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> Pakistani Diaspora in the West needs to “do more”
Dialogue Series
April 15, 2008
Pearl Continental, Karachi

Current State of Relations….[PDF]
Pakistani Diaspora in the West…[PDF]
Pakistan's Image in the West…[PDF]

Karachi, April 15; In a PILDAT Dialogue Series on Understanding Relations between the Muslim World and the West, legislators of Pakistani Origin from UK and Norway engaged in an animated conversation with local intellectuals, academics and MPs on the topic of “Pakistani Diaspora in the West: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem,” agreeing only on one point that the Pakistani Diaspora in the Western societies needed to “do more.”


Panellists included Baroness Kishwer Falkner of Margravine (Member British House of Lords: Liberal Democrat) and Mr. Khalid Mahmood, (Member of Storting Norwegian Parliament: Labour) in addition to Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Ms. Huma Baqai, Ms. Shazia Marri and Dr. Meraj-ul-Huda Siddiqui.


In an interesting dialogue, the panellists and the participants disagreed on the western role, terming it from being “confused in how to deal with political Islam” to being responsible for “social engineering” in Muslim countries and creating the Frankenstein of “jihadis” and following the policy of “double standards” when dealing with the Muslim World.


Introducing the topic and the Dialogue Series, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, PILDAT Executive Director, said that this is a third series of the Dialogues organized by PILDAT under the broad theme of Relations between the Muslim World and the West. The first such dialogue was organized in 2006 by inviting State Legislators from USA to Pakistan who interacted with their Pakistani counterparts. The second series organized by PILDAT involved young office bearers from British political parties to interact with youth of Pakistan. He emphasized that the current series involved legislators of Pakistani origin to interact with Pakistani intellectuals. Legislators of Pakistani Origin are in a unique position to interact on issues of Relations between West and Pakistan and with Relations of West and Muslims. He explained that the dialogues will be held at Lahore and Islamabad on April 16-17 while two more series with legislators of Pakistani Origin will be held later during the year.


Initiating the dialogue, Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin said that Pakistani Diaspora is more a part of the problem and the problem emanates from Pakistan. The Muslim World suffers from intellectual deficit and it is unfair that the Muslim World judges itself by its lofty ideals and goals and denounced West by its actions.


Dr. Meraj-ul-Huda Siddiqui believed the Pakistani Diaspora was unable to play any role or depict “Muslim, Pakistani” picture. Pakistani Diaspora lacked the identity which is needed to play a role in beginning a dialogue with the West. He argued as to why should West demand everyone to melt in the pot of cultures?


Chaudhry Khalid Mahmood said that Pakistani Diaspora experiences different realities in different countries. In USA and Canada which are societies based on the culture of settlers, the Pakistani Diaspora has a relatively more comfortable scenario but in European countries such as UK and Norway where the society and cultures are set, Pakistani Diaspora is creating its own identity and place in those societies. He emphasized that the Diaspora in Norway is both part of Norwegian Society while keeping its religious and cultural identities act.


Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider said that Pakistan’s Diaspora has come into a sharper focus after 9/11. After 7/7, Pakistanis in Briton were associated with the attacks immediately without any investigation or solid facts. He said that invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan was unjustified. Pakistani Diaspora also suffers from biased propaganda and coverage in the Western media. He believed that the Pakistani Diaspora needs to ensure the means they use to propagate their views are non-violent. He believed Pakistani politics should not be taken to other countries and the Diaspora should take part in local politics of the host countries.


Ms. Huma Baqai said that the geo-strategic position of Pakistan is an important factor in determining its policies. Pakistan suffers from an intellectual deficit. There is no representation of Pakistani side’s story from Pakistani authors and academicians. Research material on Pakistan is often written by Indians and Sri-Lankans. Indians on the other hand, present their moderate face more effectively despite facing similar problems of Hindu extremism. There is a revival of Political Islam and the wider audiences in the West have to be made aware of it. Militancy is a reaction to West’s double standards and has to be addressed in that context. West has won hearts and minds previously by use of its “soft power.” Its use of hard power is earning it the wraths of the world.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner of Margravine said that the Pakistani Diaspora has the potential of being part of the solution, although it is not trying enough. Integration has been painfully slow in UK. There is a perception in the West, that the problems in the Muslim world are extrapolated and taken to the West to be fought there, such as Kashmir, Palestine, Iran and Iraq. The Diaspora has the option to use the democratic options available to them to change what they dislike but prefer the violent option over the peaceful, democratic option. She said that there is no such thing in the globalised world as one identity anymore but people have multiple identities.

Ms. Shazia Marri said that interaction with the local communities in which Diaspora resides is important in their integration in host countries. She believed that the West has double standards with respect to Muslim countries and needs to stop supporting dictatorial regimes if it wants to rid itself of the “double-standards” charge by the Muslim World.

The next session of the Dialogue Series will be held in Lahore on April 16, 2008.