On Tuesday me and some other members of the new media were invited to a discussion with Ms. Farah A. Pandith, U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities at Kurshid Mahal in Avari towers here in Karachi.
Karachi traffic being what it is due to V.I.P movement, the event started off at around 9 pm whereas me, the punctual moron that I am was awaiting everyone’s arrival from 815 pm, the actual designated time. In any case the discussion was quite robust and lasted for about 45 minutes.
The “change” which we had been hearing about by the Obama government in those white halls was to me pretty much in action in this discussion. As Farah an American Muslim herself was not just well spoken like so many other diplomats are, she seemed to actually give a hoot about unity. The inclusion of new media in the discussion was also a point well taken, as the Obama administration has mobilized social media in unprecedented ways right from the onset of their election campaign in the U.S and they believe in its power.
Is it important to have these discussions? Do they serve any purpose? Well if they translate into something actual on the ground yes, talk is justÂ talk till then. However some issues were cleared up for sure in this discussion. Contrary to what I had knowledge of before, the U.S consulate does seem to be running an effective outreach program to the many madrassahs in Karachi, they are hell bent on inclusion rather than isolation and do seem to be genuine in their desire to work with the lower income strata as well in this city. In short they are more than willing to help.
However there is much work still to be done. It was heartening to see that we have begun the process of dialogue rather than throw insults and conspiracy theories at one another, but there are some miles to go to bridge the trust gap yet.
I did suggest in this discussion and continue to stress on the fact that we the people of Pakistan and the U.S need to sit down across one another and talk. There is too much hyperbole and conspiracy in our respective Â mainstream mediaâ€™s for us to judge each other without any bias. We must break these barriers, because this alone will set us free and usher in a new age of cooperation. We and the Americanâ€™s really cannot do without one another, so its best we join hands as nations and on a community level rather than just political alliances.
The bloggers familiar to me in attendance were: Dr Awab Alvi , Sana Saleem, Ammar Yasir, Naveen Naqvi, Huma yusuf, Sabeen & Kidvai Sahab. There were off course other people from new media, radio as well as op ed writers and journos present. The two facilitators from the Us Consulate were Ms Elizabeth O. Coltran (public affairs officer) and MrÂ Mushtque A.Rajpur (media advisor) I thank them all for a memorable event & discussion.