Turbulence in Pakistan affects students

The chaotic state in Pakistan hits close to home for students of Pakistani origin.

by Riham Feshir

When political science junior Kauwel Qazi visited Pakistan in December for a family wedding, she saw more violence and hunger than a happy celebration.

“There is no concept of law and order at all,” she said.

In the month since the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, hospitals have been burned or shut down and food markets have been blown up in Karachi, Qazi’s hometown, she said. Despite living in the United States, many University students of Pakistani descent have been affected by the chaos there.

Qazi’s grandmother suffered a heart attack the day after the assassination. The first hospital her family went to was burned down. The second was out of oxygen. Finally, the third had the necessary equipment to save her grandmother’s life, she said.

Qazi, who is Pakistani and visits the country often, said things are more turbulent nowadays, especially with the food and flour shortage.

“It’s devastating,” Qazi said.

Anthropology professor William Beeman said Pakistan, particularly the Punjab region in the north, could be one of the great food suppliers for the entire world.

The problem is the country’s power struggles, he said.

“Agriculture techniques are very backward,” he said. “The national development that needs to take place to develop the country’s infrastructure is put at a disadvantage under these circumstances.”

Beeman said Pakistan has been facing the food shortage problem for a long time.

But Bhutto’s assassination brought some awareness to the food shortage issue that wasn’t as popular in the past, Pakistani Student Association president Shahzad Ali said.

“I’ve never even heard of it before, until now,” he said.

Qazi also said riots and corruption resulting from the assassination brought awareness to Pakistani politics.

“The government feels the pressure to better themselves and improve the current situation,” she said.

While Bhutto had a large following in Pakistan, some University students didn’t agree with her policies, including biology junior Sharmeen Mahmood.

“Part of her strategies were to highlight the bad points of Pakistan,” Mahmood said.

Bhutto’s assassination left the upcoming February elections “up in the air,” Beeman said.

The general elections that were originally scheduled for Jan. 8 were postponed until Feb. 18, according to news services.

Mahmood doesn’t think the elections will help restore stability.

“It’s not something that one candidate can come and say ‘I’m going to stop the hunger,’ ” she said.

However, Ali said he is staying positive despite the violence the elections are causing, and hopes peace will return.

“This is going to pass on, hopefully,” he said. “Once the elections are over, everything will go back to normal.”

Mahmood, who was born in the United States, doesn’t think she has the power to help her family in Pakistan.

“You do feel a connection to the place and the people,” she said. “(But) we’re kind of limited when it comes to help.”