America Calling!

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Moments after I checked into room #523 at the Marriott Islamabad, a magazine lying on the table caught my attention.  Its cover was adorned by Mr. Sadruddin Hashwani, chairman of the Hashoo Group which owns and operates the Pearl Continental and Marriott Hotels in Pakistan,  with this title on it: “A man with a vision.”

Hashwani

For a moment, I related his farsightedness with having a potential national asset like me stay in a luxurious room in his posh hotel for two straight nights.

The very next evening I met the 2013 cohort of the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan in the hotel lobby. More than their wonderful personalities they all reminded me of a one liner in an ad that ran continuously on Marriott’s private channel: “From the highways of the Karakoram to the shores of Gwadar, Pakistan is a place of contrasts.”  The assortment of such a varied talent for this fellowship speaks volumes of the dedication of the selection panel behind cherry picking amazing change makers from all across Pakistan.

Respecting the Pakistani norms, we left a bit late for the home of the counselor of public affairs at the US Embassy Islamabad, who was hosting our group for a pre-departure orientation.  At her place, she proved to be a fantastic host and a true candid American, successfully defending a strong case for Kansas city as a vibrant city in the US (when I questioned its sight seeing prospects). To rescue her, her State Department colleague jumped in, who opined for a barbecue in the city (I guess as a last resort).

Before we were briefed in a very thorough and professional manner by the hosts about our final pre-departure details, all 15 fellows gave their elaborate introductions and shared their expectations for the coveted fellowship!

The affable Ghulam Murtaza Khoso played a master stroke by suggesting to nominate the group’s captain from among the ladies and a vice captain from the male side. The move paid rich dividends to Murtaza himself, as he was selected as the vice captain, while Iqra Rehman received the nod of approval as captain. The exercise had a good impact on the group dynamics with respect to rapport building and kick starting a healthy camaraderie.

After taking a group photo, we departed with best wishes for our trip from our hosts, coupled with a promise of meeting again upon our return.

As one united group we all boarded a bus in the wee hours of the night to fly across a few oceans to reach the land of opportunities called The United States of America.

Asad Kahlon

About Asad Kahlon

Asad is a Lahore-based social entrepreneur and minority rights activist fighting injustice. After receiving an MBA in marketing from Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Asad passed up lucrative corporate opportunities to rebuild a primary school in Lahore. Garrison Grammar School, now enrolling 225 children, provides education primarily to underprivileged kids and specifically recruits otherwise disadvantaged minorities. Despite limited resources, Asad created a thriving educational community that fosters creativity, analytical thinking, and inclusion. Asad vocally confronts intolerance against minorities in Pakistan. He leverages social media and his personal blog to speak as a minority rights advocate. In the future, Asad hopes to build several primary schools in Lahore using the United States charter school model and plans to explore documentary filmmaking to further highlight social injustice and disparity in Pakistan.
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