Earlier this year, I spent 6 months India. Knowing that a former student suggested that I take advantage of my stay to visit Pakistan as well. She has a very well connected family in the country who would be more than happy to host my husband and me. It was a most tempting offer. It would have been a perfect opportunity to take the real measure of the country. We ultimately declined. It would have been too dangerous and we could not see any reason to justify such risk taking. India and Pakistan may have the same DNA as Dr Farrukh Saleem writing from Islamabad notes but democracy found a home only in India and that has made all the difference (do note democracy advocate Benazir Bhutto was the “chairperson for life” of her PPP party):
Indians and Pakistanis have the same Y-chromosome haplogroup. We have the same genetic sequence and the same genetic marker (namely: M124). We have the same DNA molecule, the same DNA sequence. Our culture, our traditions and our cuisine are all the same. We watch the same movies and sing the same songs. What is it that Indians do and we don’t: Indians elect their leaders.
It is that deficit that my efriend Richard L. Rubenstein was asked to help address and that was the deficit the dangerous atmosphere there prevented him from addressing. Here is his story:
The assassination of Benazir reminded me of my business trip to Pakistan in the summer of 1997 about which I had written in an earlier message. While president of the University of Bridgeport, I was invited by Dr. Kamal Khan, the President of the Westminster Institute in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, to visit in the hope that we could work out a program in which students at the Westminster Institute could take their last two years with us and get an American degree.The school was well run, more or less secular insofar as an institution can be secular in a predominantly Muslim country, with an excellent plant and a combined western and Pakistani faculty, most with Oxbridge doctorates. We were treated with exquisite hospitality and I was very amenable to arriving at an agreement. The Institute also had branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi which we visited.
There were, however very real problems:
The atmosphere: The minute we arrived at the Karachi International Airport, one could feel the hateful vibes coming from just about everyone, soldiers, customs officials, ordinary people. Fortunately, Kamal Khan met us and whisked us through customs etc. and into his car which had an armed guard. At every traffic light, beggars were ubiquitous, often poorly dressed mothers holding their babies would knock on the car window asking for money.
Incidentally, Several years later, I compared my impressions while in the UK with a well-informed wife of a surgeon who had just returned from an Oxfam mission to Israel. Although neither she nor her husband are Jewish, she is strongly pro-Israel. She is a highly educated Tutsi who endured the Rwanda genocide and has a deep empathy for Israel. She told me that wherever she went Pakistanis of every social class believe Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians and as proof they cite The Protocols of Zion, which was broadcast several years ago in a 40 episode TV version throughout the Muslim world.
The school itself had an excellent campus with a stadium and playing field, but security had to be assured by highly visible armed guards. The students clearly wanted a western-style, secular education but that was a dangerous enterprise in Pakistan.
We had progressed in our agreement to the extent that I had made arrangements with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Connecticut Department of Higher Education to send staff to the school at our expense to determine whether they would approve the deal. Without such approval, no deal. Unfortunately, shortly after we left Pakistan for Moscow (another wild place at he time), four Americans and a Pakistani were driven off the road and gunned down. The State Department issued an advisory warning Americans not to go to Pakistan unless absolutely necessary. This made us very reluctant to ask our US accrediting agencies to send personnel to evaluate the school. We couldn’t in good conscience ask them to take the risk.
About two months later, Khamal Khan’s sister informed me that her brother had been kidnapped. There was no ransom note. Khan was clearly western-oriented and a genuinely moderate Muslim and a very nice guy. His PhD was from Michigan. He has never been heard from since and is presumed dead. I believe Islamic radicals were graphically attempting to demonstrate their disapproval of the kind of education Khan was offering.
Of course, the deal was off. It was not a big deal by corporate standards but it did involve several million dollars. Given the situation in Pakistan, it is easy to understand the reluctance of American or other western corporations to invest in Pakistan. In this regard, it is instructive to compare India’s extraordinary economic growth.
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