I was reminded of this by the final link in the post below, and since it reminded me of a few things I’ve written about the purpose of this year abroad, I declare it blogworthy.
A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Scott organised a talk by a friend of his from Pakistan. Sarwar Bari was a longtime political dissident who lived in exile in London, before returning to Pakistan after a change in regime. He now works at an organisation called Pattan (meaning “raft”), which works in flood and disaster relief, as well as building civil society and democracy. It was truly inspiring to see a native of Pakistan stand up and talk about the religious fundamentalists, tribal leaders and military figures that have made such a mess of his country, without every seeking to “understand” or make compromises with them. Before thet talk, all the information I got about Pakistan was from Western journalists and commentators, and they painted an unremittingly pessimistic picture of the place. Religious extremism was on the rise, the standoff with India over Kashmir was nearing outright war, and of course, the risk that a religious takeover would leave Islamists in control of the country’s nuclear weapons. It’s cheery stuff, you must admit.
So it was good to hear some positive news from the region. To hear about concrete steps taken over Kashmir, about the struggle to take the political process away from local strongmen and give it back to the people, to empower female elected representatives. I think the world of NGOs and charities contains (like any other field of employment) people and organisations of very mixed quality, but working for an outfit like Pattan that helps people to use their own potential to take control of their lives is a noble goal, in every sense of the word. Although it has the most tangential connection possible with my degree, I may have an idea as to what I want to do with my life.