Pakistan and the United States are long-time allies with a deeply strained relationship. The focus of this relationship has been on critical security issues where 90% of the dialogue takes place between government and military leaders.
In a generation, Pakistan will be the fifth most populous country in the world (the U.S. is fourth); Pakistan is a fragile democracy with nuclear capability and a critical player in the Asia/MENA region. To strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, the people of both societies must improve their understanding of each other and invest in the success of this relationship through avenues such as commerce, trade, entrepreneurship, education, arts, and cultural exchange.
The U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum (USPLF), which concluded in 2015, provided a platform for leaders from both countries to build new relationships that create value and can serve as a strong “shock absorber” for the tensions that arise in official ties. Over four years, we convened diverse American and Pakistani leaders to discuss common challenges and shared opportunities. These efforts produced tangible results – dozens of partnerships have launched, connecting students, teachers, business executives, media, cultural and religious leaders, and many more.
Partnerships Formed through USPLF:
Through the National Association of Independent Schools’ Challenge 20/20 program, Pakistani schools of the CARE Foundation match with a sister school in the United States. Throughout the school year, elementary and middle school students from these schools collaborate online on a project of their choice. The students form new friendships, share ideas and learn about each other through this fulfilling, shared experience.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is actively working with teacher training centers in Pakistan – Developments in Literacy (DIL) and Ali Institute of Education – to enhance teacher development and teacher effectiveness. AFT staff are working to bring ShareMyLesson.com, a free online resource that shares more than 200,000 lesson plans from teachers across the U.S., to their Pakistani counterparts.
They have invited Pakistani school network leaders to attend the annual AFT teacher’s conference that hosts dozens of professional development workshops. DIL attended in 2013. AFT is also exploring ways to send teachers to Pakistan to conduct joint professional development workshops with teachers and establish peer mentoring relationships with U.S.-based teachers.
Soliya is a global nonprofit that uses internet technology to improve inter-cultural understanding among Muslim majority countries, the United States, and Europe. Together, students from these regions take a professionally facilitated, 10-week online course that helps them confront the stereotypes, misconceptions, and issues that trouble relations between Muslim and Western societies. Lahore University of Management Sciences students who participated in 2011 and 2012 gave very positive feedback. The program is now expanding to include Edwardes College in Peshawar.
Thanks to relationships formed at the 2012 U.S.-Pakistan Media & Culture Forum, a major new film about leading Pakistani women was shown on opening night of the prestigious Margaret Mead Film Festival in N.Y.C. in November 2012. Read more about this amazing film on HuffingtonPost.com.
Leading U.S.-based music marketing and production company, Share the Mic, working with Georgetown University Professor Cynthia Schneider and the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan are exploring the launch of a national music competition in Pakistan that engages young adults from rural communities. Service learning and leadership training are core features of the program design. In addition, these organizations are exploring ways to expand musical exchange programs that allow artists from the U.S. to travel to and perform at festivals in Pakistan.
Leaders from America Abroad Media, ARY, and Pakistani director Hasan Zaidi met during the 2012 U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum on Media & Culture and furthered their discussions of partnering to develop a documentary series featuring a top Pakistani actress touring diverse parts of the United States. The series, filmed in 2012 is called “Reema Khan’s America” and is being broadcast nationally on one of Pakistan’s leading channels, ARY, in 2013. To see clips, click here.
UPIC works to strengthen ties between the diverse religious traditions of the United States and Pakistan, and form grass roots activism for positive social change. The consortium is led by Bob Chase, Executive Director of Intersections International, in partnership with Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed of International Islamic University of Islamabad and Professor Junaid Ahmad of Lahore University of Management Sciences.
In April 2013, UPIC convened its second four day retreat in Pakistan. To learn more about this effort, click here, and watch the inspirational videos below.
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