Washington, DC: While passing through the green lawns of American University in Washington, DC, a group of motivated students hastened their stroll on the path led by renowned Professor Akbar Salahuddin Ahmed to initiate the very first comprehensive graduate course dedicated to Pakistan on an American campus (Pakistan and the Region) under the auspices of the School of International Service.
At its inaugural session, to break silos and shift paradigms, Professor Akbar Ahmed invited Syed Mowahid Hussain Shah, Attorney-at-Law (Member of US Supreme Court Bar), author of “Will & Skill,” Pakistan Link columnist, former Punjab Cabinet Minister and co-founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to holistically discuss the challenges and issues in US-Pakistan relations.
Among others joining this seminal session were Dabbir Tirmzy, CEO & Trustee of IKDAR – Imran Khan Developmental Academic Research; Ash Malik, Executive Administrator of IKDAR; Dawod Chatha, Civil Engineer for Fairfax County; and Shahzad Hamid, Naval Attaché from the Embassy of Pakistan.
Mowahid regards Jinnah as the Lincoln of Pakistan. After concisely framing a condensed historical context, Mowahid shifted gears to emphasize the importance of Pakistan since its inception. He stressed how Pakistan’s strategic geopolitical location and formation were enhanced by championing Pan-Islamism. Its pinnacle was the choosing of Lahore – in the aftermath of the bitterly contested October 1973 Arab-Israel war – as the epicenter of the landmark Islamic Summit of February 1974. The summit’s agenda was dominated by the cardinal issue of Palestine.
Mowahid elaborated on how a good relationship with Pakistan is absolutely pivotal for any concord or conciliation between Islam and the West. Accordingly, Mowahid maintained that scurrilous attacks on two young newly elected Muslim Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, are being noticed in Pakistan, and juxtaposed against lofty rhetoric espousing female empowerment, inclusivity, and diversity.
Mowahid cited an opinion column by Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post on February 4, 2020, which stated that the “Mideast Peace Plan” was done to appease Israel and augment Trump’s re-election prospects. In a related vein, Mowahid highlighted atrocities in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, along with India passing the Citizenship Act of 2019, which downgrades Indian Muslims by questioning their loyalty. Leaving Kashmir unattended would imperil world order, he maintained.
Mowahid recalled a US Department of State press release, issued on the 21 st of March 2005 under George W Bush’s administration, reaffirming its original decision to bar Narendra Modi, the-then Chief Minister of Gujarat State, from traveling to the United States, by revoking his visa in response to his direct complicity in failing to control the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom. The US ban on Modi lasted for 10 years.
Fast-forwarding to present-day Pakistan, Mowahid postulated that the damage to Quaid’s dream has been done by the pervasive encroachment of big money into public space, making the system, in effect, a dictatorship of the super-rich. He quoted the revered Sufi saint Baba Farid Ganj Shakar by saying, “traders can’t be rulers” and shared a message by the great sage of Islam, Hazrat Ali, “knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth.”
In his concluding remarks, Mowahid warned American students of the dangers of indoctrination, with Washington being practically a 1-newspaper town, and with people getting information from news outlets with similarity of perspectives.
Professor Akbar Ahmed ably moderated a robust Q&A session between the audience and Mowahid where multiple topics – ranging from Pakistan’s stance on Uyghur Muslims, military role in government, post-Partition fate of Indian Muslims, along with how to curb the oligarchy of the moneyed classes – were explored.
The encouraging takeaway from this inaugural session was there is a hunger to learn more about Pakistan, along with the sense that it is relevant and vital to US global interests.