Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greg Mortenson -A Role Model Humanitarian

Upright Opinion
Dallas, October 23, 2010
Greg Mortenson -A Role Model Humanitarian
By Saeed Qureshi
If you are one of those few individuals who still do not know as to who Greg Mortenson is, then let me straight away tell you that it is a singular honor and delightful privilege to know Greg Mortenson. He is ushering the remote regions of primitive and war- ravaged Afghanistan and Pakistan into an epic revolution and historic transformation by educating the youth particularly the girls. It is horrific and hair-raising to think of imparting modern education in a land where fanatic bands of Talibans burn schools particularly meant for the female students.
In the Swat valley of Pakistan, where the Taliban radicals as protagonists of a queer brand of islam, burned hundreds of girl schools , Greg’s success story in a similar social setting is too true to be believed. Nevertheless, it is a fact as bright as the daybreak that Greg has established over 150 schools in Afghanistan exclusively for the girls as old as 20 years. And behold and wonder that not one school has been torched or demolished.
Is Greg a magician, a demagogue, a master of spiritism, a shaman, an exorcist, a prophet endowed with miraculous powers, a wizard, or witch doctors? None of these. He is a simple person brimming with an unmitigating reservoir of dedication and an inexhaustible passion to spread knowledge. He is a down to earth American humanitarian dedicated to a Herculean task and a challenge that is indeed daunting. His philanthropy is producing such amazing results that fly in the face of NATO’s futile military adventures in Afghanistan. The NATO and American armies kill the people while Greg wins the hearts and minds of the oppressed and impoverished people of that war torn- country.
Mortenson is the Director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI), and founder of the educational charity “Pennies For Peace.” The Central Asian Institute is building and developing schools, literacy centers, and vocational training centers in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. Greg hands over the management and control of the schools to local residents particularly the cardinals or the custodians of the mosques called Imams (leaders in prayers). Those imams aided by the villagers give religious ascent to the establishment of the school and thus the Taliban’s approval comes handy.
This novel experiment has been delightfully successful. The educational institutions established by CAI are not only functioning in an environment of peace but are also being solicited elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Mortenson emphasizes global literacy for girls. In this regard his famous and widely quoted statement is, "fighting terrorism only perpetuates a cycle of violence and that there should be a global priority to "promote peace" through education and literacy, with an emphasis on girls' education. You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads, or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won't change,"
That phenomenal altruism and real social change in return gives birth to the reassuring perceptions of Afghans that not all European or all Americans were villains. What Greg needs is around 250 million dollars so that he can finance “all higher education in Afghanistan this year”. Most of those students when graduated could nurse favorable picture in their minds about such persons as Greg and his country America. Hopefully, some of these students might even migrate to America to play their part in promoting the American society in various domains, be it science, medical or education, to name a few.
Us army stationed in Afghanistan is reportedly taking a cue from Greg’s sagacious strategy and vital mission. It is understood that in the wake of tremendous success and popularity of Morteson’s charitable mission, the army’s top brass including General Petraeus and U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, view his accomplishments as collateral efforts to rebuild and develop war-ravaged Afghanistan. The “Three Cups of Tea” is a favorite book for American army in Afghanistan to imbibe lessons that they can also follow to achieve the coveted goals of reconstruction of pillaged Afghanistan and win goodwill of the distraught Afghanis.
Greg’s journey towards building educational institutions in the far-flung villages of Afghanistan has not been a smooth sailing endeavor in the beginning. He has been perpetually receiving hate mails from bigoted anti -Muslims fellow Americans. In 1996, he remained in the captivity of the offending Taliban for 8 days in Waziristan, understandably against the charge of building schools for girls. He faced many such incidents of harassment and intimidation but he remained undeterred from his sublime mission that is now being widely acknowledged by both friends and foes.
Mortenson is a co-author with David Oliver Relin of the bestseller book “Three Cups of Tea” that highlights and elaborates the philosophy and contours of his literacy mission in Afghanistan. In recognition of his marvelous and outstanding services towards spreading literacy, the Pakistan government conferred on Mortenson Pakistan’s highest civilian award “Sitara-e Pakistan” on Pakistan Day celebrated on March 23 2009.
The importance of Mortenson’s mission can be judged from the fact that several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and in 2010. The “U.S. News & World Report” magazine featured Greg Mortenson as one of America's Top Twenty Leaders in the year 2009. In Bill Moyers’ PBS TV interview conducted on January 15, 2010, Mortenson deliberated on the role of the U.S. military and Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, as well as education for girls as a pivotal catalyst in bringing peace and creating a favorable impact among the Afghan people.
Now here in Dallas the legendary Mortenson will be the chief guest in what has been described as Grand gala dinner in connection with the introduction of his new book “Stones into Schools”. The proceeds by way of tickets would go to the Central Asia Institute, the organization that is engaged in building schools in Afghanistan. Ayesha Shafi, Nadia Bashir, and Azad Khan the host of the popular radio program “Bol Kay Lab Azad hain Teray” are the members of the Dallas committee for the ceremony. The hosts include Abdul and Talat Jabbar, Karen and George MacCown, Sadia and Tauheed Ashraf.
• (The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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