For Pakistani students in Education City, political situation at home fuels online debate


Cartoon by Wajeeha Malik

By Wajeeha Malik

Cartoon by Wajeeha Malik
Cartoon by Wajeeha Malik


Approximately three weeks ago, countrywide demonstrations against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gained momentum. Protesters from two of Pakistan’s political parties flocked to the capital, Islamabad.

Nearly 1,400 miles away, in Education City, the majority of Pakistani students turned to Facebook and Twitter to express their views.

Pakistan’s political instability is a cause for serious concern for many Pakistanis in EC. Among these is Bilal Shakir, a senior at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (GSFS-Q). He believes that the “deadlock” between the (Pakistani) government and the protestors has had a strong influence on the opinions of the Pakistani students in EC, leading to what he refers to as a “polarizing effect.”

“While, thankfully, the extent of this polarization is somewhat diluted among Pakistani students in EC, in comparison with their counterparts in Pakistan, my newsfeed is still full of harsh, sometimes even vitriolic debates, between Pakistani students in EC,” Shakir said.

He feels that the social media debates have led to change in peoples’ behavior with each other, based on their peers’ political beliefs. “To speak from my own experience, often I have felt, people who would once meet me quite warmly, refuse to do so now, if I do not subscribe to the same political views as them…”

Despite this observation, Shakir continues to support social media discussions about Pakistani politics. “Being a part of political discourse is the first step that you can take to inform political decision making. All of us, as empowered freethinking individuals, have an obligation to ensure the continuity of what we believe to be just. Being a part of social media debates is an individual’s obligation to the truth.”

Rimal Farrukh, a journalism sophomore at Northwestern University in Qatar, describes the situation as “disturbing.”

“Even on your Facebook newsfeed, you see these supposedly educated people making these wide-sweeping judgments against other peoples’ political beliefs instead of raising a valid point for debate,” Farrukh said.

The socio-political issue has become a foundation for debate among most Pakistani students, who have even involved their non-Pakistani friends and professors in these discussions.

“After every class, professors ask us what’s going on in Pakistan,” said Taimur Ali, sophomore at GSFS-Q, “We try to use examples from our classes to explain the situation to them.”

Ali, 19, believes that there are non-Pakistanis who try to understand the scenario despite the complicated nature of the country’s politics. “Many other students come from countries that are not politically stable so they can understand what we’re going through.”

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