Imagine, a Good News Story on Pakistan

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Imagine, a Good News Story on Pakistan

Imagine, a Good News Story on Pakistan

By Tara Sonenshine, Member of the NSN Advisory Board
July 27, 2015 | The Hill

We are so used to stories about Pakistan that include terrorism, violence, bombs and bullets. Similarly, we are used to stories about failed foreign aid, fraud, waste, abuse, charities that don’t do what they promise and a growing sense that we have so many problems at home, so why bother doing anything abroad?

Into that cynical vortex comes a Washington Post story with a very different and welcome message about a part of Pakistan that is using outside money and inside determination to prove the critics wrong and remind us why we should care and why we should support cross-cultural engagement.

In a remote part of Pakistan, near the troubled tribal belt, and not far from the disputed territory of Kashmir, there are growing signs that extremism can be rooted out and that overseas engagement combined with local efforts can pay off, not only for the community itself, but for the wider world.

Hunza Valley and its capital, Karimabad, were once hotbeds of extremism, violence, poverty, illiteracy and the kind of chaos that spreads and disrupts lives everywhere. Today, because of outside help from organizations like the Aga Khan Foundation and others, things are turning around: Moderate Islam is taking hold, girls are in school, levels of violence have come down and access to healthcare has improved. Yes, there are still problems in that portion of the country with sustainability, deforestation, power shortages, etc. But roads are paved, schools are open, health clinics are being set up, water treatment facilities are being constructed and crops like cherries and peaches are growing. The result is that a major newspaper reports that the Hunza Valley is a “bulwark against Islamic extremism.” That is big — something that has tentacles beyond Hunza Valley because terrorism, as we have learned, spreads like a virus, infecting everyone, everywhere. If it can work there, why not elsewhere?

Sonenshine is based at George Washington University. She served as under secretary of State for public affairs and public diplomacy and is a frequent contributor to

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Photo Credit: Former Undersecretary in New Delhi visiting Humayun’s Tomb [U.S. Department of State,  02/27/2013]

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