In conversation with Zulfi Bukhari: “My loyalty to my country is questioned daily”

Published: January 1, 2020
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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Zulfi Bukhari is a man on an unstoppable mission when it comes to fighting for Pakistanis living overseas, and the fight is fuelled by his own personal struggle. I was able to recently catch up with Bukhari for an exclusive interview at his residence in Islamabad, where he shared that his nationality was still questioned and said,

“People still question whether I’m even Pakistani or not. I’ve been called a ghaddar, an MI Agent, Mossad and what not. My first piece of advice for overseas Pakistanis who want to serve the country is to have a thick skin.”

Bukhari, in a game changing intervention, is now looking to enable overseas Pakistanis to not only vote during the elections but to also contest them.

“I’m moving a summary which the president is looking at for overseas Pakistanis to be able to contest elections. Now it’s a completely different debate on whether a dual national should be able to sit in the parliament or not. England allows it, America allows it, India doesn’t allow it. It’s a debate that needs to be had.”

Bukhari has grown more confident in his demeanour and definitely more media savvy since I last interviewed him earlier this year. His mannerism is reflective of the quiet confidence growing within Prime Minister Imran Khan’s team; it seems that they’ve learned what they needed to during the first 15 months and are now ready to deliver and forward the agenda of ‘tabdeeli’. Since he is Imran’s close friend, I had to ask how the prime minister is dealing with the pressure that comes with the office and what keeps him motivated.

“Imran is always at work,” shared Bukhari. “The previous government would hold cabinet meetings every six months, we have a five hour meeting every week. Sometimes you see him go home absolutely exhausted but then he’s recharged the next morning. He gets his motivation without a doubt from his faith. And a lot of help for channeling that faith comes from his wife, the first lady, who is one of the most spiritual people I’ve ever met. And Imran drives a lot of his strength from her as well.”

bilal.lakhani

Muhammad Bilal Lakhani

A Fulbright Scholar and author of “For the 21st Century Muslim: Real Life Lessons from the Holy Quran”. He blogs on life in Pakistan at "Pakistan: Beyond the Headlines" and tweets as @MBilalLakhani (twitter.com/mbilallakhani)

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