Guest Blog by Amjad Malik
I was invited by British Law Society of England to visit Brussels as part of their delegation to attend a rule of law conference on ‘Pakistan and beyond’ organised by American Bar Association (ABA) on 25th September at Hilton (Brussels). Reaching Brussels airport in the morning, I caught a cab and reached Hilton at the time of the conference and met Cricketing legend Imran Khan in the lift with his party entourage which was a pleasant beginning. When we all reached the designated room for conference at 25th Floor, the room was more or less occupied. A lot of people were keen have a glimpse of Imran Khan and a few specially came to listen to Supreme Court Bar President Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan who could not join us at the conference due to lack of in time delivery of his teams visas, though I feel he missed a great opportunity to talk on the subject where various old guns of American law industry were present.
Conference started in time and Pakistani interest was visible as room was filled within minutes. Mohammed A Syed an advocate of King and Ballow Law Offices USA facilitated the conference and quickly invited Imran Khan to deliver his key note address following a brief haul of an English lawyer from London who pretty much filled in the blank due to sudden absence of Aitzaz. Imran Khan in his usual style battered all within his reach. Strongly criticised the USA moot of war on terror, and challenged their strategy to operate this war which was counterproductive. Being Pakhtun himself, he highlighted that Alexander the great, Mongols, Moguls, Britishers & Russians all came to conquer this land and all after losing their teeth returned with unfinished business. He called for a review of the strategy which is rather than alienating Al Qaeda, from the Taliban to Pakhtun, mixing it with them which is creating a catastrophe and an up roar in those areas where millions are homeless as victims. He nailed President Zardari for getting the benefit of notorious National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and not being accountable for his millions of dollars graft money in Swiss banks, and though he sympathised Sharif for his current solid un resulted stand but did not side by him when a documentary was shown of 1997 assault of Supreme Court of Pakistan in Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah’s reign. He called for reinstatement of Chief Justice Choudhary and defended his party decision of not going to polls. He was asked many questions by the audience which he answered boldly. One senior American lawyer questioned him the conflict between Aitzaz’s two jobs, one lawyer’s leadership and the other party membership of Central Working party of Pakistan People’s Party which Imran avoided answering and said he too would be keen to listen to Aitzaz’s answer on this subject. I asked him if US enters Pakistan unilaterally, will it not affect the overall image of war on terror as the whole nation will side behind the country’s administration & army? To which he candidly replied that the war is already lost by Americans. Imran though admired by millions for his cricketing achievement and is worshipped for his social work for erecting SK Hospital for cancer research & treatment and for his heroic style and telling truth habits. However, this half baked politician is not considered for votes by his semi educated Pakistani voters who though adore him for his naked truth but keep him sacred as they do keep the holy scriptures, always at a high place away from children due to the fear of disrespect. I saw the same treatment with Imran by his fellow Pakistanis, believing him, but never giving him an opportunity to serve. I think this call for a review of his politic style and mechanics.
Our next stop was at EU for a brief encounter with European Parliament members who are friends of Pakistan. The meeting was arranged at European Parliament building and thanks to Denisa Soltysova, who organised a room for interaction at Rue Wietz 1047 Brussels on behalf of Sajjad Karim who hails from North West of England, and is the one and only Muslim member of European Parliament at Brussels representing Conservative party from UK. Imran Khan addressed senior MEP’s including Liz Lynne from Rochdale, Bjorn Hulton MP from Wales, David Martin from Scotland, and Sajjad Karim from North West of England. At the meeting, I represented British Pakistani Lawyers, Rabia Zia as UK PTI Coordinator and Shada Islam Senior programme Executive on European Policy attended the event. Imran addressed more or less in the same language as he did at the ABA conference and abreast the listeners of the ground situation at Afghan Pak border areas. He was asked by MEP’s what EU can do to aid and assist all stake holders. Imran though apprehensive about the current affairs, gave a gloomy picture in which Pakhtuns are suffering in 7 tribal agencies and 4 districts of NWFP. Sajjad Karim thanked the audience hurriedly due to tight schedule and later kept Imran busy in various TV and media talk shows later on and I returned to hotel for a little rest.
Sajjad Karim later kindly invited me for a dinner plus ‘iftar’ to open my fast at a nearby Shezan restaurant. He picked me up from Hilton at around 6:45 and we went to ‘Shezan restaurant on the way seeing the big square, King’s palace, and Brussels highest court whilst driving Pervez Lossar cleverly mentioned that King is at his palace as flag is flying. Upon reaching there I was pleasantly surprised that Sajjad had organised a little interaction with a variety of local Pakistanis living in Brussels. A local mosque imam, Khabrain editor, Mr. Butt of Khyber news, Mr Naseem the owner of restaurant and Mr. Pervez Malik along with his friends were there. Parvez Lossar a young politician confirmed that around 6000 a mixture of different casts is a small Pakistani community and all are invited almost at all the event in the town. He mentioned that today Imran Khan is addressing a well attended gathering at 51 Salle Saada: Quai Du Mariemont where his party PTI has organised a big show of support to the Cricketing legend. We both from UK emphasised the need to learn religion and preserve culture whilst at the same time, urged them to try to participate local politics. The group discussed various problems such as language barrier and problems in integrating due to invitation to assimilate in the host community’s life style i.e drinking alcohol and mingling with female members. We urged the need to enhance social interaction in order to create affection in host community which is vital to strengthen ties and cement their standing locally at Brussels and due to EU’s presence a strong a vibrant community can foster good relations with the Europe if time and energy is spent on exploring this aspect especially in any possible multi polar system which is emerging in coming years where Europe will be a key player due to its reunion, economic strength and joint defence force in the form of NATO. I gave example of British MP’s and Councillors who have whilst preserving their religion & culture earned their seats and the number is growing and we asked them to follow UK model to increase their voice in Representative bodies. Meal was served in an orthodox Asian fashion and seeing Sajjad Karim’s hospitality I was really proud to see a Nelson Solicitor admired by many of his overseas colleagues in Brussels. He truly made me feel at home which show his good nature and breed. I returned Manchester the following morning and one thing which I learnt from this trip was that Pakistanis wherever they are, always show concerns about their homeland, worried about leadership and very sensitive about Pakistani politics. If a little work is done by Pakistani missions abroad this raw material and a ready to serve commodity can serve Pakistan better, only if given the choice & opportunity. But what can we do, Pakistani bureaucracy has been inherited the ‘divide and rule’ policy which is prevailing every where. This Belgium Pakistani community can be best served if religion and language classes can be held for their knowledge in the evening by embassy and cultural and religious festivals are organised by missions abroad on one community platform to avoid further division and truly reflect their public service preference. As it stands I saw the small number of community disillusioned, without direction and leadership and earning just two time bread must not be the only aim of a Pakistani bread winners abroad, they can do more.
Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court of England & Wales & Vice Chair of Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK)