Comparison Between Two Planets

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   Travelling alone to the

   Travelling alone to the Minneapolis of St Paul covering all along more than 7,000 km was making me homesick with strangers all round, no one to talk to when I heard the voice of Doug Stone (WPI program director) who recognized me at a first glance at MSP airport. It gave me immense pleasure that among all these strangers there’s someone who knows me and I can belong to.

   Then comes a series of interactions with WPI Executive Director David McDonald (a handsome and very approachable guy) and with my other fellow colleagues who are all accomplished journalists which helped me getting along and acclimatizing myself to the new environment.

   Though to MSP, it’s not my first visit to the United States. But every time, the difference between the U.S. and my own home country strikes me with mixed feelings. Families and the people I have met so far keep asking me about my first impression to the United States and every time my answer remains the same, “it (U.S.) is another planet, I belong to a different one”.

    As my interaction with people grew and I learnt more about the history of the United States and the number of immigrants it is accommodating, it made me draw a comparison with my own country. Their schools and big universities remind me of our dilapidated and ghost schools which are depriving 20 million children out there of their basic right to education; their beautiful roads along the coastlines reminds me of our rough roads where we have accidents on daily basis; their healthcare system reminds me of the absence of poor health insurance system in Pakistan where 78% of the population pay health expenses themselves.

     Pakistan is still living with the legacies of Cold War and the War on Terror.  After 9/11, Pakistan emerged as frontline state in the war on terror which many Pakistani believe originally did not belong to us but was imposed on us. Now as we (Pakistan) have our more than 45,000 people, including security personnel, killed so far, it has become our war as well.

     Since the invasion of Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan have always been transactional though both sides call them “strategic” because it sounds good.

    With a transparent, effective governing system in place, the U.S. is making every effort to make life easier for its citizens but being a U.S. ally what we have got in this war on terror. With this comes another harsh reality and that’s Pakistanis have yet to devour the real taste of democracy as it has been ruled by military for decades.

      For more than half of its 67-year history, Pakistan has remained under military rule. Elected civilian governments were dismissed in Pakistan by successive military rulers in 1958, 1977 and 1999. Each of the martial law lasted for nearly one decade and focused largely on curbing the freedom of the press.

       Coming back to reflection of people here, another interesting and significant factor which popped up during my interaction is that 99% of Americans are least bothered about their foreign policy but it’s a big deal in Pakistan. The more I talk with the Americans about Pak-U.S. relationship, the more I come to realize that American people are “far more intelligent, far more pragmatic and far more oriented to debate than their government”.

      But having said all about the good governance in the United States, I wonder if it would ever be possible for the successive governments in Pakistan to learn some expertise from the U.S. on how to cater to the needs of people and give them a chance to live a respectable life in the comity of nations, instead of just confining the ties between the two sides to transactional level.