A very un-Pak Pakfest

What is Pakistani culture?, ex-president Reza Cheema rhetorically asked The GW Hatchet readership last issue (Pakistani students’ after-party ends in violence, Feb. 7).

Perhaps we can define the ambiguous term culture by what it is not: Pakistan is not India. Pakistan was and is not about dances, song or clothing, but religion. Alcohol is not even legal in the country of Pakistan.

The roles religion, origin and laws play in culture cannot be denied. You may have some portion of the populace that did not sacrifice greatly for the establishment of a dreamed Muslim state, that don’t practice the Muslim faith, and that illegally drink – but is it the goal of the Pakistani Students Association to celebrate these un-Pakistani attitudes?

As a Pakistani student, I feel obligated to represent the culture and country that my grandfather died for, that my father gave up his childhood home for, that my family lost blood, sweat, money and property for. I feel obligated to point out the obvious: Pakfest 2000 and its disastrous after-party were not about Pakistan. As a PSA member, I know that other members and I urged alternative programming. As a PSA member, I was appalled to learn that the board could even entertain the idea of having an after-party and objected to it! I feel obligated to mention this, because the PSA board’s actions obviously do not reflect the attitudes and beliefs of their chief constituents, GW’s Pakistani students.

The board seems to be blaming this entire fiasco on the ex-president. But if these same people had been more proactive; if these same people kept the ideals and spirit of Pakistan in mind; if these same people remembered the pak (pure) ideals behind the very term Pakistan, then this shameful, unorganized and unpak (impure) event never would have been able to get past the initial planning stages.

Yet it must be remembered that Cheema’s heavy-fisted leadership, bad planning, and unapologetic attitude played a large part in the ensuing debacle. It must further be noted that this event obviously was not in celebration of what Pakistan stands for or as a service to GW’s Pakistani community. Thus, perhaps we can recognize it for the self-serving and money-generating endeavor it appears to be.

At the same time, I do not wish for those board members who have stepped up to bat to take care of a mess that was not, for the most part, their fault, to feel that I am attacking them. I want to recognize them for shouldering the responsibility of their offices and facing the consequences of their actions in a mature way.

I urge the fragmented PSA board to learn from this experience the value of shura (the Islamic political ideal of mutual consultation and consensus in a governing body) and to re-evaluate their mission and programming.

-The writer, a PSA member, is a senior majoring in communication and biology.

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