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NUPSA President hopeful for Pakistan’s future
National Union of Pakistani Students and Alumni (NUPSA) was established in 2007 with the purpose to gather all Pakistani students studying in the British universities at one platform as well as to support them and do something for their welfare. Last year NUPSA went through some allegations and disputes at internal level but the former president Hussain Ali, Ahmed Khan Yousafzai and members of the present executive committee once again succeeded in reorganising the union. The newly elected President of the union Ahmed Khan Yousafzai is hopeful of improving the working procedure of the union and wants to take everyone on board like a team. Talking about the establishment of NUPSA, Yousafzai said, “It is the brain child of Shazia Arshad, who was the President of Imperial College’s Pakistan Society. From this platform, we pay attention to the unity of the students, their social networking and dialogue making. Our objective is their intellect building. We will organize Young Leaders’ conference in the beginning of the next year at Oxford for leadership development in which Pakistani students from all British universities will speak on political issues as well as on youth empowerment."
After starting a forum, it usually turns to be a challenging task to carry it forward and remove the stumbling blocks coming its way. However, Ahmed says that “challenges are there but overcoming them would be part of their training as it would prove helpful in the practical life. We work as a bridge among Pakistan societies of various universities and keep them abreast of each other’s activities. It would be true to call NUPSA as the students’ training ground.”
“The membership of the union has risen significantly and its area of influence has spread to Canada and Pakistan. Presently 45 universities in Britain, 28 in Pakistan and 8 in Canada have been affiliated with it. In other words we represent over 25 thousand students. Overseas students are a big support to British economy that included 30 thousand students from Pakistan.”
Replying to a question as to how do the overseas students ‘contribute to the UK’s economy, Ahmed said “Besides £9000 as tuition fee, a student on the average spends £20000 on boarding and lodging per annum. These figures are about varsities’ students while there are many more students studying in different colleges. In simple words British economy greatly depends on overseas students.”
Referring to the cultural and life style issues the students face after coming here, Ahmed said “cultural shock is not that perceptible as majority of the university students coming here are from well off families as well as top Pakistani schools. I understand that the standard of education in private Pakistani institutions and their grade scoring is better than that of this country, albeit I should say that the students coming here are not realistic in their approach. They think that if they would study here they would also get some job along with pursuing their studies which usually doesn’t happen. Loneliness is their biggest enemy in this country and this makes NUPSA’s role important for them as they all become part of a family at this platform. Delay in grant of visa is also an issue causing gap in their educational year. We are trying to resolve this issue and if we get support from the students, we would definitely take some steps. Cases of bogus colleges are not referred to NUPSA but according to our observation some of their victims have come here for study by mortgaging their home or property to meet the expenses. To me, in majority cases agents are responsible for this problem, who lure these students by promising them some job and get them admitted in some bogus college which the student comes to know only after his arrival. According to my information there is no such institution in Pakistan that could guide students properly about visa and other matters. I would advise them to get information about ranking of colleges and universities through internet.”
To a question NUPSA’s working, Ahmed replied “elections are held on yearly basis. Announcement about the election is made on the Facebook besides intimating all Pakistan societies and members through email. Office bearers and executive committee members are elected through voting.”
Differences on issues for the sake of reformation are healthy but personal differences usually lead the organization to fractions and disarray. Difference did appear in NUPSA too on various issues in the past but Ahmed denied it saying “if something has happened in the past he has no knowledge about that but his committee is united. “As long as allegations are concerned we have put all accounts record including receipts and other documents online and if someone has any question in his mind, he could check it online. Here I would also like to add that comparing to the past when its membership was limited to only 28 universities; the number of its affiliated universities has risen to 45 which negates presence of differences in the body”.
When asked what line of action the committee is having to prevent any misunderstanding in future; Ahmed said “there is some misconception about the union that it is a multinational body with huge funds at its disposal which impression is quite wrong. We in future would put our account online for general information. But we can’t do more than that as we all are full time students and education is our first preference. Our parents do not spend money on us that we should forget our studies and devote our time to run NUPSA. Differences do occur but are sorted out through mutual discussion.”
When asked as a young member of the Pakistan society how do you visualize Pakistan’ future, politics and economic policies, he said “Pakistan had come to stay and would certainly do as long as the world exists. As long as the people have the courage to face all odds I don’t think anyone could finish us. During Musharraf’s time economy was improved through loans but when the time came to return the bitter truth overtook the scenario. The previous government had borrowed loans but the present government bore the brunt while the people were the ultimate sufferers. Poverty line in the country has crossed the middle class. However, I would like to mention that despite economic crisis, earthquakes and floods, the courage I see in my people is no less than a miracle. I think democracy is far better than dictatorship but unfortunately it was not allowed to flourish.”
Responding to a question that how could the youth help end corruption and improve economic and political situation of the country, he said, “Some of those studying here would one day become bureaucrats and politicians. I think as and when they become conscious they would be able to stand against all odds. In my opinion all 180 million people are involved in corruption as whosoever finds opportunity or get hold of power indulges in corruption and raises fingers at others. We can’t get rid of this menace till the man sitting inside every Pakistani doesn’t wake up. Has there been rule of law in Pakistan no other country of the world would have matched it but unfortunately no one in that country takes the law seriously. Pakistan has all laws but the change would only occur when they are acted upon. We individually have to follow them”, he stressed.
The situation in tribal areas is serious where Army operation has been continuing for a long period but the situation does not seem to be improving.
“Army is taking action against the militants who have challenged the government writ. The government has the right to take action where its writ is challenged. But here I would like to explain that people of Baluchistan are peaceful and loving but certain foreign elements are exploiting them for their ulterior motives and I think the army should take action against them.”
Pakistani students are also blamed for extremism. “In my opinion extremist elements are both in the far right and far left groups but they could be eliminated only through education. Spending Rs. 30 billion over defence and only Rs 2 billion on education is not justified. In my opinion the government should enhance education budget because only education could bring awareness.”
Ahmed has many plans to carry NUPSA forward. “We want to set new standard through reorganization so that the new entrants could carry forward the legacy with new ideas. Our stress is on the point that British Pakistani students in maximum number become part of this platform.”