26 amazing Pakistanis who have made us proud!
Pakistan, a land that has become synonymous with ‘versatile’ crime, crude jokes about Talibanisation in the West and a euphemism for all that is dark and grey. There are always two sides to a coin; the first side is seldom the accurate or the complete picture.
There are plenty of problems in this country, yet somehow I always get the impression that the media outlets in Pakistan do tend to overemphasise the negative aspects over the positives. I am sure this statement would fetch many comments that can be classified as nefarious by any linguistic measure. But, please, do try to understand the point of all this.
The point is that the country is in transition- it is a volatile transition wherein we all must play a role to change the social standards and norms of Pakistan. In this blog post, I will go over a list of people of Pakistani descent, from diverse backgrounds, who are working diligently to promote a pro-Pakistan image abroad.
Their efforts combined with individual efforts from all of us would ultimately determine both the pace and the quality of the social change that we all so desire to manifest in Pakistan. I draw my inspiration from these people, I hope you do too.
1. Dr Umar Saif
An Associate Professor of Science and Engineering at the Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has named him one of the top 35 innovators of the world (TR35). The list is compiled by MIT annually.
2. Naila Alam and Yasmeen Durrani
These two Pakistani women have been honoured by the White House for their humanitarian work. The Honour of Hope Award recipients manage a philanthropic venture called ‘Express Care’ which focuses on providing daily essentials, such as food and medicine, to low income individuals. The organisation also helps with employment.
3. Ayesha Farooq
Ayesha is Pakistan’s first ever female war-ready fighter pilot. The 26-year-old fighter, hailing from Bahawalpur, is one of the 19 women who have achieved the ranks of pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade – there are five other female fighter pilots but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.
4. Faizan Buzdar
Acknowledged by the US President Barack Obama, Buzdar’s startup ‘Convo’ has successfully launched a social network for global organisations. His innovation has led to five million dollars in funding from venture capitalists in the US, including Morgenthaler Ventures which has significant holdings in tech giants such as Apple.
Buzdar is a graduate of Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI) of Engineering Sciences and Technology.
5. Professor Asim Khawaja
He is the first professor of Pakistani descent that has been hired by the prestigious Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government. His research has received coverage from numerous media outlets including The Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Aljazeera, CNN and BBC.
6. Dr Arjumand Hashmi
A Pakistani-born mayor of a town called Paris, in Texas, USA.
What’s his claim to fame?
He has successfully created a community and inculcated a pro-Pakistani image in the Southern state that has been a hotbed of anti-Pakistan sentiments, especially during the tenure of President George W Bush Jr. He is an accomplished cardiologist and continues to run his practice as well.
7. Ali Moeen Nawazish
He is most notably famous for setting a record of acing 23 subjects in the Cambridge O-Level examinations. He is also the recipient of Pride of Performance award and his contributions to the field of education are immense. He continues to work tirelessly and has founded an organisation called ‘StepUP Pakistan’, where they aim to train teachers and improve education in the impoverished areas of the country; a noble effort by an equally noble youngster.
He truly deserves a standing ovation.
8. Naiza Khan
A visual artist and the recipient of the 2013 Prince Claus award. The Prince Claus award deliberates the honour to those individuals whose efforts have a positive impact in their respective societies. The fact that she is a Pakistani is indeed an honour for all of us.
She has successfully managed to promote a positive image of Pakistan with her work for all in the world to see.
9. Karamat Ali
10. Saba Gul
She is the Founder and CEO of Popinjay, a social enterprise that empowers marginalised underprivileged girls in Pakistan with education and provides them with employment opportunities by selling their goods (embroidered handbags currently) to a high-end market.
11. Syed Fahad Ali
The Founder of the Aghaz School. This school is a non-political and independent organisation focusing on providing free education to underprivileged children living in the slums of Karachi. This is also a side project of the Pakistan Youth Forum.
12. Mehak Gul
Gul started playing chess at the early age of six. She is now 13-year-old and is creating a pro-Pakistan image by being an internationally acclaimed chess player.
13. Rafiullah Kakar
At 23 years of age and hailing from Balochistan, the young gentleman is the 2013 Rhodes Scholar for Pakistan. The Rhodes scholarship is awarded to one Pakistani annually to study at Oxford University, UK. Hailing from one of the most volatile regions in the world, securing such a prestigious scholarship is a testament to this gentleman’s dedication and sincerity. Indeed, he will go on to earn massive accolades globally and, in the process, create a better image of Pakistan on a global stage.
I wish him the best of success in all his endeavours.
14. Maria Toorpakai Wazir
Maria, born in South Waziristan, is a professional squash player who has won international acclaims for Pakistan. She is currently ranked 54th in the world rank. She is a prolific speaker against extremism in society and has spoken at events such as TedxTeen.
15. Faisal Mirza
A recipient of the ECHO Awards in 2008; the ECHO Awards recognise the contribution of immigrants of ‘non-western’ descent on the basis of their talent in higher education. Mirza received a scholarship for a summer course at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he chose to study English and Public Policy.
16. Namira Salim
Salim is the first Pakistani to travel into space. She has officially been recognised as the ‘First Pakistani Astronaut’ by the government of Pakistan in 2006. She is also a peace activist and was conferred with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in 2011.
17. Ali Rehan
18. Dr Naweed I Syed
Dr Syed is a globally acclaimed scientist of Pakistani origin and head of the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Canada. He is the first scientist to ‘connect brain cells to a silicon chip’. This is indeed a great honour for Pakistan.
Connecting brain cells to electronic chips opens up the potential to take artificial intelligence computing to the next stage and Dr Syed plays a leading role in this quest.
19. Sabia Abbat
Abbat, originally from the Hazara division, is the winner of the National Cycling Championship. She is an emerging talent and her skills have been recognised nationally. She hopes to foster change and represent Pakistan in the South Asian games next year. She is an inspiration to all the young women out there who want to pursue their goals and, in the process, bring about positive change in the society.
20. Sarmad Tariq
Tariq has been an inspiration for people with physical disabilities. He is a motivational speaker and a corporate evangelist. He represented Pakistan in the ING New York City Marathon in 2005 and finished with a medal. Sarmad hopes to bring about positive change in the attitude of Pakistanis all over with his life coaching talks on various platforms.
21. Rosheen Khan
22. Parveen Saeed
Saeed, the owner of Khana Ghar, started her business to provide hot meals for three rupees to low income individuals. It has become a lifeline for hundreds of poor men and women who are unable to make ends meet.
The motivated people of Pakistan achieved what the government failed to deliver. This is precisely why I keep on insisting that it is crucial to look at Pakistan beyond how the media portrays it. The civil society in Pakistan is working tirelessly to enrich the lives of Pakistanis and improve society. With such people in our midst, the only way Project Pakistan can fail is if we let it.
Hats off to Ms Parveen Saeed for such an honourable venture.
23. Sameen Shahid
Shahid is a recipient of the OFID scholarship of 2009 to study at Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government. The Public Administration degree that she pursues can help redefine the values and customs of governance for the Pakistan of the future.
24. Mir Zafar Ali
Ali is an Oscar winner movie visual effects curator. He has given life to characters such as Venom in Spider Man 3 as well as several other Hollywood flicks such as X-Men, The Mummy. He won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 2007 for the movie The Golden Compass.
25. Waqas Ali
Ali is an entrepreneur and founder of an online shoe store called Hometown Shoes, where they sell locally manufactured leather shoes and accessories.
26. Bilal Masood
Maqsood is a student of Crossing Border Global Studies in Denmark and is also a certified trainer of the School of Leadership (SOL), Karachi. He has represented Pakistan as its youth ambassador on various platforms and is keen to bring about positive social change.
This is not the end of the trail. There are countless other Pakistanis working either as individuals or in teams that are bringing a positive image of Pakistan into the lime light and are laying the framework for positive social chance.
Pakistani civil society continues to unite during events of mass gravity. For example, recall how the civil society formed human chains to protest against the church bombings in Peshawar.
The civil society is abhorred at the gruesome and vile acts of terrorism that have become nomenclature for anything Pakistani globally. The same civil society also manages to come together and unite Pakistanis irrespective of their cultural or religious affiliation. When we label a society as a failure, it is not only the economic variables and the governance infrastructure that must be looked at. We must also inspect the level of empathy that the society, as a whole, shows for their fellow citizens.
Time and again, Pakistanis have proven their mettle by staying united when faced with disasters of mass calamity. The earthquakes and the 2010 Pakistan floods are another reminder of how the nation came together despite all odds.
Social changes such as those that Pakistan needs are never delivered overnight. They are a part of an evolutionary process that has multiple triggers with seemingly divergent paths leading to destination change. These Pakistanis from various shades of life and professions are keen for Pakistan to change for the better.
We must all follow suit.
Why does Pakistan continue to lag behind in most fields?
Why is it there an everlasting wave of terrorism that seems to grow stronger and more vile and viral?
Why is there perpetual lapse between what we say and what we do?
Why is there an utter disregard for ethics and moral in this society?
Why have standards from education to entertainment degraded?
The answers to all these questions are complex. However, steps are being taken in individual capacities by many and their efforts must be acknowledged and acclaimed.
Too often we assume that the rut that we are stuck in is a vicious cycle. This thought is a natural consequence for not being presented the brighter side of the picture. Once we start to appreciate the positives, along with acknowledging the negatives, we should be able to understand that the vicious cycle of misery, poverty, injustice and lawlessness has indeed been broken. It is a slow road to success and we are making a steady move towards destination progress.
The vehement tides of fate may turn around for the better. All Pakistan demands is commitment, dedication and sincere motivation, which people like these and many others like them have exhibited.
This New Year I hope we learn to smile at the positives, ponder over the negatives and learn from those making a difference.
Happy New Year, Pakistan!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.