Raj kumar

Raj Kumar, first Pakistani to win US award


Raj Kumar Gujar, an Islamabad-based young man, who hails from Sindh’s Umerkot district, has recently won the prestigious ‘Emerging young leader award’ in Washington.

The second edition of the award was conferred by the US State Department on 10 young leaders from various countries.

Gujar became the first Pakistani to have been bestowed with this recognition. He now plans to return to his home province to start working for peace, harmony and education.

Talking to Media channels, the business management graduate of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology’s Islamabad campus elaborated his future plans.

“Continuing my efforts for peace, education, women empowerment and against extremism and intolerance, I have conceived a plan to organise a cross-border literature festival and a road-show of Mai Dhai [a folk singer from Tharparkar who catapulted to prominence after her maiden song released by the Coke Studio].”

He aims to undertake this daunting and, perhaps, incendiary assignment of bringing Pakistani, Indian and Afghan writers together at a festival in Islamabad.

“Pakistan ought to nurture peaceful relations with its neighbours. And the youth of these countries can be pivotal to promoting peace,” he believes.

Gujar attended the 10th Global Peace Youth Festival, hosted by India in 2015. He represented Pakistan in that event. “I know some fine authors in India and Afghanistan and I hope two to three literary figures from each of these countries will attend the festival.

However, to materialize his objective, he is trying to secure sponsorship from the US as he is also general secretary of the Pakistan-US Alumni Network (PUAN). “Organising the festival totally depends on funding.”

After his meeting with US Ambassador David Hale on Tuesday, Gujar says he has high hopes for the funding.

Another of his project features musical performance of folk singer Mai Dhai, who sings in Dhatki language. According to Kumar, he will organise her shows in 12 cities of Pakistan where PUAN chapters exist.

The young activist, who spent five years in Islamabad to complete his fully-funded university education on scholarship, appears worried about what he describes as growing signs of religious intolerance at his birthplace.

“Umerkot and Tharparkar used to be an epitome of religious harmony. But, now during the past five years I have seen changes in the attitude [of the people].” For him the centuries-old peace seems to be losing ground to extremism and intolerance.

“What happened to Irfan Maseeh [a sanitary worker who died in Umerkot allegedly because doctors refused to treat him in the hospital] is really alarming.”

Gujar says he will start his efforts for restoring harmony in his hometown by arranging a peace-builders conference as a first step.

Some of his previous US-funded projects include promoting peace through music, sports, art and dialogue, and empowering women through knowledge and organisation.

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Hamza Jaffery

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