INTERVIEW WITH ANWER CHAUDHRY, PTI WEST PUNJAB STEERING COMMITTEE)
WORKING FOR A BETTER PAKISTAN
I first began to follow the work of politician Imran Khan and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after he stood up to America against armed drones and the culture of “foreign aid with conditions” which may have included turning a blind eye to drone strikes over Waziristan. PTI stands for justice, humanity and self- esteem http://www.insaf.pk/ Imran is interviewed on a daily basis, his policies and views are often in the media however a party leader is only as good as his army of supporters on whom he must rely. I decided to catch up with one PTI worker, Mr Anwer Chaudhry on the West Punjab Steering Committee and find out how he was working towards a better Pakistan.
Q: What first motivated you to become politically active as a young man?
A: I enjoyed public speaking and communicating to a group on a public forum in my University days. My friends propose my name as a president of the chemical society and I was elected with over whelming majority. Then I start taking interest in University Students Union. Soon I became one of the students who were very active in National Students Organization. Imtiaz Alam (now famous TV analyst), Jahangir Badar (now general secretary PPP), Hassan Nisar (now famous columnist), Manzur Ejaz (famous columnist in USA), Shahid Mahmood Nadeem (general manager PTV), Raja Anwer (now minister in Punjab Government) were all members of NSO. I was selected to contest Punjab University Students Union Election in 1970 against Javed Hashmi (now President of PTI).
Q: Tell me about your early experience as a founder member of Pakistan People’s Party?
A: It was a wonderful experience. Former Prime Minister Zukifiqar Ali Bhutto was an amazing personality. He told us that it is your party. We owned it by heart. We had a voice in the party. Everybody had a right to criticize anybody in the party.
Q: When former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto was deposed by Army Chief General Zia-ul-Haq how did that affect your work?
A: It was very painful as if my own father was hanged. It was shocking news for us. The political activities were banned. In the mean time I become busy in my import business and many years passed away.
Q: What was it like working under former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto?
A: We had many hopes with Benazir Bhutto. She was also very encouraging to party old workers. When Benazir Bhutto came into power she was surrounded by new people, land lords and capitalists so many PPP workers kept quitting and left politics. I was one of them.
Q: Tell me about your campaign to free politician Javed Hashmi? (In 2003, Hashmi was arrested and faced a trial on charges of treason in the Central Jail Rawalpindi after allegedly making controversial statements against Pakistan Armed Forces and was released on 4 August 2007).
A: Javed Hashmi Release committee (JHRC)(Overseas) was formed in Canada and America. I was convener for this committee. We managed to get articles published in the press and made a signature campaign overseas and as well as in Pakistan. I was in regular contact with Javed Hashmi in jail as well as with his family. The Government of Pakistan had charged Javed Hashmi in 2004 on the basis of a fraudulent case of treason to silence a strong political voice and imprisoned on a 23-year jail term. The JHRC was formed January 14, 2006 in Toronto to lobby for the release of Javed Hashmi and all political prisoners in Pakistan. A petition was brought online on January 26 and Signature Sheets were introduced see old links below:-
Case details at: http://www.shariahaunt.com/javedhashmicampaign.html
Direct link for Online Petition: http://new.petitiononline.com/jh011406/petition.html
He is now free and President of PTI.
Q: How did you first come into contact with Imran Khan and PTI?
A: A friend of mine Mr Ahsan Rasheed who was Punjab PTI President introduced me to Imran Khan at his home in Zaman Park, Lahore.
Q: What were your first impressions of Imran?
A: Whatever he says, it comes from his heart, an honest man which our nation needs.
Q: Why did you decide to join PTI?
A: I was attracted to its manifesto. This party is not a family party. People will come to the top through the political process.
Q: What is your role within the party?
A: I am just a worker at this time. I have applied for party ticket for National Assembly (NA-79). One year before PTI West Punjab Steering committee was formed I was selected as its member (only one person from Samundri). It was an acknowledgement of my work in Samundri by my Party.
Q: What would you say to critics concerned that politicians transferring from older political parties will bring their old ideas/behaviour with them?
A: Imran Khan will never compromise with corrupt elements from other parties who are running into our party nowadays. This will be a big test for our party and I am sure that our leadership will make the right decisions.
Q: Tell me about your work in your hometown of Samundri, Punjab?
A: Two years before when I start working in my home city Samundri (NA-79), it was a big challenge for me. I started working alone but I had my passion with me. I went village to village and convinced the people that PTI is the future of a common man. Do you imagine that I know personally about 15,000 people. When they come in front of me, I recognize them by name. I love my people. They also pray for my success in mosques. I must mention that I got good guidance by our divisional Mr TARIQ CHAUDHRY (ex-Senator).
Q: What are the main issues affecting your area?
A: Education, unemployment, drinking water are the biggest issues. If I will be elected, I will try my best to solve these issues.
Q: What is your vision for your constituency?
A: I have a plan to solve unemployment issue in my area which no Member National Assembly (MNA) of any area could have thought. I will get declared from the Government Faisalabad-Samundri Road as an industrial state. You will ask me that who will invest in this area when many industrialists are running away from Pakistan? Yes here will be my test. My years of experience in an international business background has allowed me to develop a strong network of institutional investors from various regions that are eager to come to Pakistan but hesitate due to the corrupt political regime. If PTI is given a chance, these “sidelined” investors will storm in as they understand the opportunity and have limited opportunities as other emerging markets do not offer the same potential that Pakistan does….which I still consider what they call in investment terms a “frontier market”. You also have to keep in mind that Pakistan ranks as one of the easiest places to form a business in Asia…above India as well. SO… THE SKY IS THE LIMIT FOR MY HOME TOWN.
Q: How do you intend to overcome a longstanding culture of corruption in Pakistani politics?
A: Carol, it Is what in the west they phrase as the “trickle -down effect”. If the leader of the ship is not corrupt he will make sure the people reporting directly to him are not and they in turn will do the same as they will be answerable to their seniors. I am not saying corruption will be rotted out. It still exists in countries like the UK when developers are seeking planning permission….but I can assure with confidence that it will be minimized and controlled….because that is the hope that IK brings… the hope of honesty and accountability.
Q: What do you think about talks with the Taliban (TTP)?
A: Every solution is in talks.
Q: How do you encourage youth to become politically active?
A: I have too much interaction with youth in my area. I have made 8000 young people members of PTI. Nowadays I am pursuing others to become TABDILI RAZAKARS (Volunteers for Change https://www.insaf.pk/Forum/tabid/53/forumid/74/tpage/1/view/topic/postid/184514/Default.aspx#184514
Q: What role can women play in local politics within your town?
A: First time in the history of Samundri women come out for Imran Khan. They contest the PTI intra party elections and there are 72 women representatives in our tehsil body.
Q: What is your view on US drone strikes?
A: No, No & No
Q: What should be the policy regarding foreign aid?
A: Technical Aid is OK but big NO to Financial Aid. Our so called rulers have made us beggars.
Q: How do you promote peace and good relations among diverse communities?
A: I am already working with other communities in my area. I presided over a seminar which was held in Samundri.
Q: What actions need to be taken to ensure a fair system of voting in forthcoming elections?
A: Fair and impartial Care Taker Government.
Q: How do you think Imran Khan will fair in forthcoming elections?
A: We are going to win. PPP and PMLN are making conspiracies to delay the election. But people of Pakistan will not let them do. This is 2013.
Q: What will be your priorities locally if PTI come into power?
A: I will concentrate the problems of my area: education, unemployment, drinking water.
THANK-YOU ANWER FOR YOUR TIME…
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.