As part of the 2013 Emerging Leaders of Pakistan visit to the United States, the South Asia Center hosted an event in which four of the fellows, chosen by their peers, provided overviews of their civil society initiatives. The entire class of fellows participated in the interactive discussion and shared stories and ideas on how to confront the challenges facing Pakistan today.
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Roohullah Gulzari, from Balochistan, is an engineer by training but a social activist by passion. He discussed the importance of championing minority rights and outlined how his organization, Amal, is working towards a more tolerant Pakistan. He also highlighted the positive and negative impacts of social media, suggesting that while social media allows xenophobic and reactionary views to spread quickly, they also provide social activists the same opportunity to develop grassroots movements and reach wider audiences.
Malik Shaheryar Khan, from Islamabad and Dera Ismail Khan, is the founder and president of Youth Economic Forum. He discussed the current economic challenges Pakistan faces, and described his initiative to educate youth about the local economic impact of government policies.
Humaira Bachal is founder and president of the Dream Foundation Trust and Dream Model Street School in a Karachi slum. She painted a picture of the overall state education in Pakistan by labeling it an education emergency. Bachal went on to describe the work her organization is doing to improve the current situation, paying particular attention to educating women. She also showed a brief excerpt from The Dreamcatcher, a documentary on her efforts to educate girls in the slums of Karachi, by Academy-award winning film maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
The fifteen fellows agreed that Pakistan faces numerous challenges including extremism, lack of quality education, and close-mindedness which often results in intolerance. But they believe it is more important to focus on solutions to build a better Pakistan rather than dwelling merely on the challenges. The Emerging Leaders of Pakistan fellowship program is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the US Embassy in Islamabad through Meridian House International of Washington DC.