Experts on Pakistan criticized President Pervez Musharraf and said the country’s youth need to end their apathy toward politics in an event in the Marvin Center Monday.
Last month Musharraf’s party was defeated in the parliamentary elections, but the Bush administration has continued to support Musharraf’s heavy presence in politics. During the seminar, which was sponsored by the Pakistani Students Association, the speakers took harsh stances against Musharraf.
Haider Mullick, an independent policy analyst on South Asia, said Musharraf is a worse ruler than Russian President Vladimir Putin as he “has been autocratic, but at least he admitted his mistakes.”
He said youth activism once drove politics in Pakistan, but following the student union ban in 1984, youth activists at high schools and universities could only operate covertly. He said the ban has led Pakistani youth to now by choice stay out of the political process.
But Mullick’s message about taking action against Musharraf may not have been relevant to much of the audience, which was mainly composed of members of the Pakistani Students Association. Sassi Riar, a sophomore and president of the PSA said much of the Pakistani population at GW agrees with the U.S. government in its support of Musharraf.
“Pakistani students who attend GW are usually not anti-Musharraf,” she said. “I think most people in Pakistan at the moment are so immersed in the situation that they direct their anger toward Musharraf, so back home there are more people against him than overseas.
Fahad Hasan, another panelist and a 22-year-old who works at IBM, said Musharaff’s military government has only worsened the political climate in Pakistan, comparing the leader to Augusto Pinochet, a Chilean military dictator. He said the youth especially are not taking enough action.
“We are so cynical that we know these politicians are corrupt but we leap towards them anyway. because even they are better than the military,” Hasan said.
He added that fairly elected politicians instead of a military government will improve Pakistan over the long term, “Pakistan has no Barack Obama’s but if we give it time, the politicians will eventually get better.”
Brining the situation even closer to home, he encouraged Pakistani-Americans to consider living in Pakistan as the brain drain effect has left the country with a shortage of people with enough education to perform high-level jobs.
“I plan on going back, too, eventually,” Hasan said. “This is something I struggle with every day, but we have the power to shape Pakistan.”
Samia Altaf, a Woodrow Wilson fellow and a physician who has practiced medicine both in the U.S. and in Pakistan, took issue with Pakistan’s health care system, noting its relationship with political corruption.
“Pakistan’s economy is starting to get better,” Altaf said. “But the healthcare there is still very bad.”
She said that to get anything accomplished in Pakistan, from making a doctor’s appointment to getting a passport, people must use connections. And she fears the average Pakistan who holds no political connections, will continue to face hardship in securing his or her rights.
This was the PSA’s second open event this academic year year, and they are planning a cricket match with the Indian Student Association in April.