The United States (U.S.) and Us: Greetings from Pittsburgh

I'm currently in the United States of America on a professional exchange program for journalists from Pakistan and the US. Do we need it? You bet we do.

Everywhere I go, I just understand better how the American people love their country. The good thing about that is, that it keeps them united and definitely works to their advantage . The flip side to this is; that they won't bother to know more about other countries in the world, simply because they don't need to. Ever since I have arrived in the U.S., I am constantly at work acquainting Americans with Pakistan beyond what they know of it through media. Having said that, I'd like to say that I do not deny the truth about our country that servers as the cause of embarrassment for us. But well, that's how it is!

Just like all Pakistanis don't hate American people, in the same way all Americans don't hate Pakistanis . I spoke people about Pakistan over a session at the newsroom where I'm working and was surprised to see my colleagues faces as they saw pictures of Pakistani life and culture.

I was thronged with questions during the session as people wanted to know, and to my surprise, these are American journalists who know very little of our country other than what appears in the news.

During the session, we discussed issues prevailing in Pakistan, the drone attacks, etc. I also mentioned the killing of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, who died just days after he attended an anti-drone meeting where he saw heads going down.

I'm here, conveying to people, the plight of a common man in Pakistan, where he stands and what he feels, trying to sensitize opinion makers here of the issues we face.

The American media does very little to balance out the strained ties between the two countries. Tags like 'Islamic' terrorism and using the word Pakistani's (the people) instead of Pakistani government, army, political party, etc, is not really a fair representation. The former, because correlating religion to violence because of a 'specific' group of people doesn't define Islam and the latter for 'we' are a half-failed democracy.

I happened to meet with John R Schmidt, author of The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad, professorial lecturer at the Elliott School, and the senior US political analyst in Pakistan in the years before 9/11. His book discusses how Pakistan, a nation founded as a homeland for South Asian Muslims, most of whom follow a tolerant, non-threatening form of Islam, has become a haven for al-Qaeda and domestic Jihadist and sectarian groups. I'm reading Schmidt's book now and even earlier on, when I met Stephen Cohen, an American expert on Pakistan, India, and South Asian security, it just made me realize how clear the American understanding of Pakistani politics is. Their political agendas are absolutely long-term and for national interest, while ours are on the contrary.

I've also learnt many things here that inspire me. I have been around and met quite a lot of people and you would be fascinated to see the number of people who have the American flag up on their houses. I'm amazed at how many people are more than willing to help others here. I'm amazed at how well everything is planned out here before jumping into it. I'm amazed at how many people exercise patience here.

I pass these on to you. Think, plan, act, help, love and be tolerant. Last, but not the least, as a teacher once told me “Yeh na dekho kaun keh raha he, yeh dekho kya keh raha hai� (Literally: 'don't see who is saying it, see what he is saying').

The writer is a sub-editor on the National Desk. She was selected for training in the US in a professional exchange program.

Courtesy: The News,
http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=78744&Cat=2&dt=11/22/2011

 
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