against Soviets. A Pakistani citizen who have no idea about the situation, learned names like Mullah Omar, Gulbudeen Hikmatyaar, Osama Bin Laden, Baitullah Mehsud and so on.. all this through the boom of social media platforms, by that the common citizens started knowing about – what is going on in Pakistan.
The Kashmir conflict is a territorial conflict primarily between India and Pakistan, having started just after the partition of India in 1947. There are several reasons involved including the interest of China, Water dispute – because Kashmir is the hub of water reservoir that is distributed among 4 Countries – 60% of the catchment areas with Pakistan, 20 percent with India, 5% Afghanistan, and 15% China (Tibet Region). The conflict remains between Pakistan and India that resulted in loss of several human beings.
Edhi is was a prominent Pakistani philanthropist,social activist, and above all a humanitarian. He was the founder and head of the Edhi Foundation in Pakistan and ran the organization for the better part of six decades. He was known as Angel of Mercy and was considered Pakistan’s “most respected” and legendary figure. In 2013, The Huffington Post said that he might be “the world’s greatest living humanitarian.
There is a saying in Pakistan that the people in the 1900’s and earlier lived longer lives because their diet was hygienic. People then were healthier and had less disease/sickness than people living now. To compare the generations, simply observe the drastic differences in the types of foods they consumed. Diets of the past consisted of fresh, home-grown, home-cooked, healthy choices and have evolved into packaged, preserved, unhealthy junk-foods. This change is also defined through the development of cities where people have less, or no access to farmer’s markets to buy fresh food; whereas, in villages, farmer’s markets are an integral part of local life. Interestingly, the U.S is no different than Pakistan as the people in counties are more attracted to healthy food than the urban areas where the concept of farmer’s markets is comparatively less.
A couple of months ago I attended a talk on ‘Today’s Peacebuilders…Tomorrow’s World Leaders’, hosted by Initiatives of Change USA. The underlying theme for the talk was how violent extremism in the world today could be addressed peacefully, and drew specifically on how leading thinkers and activists such as Gandhi, Mandela, and King would have countered violent extremism in today’s world.
This gallery contains 266 photos.
For those who have never been to Peshawar, I’m sharing some photos from Peshawar for you. It was called Puruṣapura, in Sanskrit, and was actually founded by the Kushans, a Central Asian tribe, over 2,000 years ago. The inhabitants of Peshawar were mostly Hindu and Buddhist before the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Peshawar was made part of the Muslim world in 1001, when the Ghaznavid ruler Mahmud of Ghazni conquered it. The Ghaznavids further expanded their empire from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into the Punjab region. Until 1818, Peshawar was controlled by Afghanistan, but was invaded by the Sikh Empire of Punjab. Peshawar was captured by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1818, and paid a nominal tribute until it was finally annexed in 1834 by the Sikhs, after which the city fell into steep decline. Many of Peshawar’s famous Mosques and gardens were destroyed by the Sikhs at this time. Acting on behalf of the Sikhs, Paolo Avitabile, the Italian administrator of Peshawar unleashed a reign of fear. His time in Peshawar is known as a time of “gallows and gibbets.” The city’s famous Mosque Mahabat Khan, built in 1630 in the Jeweler’s Bazaar, was badly damaged and desecrated by the Sikh conquerors.
Wazir Akbar Khan, succeeded in regaining control of the city in the Battle of Jamrud in 1837. He was the son of the Afghan Ameer (King) Dost Mohammad Barakzai. After the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, British control remained confined within the city walls as vast regions of the Frontier province outside the city were claimed by the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Peshawar emerged as a centre for both Hindko and Pashtun intellectuals. Peshawar has hosted the largest number of Refugees in the world, ever since the Afghan war in 1979.
Peshawar links Pakistan to Afghanistan and is a focal point for Pashtoon culture.
Fifty-one days. And counting. It’s hard to believe it’s already been that long since I landed in Washington DC to join the Atlas Corps Fellowship programme. When I think about it, it seems even more surreal to believe I’ll be in the US for (at least) one year when I think back to what I was doing this time last year.