Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Talk with Imaan Hazir Mazari Over the Role of Youth of Pakistan

This year, Pakistan has turned 65 years old. In all these years, we as a nation have seen and survived many ups and downs. We have proven ourselves against difficult times. Despite fighting many wars; we won world cups in Hockey, Cricket, Snooker and Squash; built amazing infrastructure in some parts of the country; helped other countries like Singapore and UAE to come here and study our systems and replicate in their own cities and towns; laid down foundations of advance and efficient  airline like Emirates, trained soldiers of other Islamic states; helped UN in peace missions; defeated Soviet Union in our neighborhood; made nuclear bomb as a 3rd world country; won Nobel prize in the field of science and the list of achievements can go on and on forever.

But on the other side, the kind of downs we have been experiencing for the last 4-5 years, are really unlike compared to the past even when we had lost half of the country in 1971. The rapid increase in sectarian violence, religious extremism, nepotism, corruption and inflation, lack of merit, demotivation and fall of national pride have badly demoralized the whole nation. Post 911, we have engaged ourselves in a baffling war which has started slaughtering our own people now. The dilemma is that no one is out there to take full responsibility and act accordingly – if not to stop then to slow down this self-poisoning and self-devastation. Military and elected political parties couldn’t reap us results as expected. The incidents like of Raymond Davis, OBL, attacks on GHQ, Salala check post and other sensitive installations of Navy and Airforce have shaken confidence of the nation on current administrative regime. A stage has come where the youth of Pakistan (which makes most of the population) have started raising voice for the change by rejecting status quo. Since, I am also a tiny cell of youth body of the state so I throughout of getting hold of some youth leader who could answer few questions we often feel like asking from the leaders beyond our access.

Imaan Hazir Mazari who represents face of the youth in Pakistan under banner of PTI, was my obvious choice for the interview.  She is talented daughter of Shireen Mazari - a Pakistan political scientist and a prominent geostrategist. Here is account on discussion with her on most of the issues we see today.

Q1: I would like the readers to know about Imaan Hazir Mazari. Who is she?

Ans: I'm an individual with a multitude of interests, the main one being politics. Being a woman in Pakistan has taught me resilience and the significance of change in a society where the status quo is plagued with injustice and corruption. Though I was born and raised in Islamabad, I currently study Law and Politics at the University of Edinburgh. My village is in Rajanpur District, which is an embodiment of the backwardness and neglect Southern Punjab suffers. Hence, my motive is to constantly work in that area, for the people who are repressed by the Tumundaari (feudal) system. From the age of 14, I was politically active; working through various forums. I was the Media Spokesperson of two youth-run organizations; Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) and Zimmedar Shehri (Responsible Citizens). Moreover, because of the fact that I grew up in a household where my mother has dedicated her life to her country, I realized how important it is to give back to the soil that has made me who I am today.

Throughout my school years, I took an active part in all extra-curricular activities, particularly social work and debating, which is why I had the opportunity to interact with a variety of interesting people from all cross-sections of society. When I was the head of the school's social work society for 2 years, I was not only able to interact with Internally Displaced People and Cancer patients but also work for the victims of the Gaza Massacre, thus giving me an opportunity to understand the situation in the Middle East on a whole new level.

My school also allowed me the opportunity to be trained by two amazing debates coaches; both of whom I am grateful to for teaching me how to voice my opinions and understand that there are always two sides to a story, each as important as the other.

Imaan Hazir Mazari travelling for party work

Q2: Were you always interested in politics or was there anything else you wanted to be or follow?

When I was younger, I had dreams of becoming a Commando in the Pakistan Army, so my parents always understood my obsession with working for my country, which is why I have been blessed with a series of opportunities to do so. My father is a doctor, and my mother is a defense analyst and senior leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. Despite this, I never felt pressured to choose either field. In fact, it is due to the freedom I was given that I know for sure that politics in Pakistan is exactly what I want to do.

Q3: What did convince you to join PTI and how old this association has been so far?

Well, my decision to join PTI was one that I took my time thinking about to be sure that what I was doing was in line with my greater goal. I came to Pakistan for my study leave from Edinburgh in April to try and focus on my then-upcoming exams in May. However, being back, I continued to see things that disturbed me; bribery, nepotism, illiteracy, unawareness, poverty and rampant corruption. I had previously been critical of PTI and other political parties in Pakistan till I realized that I really did need to be part of a political party with the same shared ideology as myself in order to be politically active, in addition, to the social work I engage in. With its slogans for change, determined and honest leadership and the integrity to speak up against the status quo, I knew PTI was the party for me. What I will say is that all political parties, like all individuals, have their flaws. The innate democratic structures within PTI and the ability of all to debate decisions taken even by the chairman is exactly what Pakistan needs.

Q4: In your opinion, what are the challenges Pakistani youth face today and what could be the best role of youth in politics of Pakistan which has largely been considered as ‘family enterprise’ sort of thing for the last few decades?

The Pakistani youth is divided into two categories, as far as I'm concerned; the apathetic elite who couldn't care less about what's going on in Pakistan as long as they can live in comfort and of course, those who have worked for Pakistan consistently, be it through political activism, social work, journalism, blogging and so on. Unfortunately, Pakistan is a victim of brain-drain which is one of the focal reasons we lack in the education and development sectors.

The founder of our nation, our great Quaid-e-Azam, M.A Jinnah, outlined the role of the youth, so what could be better than reiterate those golden words? He rightly and eloquently stated, "Pakistan is proud of her youth, particularly the students, who are nation builders of tomorrow. They must fully equip themselves by discipline, education, and training for the arduous task lying ahead of them."

As far as association with PTI is concerned, I definitely think the youth of our nation is given a lot of power and opportunities through PTI. However, I would just like to emphasize on the fact that we all should work as one instead of trying to throw dirt on one another simply because of party differences.

Q5: We witnessed violence in educational institutes due to political activities in 90s. Don’t you think propagating youth would sprout such issues again resulting in bloodshed?

No, definitely not. What we must encourage, however, are peaceful and non-violent political activities not only for the youth to engage in but for all segments of society.

Q6: Today we see erosion of national pride among individuals and groups that form our society. How would you restore national pride in youth of Pakistan?

This is very simple to do yet because of "dirty politicking" our leaders have failed to strengthen the Pakistani identity which has resulted in confusion, and hatred amongst different religions, sects and ethnicities. What we don't understand is that Pakistan is one country; so whether we're Muslim, Christian, Balochi, Pathan, Shia or Sunni, we are Pakistani. Unity was something that our Quaid emphasized on time and time again, establishing how pertinent it is for us to stand together as one against internal and external forces trying to destabilize Pakistan. The youth themselves need to understand this concept because at the end of the day, we are the leaders of tomorrow and our mindsets are what will shape policies for our country.

Q7: How is your platform different and better from other leading political parties when you have plucked politicians from the existing setup?

First and foremost, we must realize that PTI is the only political party in Pakistan that has stood by its principled position for the last 16 years while all other political parties have worked for personal gain, as we see with Swiss bank accounts and the facade of democracy PPP and PML-N propagate.

On a second level, let's be realistic; no political party is going to ban entry of politicians just because they happened to be in another party before. I think the criticism against PTI for taking in politicians from other parties is unjust simply because we have not altered our ideology or moved away from our stance against corruption or anything else for that matter. When someone joins PTI, they agree to our terms and our manifesto; not the other way round.

Q8: Unfortunately, personal attacks have been notorious part of DNA of political wings of our country. PTI has also done similar attacks on its rivals. Now what does make it different from run of the mill political parties?

All I'm going to say regarding personal attacks is that they should have no place in politics. Having dealt with vicious attacks against my personal life launched by people who are threatened by my work, has only made me realize what Imran Khan said a while back. He stated that when people have no dirt on you because you are politically clean, they try and pick on your personal life. I would urge all members of society to condemn such disgusting practices and understand that what someone wears or how they live their personal life, is no one else’s business. None of us are angels and trying to score points by bringing personal lives into politics is simply unacceptable.

Q9: What are your views about Talibans and how PTI would approach the issue of talibanization? Adding further to my question, what steps you think can contain US to stop drone attacks over Pakistani territory? 

Talibanization and US interference are directly related. The increase in drone attacks and meddling by the US government angers the Pakistani population, some of them resorting to terrorist activities in response and some being funded by external agents to engage in such activity. At the end of the day, we must acknowledge that we have a problem, but the solution to that problem is very simple. We need to distance ourselves from the US, educate our own people and provide them with opportunities for development so that they aren't driven out of desperation to join terrorist organizations. PTI has a very clear stance against covert agreements with the USA, which guarantees that inshaAllah, if and when PTI does come into power, we will ensure a level playing field with the US, and a relationship based on mutual respect. We are not anti-USA; we are simply pro-Pakistan. Similarly, our leaders have constantly spoken up against religious extremism so it’s very clear that accusations hurled against our leader for being a closet taliban are unfounded and ridiculous.

Q10: We have very poor public educational system in place which has hampered progress of Pakistan as the next great nation. This has been due to either no sound educational policy or educational disparity among public and private institutes. What are those key steps in your opinion which should be taken to address this challenge?

PTI believes in a strong educational system. I'm not one of the experts on our policy formation, so it'd be best if these questions were addressed to them. However, what I will say is that we do intend on ensuring education for all, and improving the literacy rate, as education is key to development. Personally, I feel that we should work for a system where there is little to no disparity between private and public educational institutions as this results in greater inequality in society, as per the status quo.

Q11: Would you continue working for youth if the nation rejects PTI in coming election?

Ofcourse!! There is no doubt in my mind that I will ever stop working for Pakistan. Political parties win and lose elections, but there is so much more to work on than just electoral politics. There are opportunities to work on education and health projects which would do so much good to our country! I intend on engaging in these regardless of any political outcomes. Also, after getting my law degree, I feel I will be in a better position to help those deprived of justice and those who cannot afford it, in Pakistan.

Q12: Where do you see yourself after 5 years?

To be honest, I don't know how well plans work out and though I have a 5 year plan which I intend on sticking to, life is very unpredictable so I guess its better to take one step at a time. But I definitely do see myself living and working in Pakistan, politically and otherwise. And I also definitely will be contesting in mainstream politics, from Rajanpur District, after getting my degree.

Q13: What is your message to youth in particular and rest of Pakistanis in general?

Being part of the youth, all I would like to say is that we must work together to help those who can't help themselves. We must go to those places in Pakistan where people have been repressed by the system and help them fight against it. Education, health, justice, development should all be key concepts in our minds when thinking of what Pakistan is in need of.

This interview was conducted on Sep 5, 2012. Please leave your comments here or contact on Twitter by following @faisalriaz.

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