Meet the Pakistani activist fighting the Taliban, igniting Pakistani students abroad

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World.  We were talking earlier on tHe World today with security expert Julia Cayam, and she spoke about how we need to provide young people honest truth about what would face them in the real world.  In some parts of the world, young people don't hear that truth, they see it.  Some actually experience it, and for a few of them it motivates them to help to change the stuff they don't like.  That's the case of our next guest today: Jibran Nasir.  He's 28 from Pakistan, and he's assumed a difficult job as an activist who wants to stop extremist violence in Pakistan, and he's touring the US right now talking about that.  Nassir told me that the galvanizing event for him was the attack on a school in Peshawar in December.

 

Jibran Nasir: Well a few kids from around 3 grades were gathered in an auditorium and they were getting some briefing about something.  And a few terrorists walked in and opened fire.  And these kids were as young as six years old and old as seventeen, eighteen years old.  And they actually wiped off complete grades close to 150 kids are massacred in that attack.  And that really proved a point that terrorism has no sense of decency.  They are not going to care about the gender, about the age, about the location, very well knowing that kids are going to be unarmed in the school, very well known that people are getting enlightened.  It's just like attacking someone in a church or in a mosque, where they know that you're talking to God and that is all they're doing.  And then in the school you're getting education. So anything which is vibrating you. Anything which is letting you express yourself, they cutting it down.  And so they are coming and hitting us in such spots where we otherwise take our freedoms for granted.

 

Werman: So you're here in the United States touring colleges and universities, and talking, especially to Pakistani Americans about what is going on back home.  I want to ask you about that in a second.  But first, when you're home what does it mean to be an activist, like what is your daily life about when you're trying to connect people to these horrific events.

 

Nasir: Well I was not so much living a different life, a futile a few months ago, but when the Peshawar attacked happened and I found myself standing outside the red mosque, which actually symbolizes terror and it's place in the capital of Pakistan.  When I took them on, and it was not possible for someone to imagine a civilian unarmed standing at the gates of the Taliban, or rather the gates that are presented to the Taliban.

 

Werman: At the red mosque.

 

Nasir: At the red mosque.

 

Werman: Yeah.

 

Nasir: And that resulted in the Taliban being rattled.  This is what I'm trying to prove here.  That what the terrorists thrive on is terror and fear.  And the moment they find out that someone is not afraid of them they get rattled.  So I got the Taliban commanders threatening me directly, and that actually has changed my life.  That I don't live in my own house anymore. I move after every few days.  Bu then again I don't complain about it.  I do it because I care for my country.  And I want that to end.  And I don't want the generations after me to go through this.  So this is something I have to go through, much like the forefathers of America.  Generation after generation have taken on different challenges.  This is a country where at one time slavery existed, and now we have an African American president.  Only because people at some time thought that we gonna take a stand and we gonna fight the system.

 

Werman: So with that historical, kind of context, I have to ask you this.  It's marathon day here in Boston.  Boston Marathon.  It also happens to be Patriots Day, which is a day that commemorates the rebellion of American colonists against the British crown.  Also a day now that we sadly associate with this other kind of violence with the marathon.  Just what are your thought about that as you stand here in Boston on this weighty day symbolically.

 

Nasir:  It's so sad that a marathon day, which is a sports event. And sports is something that combines people across cultures.  Even today you have international athletes coming in and it supposed to be a day perhaps even through sports celebrating diversity. It is a loss and that is primarily why I am here speaking to the Pakistani and American, and perhaps through extension the Muslim population of Americans.  That the onus is upon them to provide their counter narrative, and the onus is on them to step out in public and openly condemn terrorism so that they can send across a message to other people in America that just being Pakistani or just being Muslim does not mean that you're an extremist.

 

Werman: So how would that actually work if these people are here.  I mean how would that have any impact on what is happening back in Pakistan.

 

Nasir: Well see the Pakistani American community is very well networked with Pakistan back home.  Primarily because your studying here or working here, the majority of your family would be back home.  So you are sending back rembedences. You are going back on culturally holidays.  You're meeting them.  Given the fact that they have stakes and given the fact that it is part of their identity.  If they today here unite, and start lobbying, not the government of USA alone but also the government of Pakistan back home.  Given the fact that even Pakistan relies on the foreign rembedence.  They can have a seat on the table where they can dictate terms.  And Pakistanis have more so benefit from education and civil liberty values which are more prevalent here as opposed to Pakistan.  So what I do in Pakistan standing outside the red mosque is taking the fear of the common Pakistani.  It's time to step up and be vocal and challenge them.  But what i'm doing here is trying to do here in parallel is influence the institutional change in Pakistan.  Through the Pakistani diaspora which have important role to play back home.

 

Werman: What do you think about the whole idea that I brought up earlier about this being Patriot's Day and it was a rebellion against tyranny, or some would say in Britain, these were the tyrants over here.  These guys were crazy the colonists trying to overthrow the crown.

 

Nasir:  Well see at the end of the day the colonists were the ones living here, and they were the ones whose rights were being abrogated or being violated.  We also are a former colony, so I know exactly what it means.  We have had or own share of rebellion, our own share of mutiny back home against the British Crown. And we fought for our freedom.  That is our history as well, so we can completely empathize what went on here.  But the fact at that time, some people could have found comfort in the fact that we could connive with the crown, we could perpetuate their reign.  But in return we get a life of comfortableness or leisure, or we could stand united right now and build our own identity.  Get our own independence and freedom, our own democracy and decide our own fate and future.  Rather than it be imposed on us.  So Patriots's Day exactly represents the fact that people who worked and toiled not for them, not perhaps for even their children, but for the generations which came much after that when Martin Luther King said "I have a dream," he knew perhaps he would not live long enough to see that dream.  So the ability to dream and work for it for people who gonna come much after you.  That is what humanity is all about.  That is what the human spirit is all about.

 

Werman:  Pakistani activist Jabron Nasir.  Thanks very much coming in.

 

Nasir: Pleasure.