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The children of the elite

The writer is a lawyer and political analyst

From the adolescent who breaks driving rules with impunity, relying on daddy to bail him out, to the six-year-old who threatens his teacher with papa’s Kalashnikov when she asks to see his homework, the image of the unruly yet advantaged children of elites is not a positive one. But there is another side. Among some of the privileged youth, a concern for justice, empathy for those disadvantaged and a desire to give back is becoming increasingly prevalent. It is not that previous generations did not love Pakistan or did not care to contribute, but the focus was mostly on helping out deprived relatives. The new generation is concerned about reform and society at large.

The impetus for this civic concern is derived almost certainly from the success of the lawyers’ movement. As a result of advanced technological links, Pakistani students abroad and at home, inspired by the movement, were able to play a very decisive role in it, and perhaps for the first time, realise the strength of student power. In the aftermath of the floods, students have been at the forefront of many relief activities. Some are choosing to make full-time careers out of relief and rehabilitation efforts, including those who have studied at top universities abroad. The fact that they would return home, and not to some cushy corporate job but to build the lives of others and mobilise civil society on issues that matter, is a marked change from previous generations; kudos to the new brand of understanding parents.

Others studying and working abroad are regularly using holidays to help with flood relief and build bridges with youth from diverse parts of the country. “We want to tell them we are with you,” Mohammad Ammar, vice president of NUPSA (National Union of Pakistani Students and Alumni) and a second-year student at Imperial College, told me. Touring flood-affected districts on trucks in the middle of a summer Ramazan is what it took to show solidarity, but such is the beauty of youth that even this was considered fun. “Sometimes we couldn’t understand how the truck kept moving as we were sure the driver was asleep,” he joked.

Sara Aslam, president of the group and a recent graduate from King’s College, collected funds for flood victims at traffic lights in Islamabad. “I didn’t tell my mother about it till after,” British-born and raised Sara said, “but we raised 700,000 rupees virtually from begging.”

“Even the children of some feudal lords really helped us, providing security and free storage for our relief goods at godowns,” Ammar added, “but the motivation and selflessness of those students who have much less than us is what really impressed me.” Raising as much as £50,000 from a single London fund-raiser and £28,500 from tube collections with the help of another group called, ‘All For Pakistan Team’, is not all that NUPSA is doing; it is also trying hard to reach out to students all over Pakistan in an effort to encourage joint research papers among Pakistani students based abroad and at home, sharing facilities and ideas, promoting discussions and networking and post-graduation opportunities. To this end, their teams have visited 22 university campuses in 13 cities. “We must get to know those whom we call our fellow citizens and claim to represent abroad as Pakistanis,” Ammar noted.

Partnering with various other student bodies to mobilise for flood relief, and reinventing student activism from its troublesome and often militant image, to a force of hope and positive change, is no small task. But having met some of the students behind this effort, I am confident that they have the energy and drive to pull it off. What pleased me most was the fact that despite attending some of the most prestigious universities, these students did not have a sense of entitlement and wanted to work towards a Pakistan where those not-so-privileged were also given similar opportunities to prosper.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.

Ayesha Ijaz Khan October 18, 2010

Reader Comments (16)

  • Latest survey reveals that 50% of the children are dropped out from the school at class 3. The elite class you have mentioned in your column enjoys all emunities belonging to ruling class. These chidren living abroad create sense of belonging with its country but after coming back to the country for good, later transform themselves as a part of the system. This is evident from the history that children from elite class who have studied abroad started behaving on the traditional lines where there is no rule of law for them and they can enjoy all the ammunities of society which common citizens of the country can never think of. Untill and unless, we work together to do away the evils of corruption, neputism and stregthening of institution where law prevails, we will remain a country with no future.

    Hussnain 3 weeks ago
  • Thanks Ayesha for writing on an important subject.

    Education System lays the foundation of Governance (social and economic delivery systems) across the globe.

    Everyone in this world, in his individual capacity or as a member of a global community, is either at the RECEIVING END or at the DELIVERING END. We all are dependent on each other.

    When we look at the Gross Global Happiness Index we find that a vast majority of people is unhappy. When almost a decade ago I tried to seriously find out the reasons for unhappiness, I came across a cycle of nine social and economic evils:

    1: Illiteracy and Ignorance: result in —>
    2: Unemployment: results in —>
    3: Poverty: results in —>
    4: Deprivation: results in —>
    5: (Physical and Psychological) Illness: results in —>
    6: Crime and Corruption: result in —>
    7: Injustice and Violition of Human Rights: result in —>
    8: Political, Ethnic and Religious Prejudices: result in —>
    9: Sectarianism and Terrorism: The begining and the end of an individual and a state!

    After nearly a decade I have corrected myself and replaced illiteracy and ignorance with education system that is passing out a class to manage corporate entities, run government offices and rule the countries. I found out that the illiterate and ignorant majority of the world is at the RECEIVING and the highly educated elite minority is at the DELIVERING end.

    This ELITE MINORITY is a human product of an education system that has no moral or ethical ground…


    Yes there are EXCEPTIONS and we need to appreciate them as role models due to their strong values inheritence through parental genes and guidance. The examples you have cited are EXCEPTIONS. We not to ENCOURAGE them. OTHERWISE:

    1: Education system across the globe is stinckingly rotten.
    2: The salary structure across the globe is exremely irrational.
    3: Justice is bought and sold through bars in the court rooms across the globe.
    4: Instead of cooperation, confrontation is used as a tool for access to and blockade of natural and human resources.
    5: More resources are spent on developing the weapons of mass destruction and maintaining the armies than feeding the hungry, educating the illiterate and treating the patients.


    …All this is done by highly educated strategists, planners, government officials, corporate bosses and political leaders.


    The way out is the humanization and rationalization of the EDUCATION SYSTEM and re-engineering, re-structuring and rebuilding of the SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE on a truly just foundation!

    Zahid Hussain 3 weeks ago
  • A nice way of looking at the picture but not necessarily the only way.
    An interesting read.

    parvez 3 weeks ago
  • I agree with what Ayesha’s written. I spent four years teaching at one of Karachi’s good universities and my students, especially in the social science dept., were all very concerned about the country and took part in social work, mostly voluntary, which inspired them to do more in the future.

    Bina Shah 3 weeks ago
  • After all that the rich of this country has done for the flood victims, spending millions and millions and giving away goods, clothing and utensils, stupid Uncle Sam thinks Pakistan’s rich need to do more and contribute to the flood relief. Clearly, Clinton has no real clue of how much each and every Pakistani has done for the flood victims.

    Umar Majid 3 weeks ago
  • While it is good to hear the a handful elite kids are working for change, it is critical that all voices and hands unify against hatred and bigotry. Unless the evil of hate initiated with constitutionally sanctioned sectarianism is not marginalized and eradicated, change should not expected.

    The society has an uphill battle against the deep rooted bigotry and hatred. The heart and souls must be cleansed to make room for and allow compassion and empathy to take root. Purity and piety shun dark spaces occupied by evil.

    Humanity 3 weeks ago
  • If the children of the elite in pakistan can convince their parents to pay their taxes, it would be a far greater and significant contribution then any feel good charity they may think of conjuring up. So:


    Thats all pakistan wants from you. Nothing else.

    Tippu 3 weeks ago
  • being an elite’s child i.e. having the luxury of studying abroad .. let me clarify that the entire base of such elites studying abroad is not more than 0.0001% of the entire population or 0.1% of the entire student population of Pakistan. And the students you mention Ayesha are probably not 1% of the 0.1 % or 0.0001%.. in short, the students who are doing a marvelous job are extremely few in number and you should not generalize what these few handpicked marvelous students are doing and hail all children of the elites !

    cause being one of them and being one who has extensively interacted with these elites children, a majority of them are out there drinking every night, not studying and wasting money. its only a few blessed children of the elite and the other ‘party’kids do not deserve to get the credit !

    M.Mahmood 3 weeks ago
  • Children of the elite do more harm than good – a dishonest piece.

    Ali Malik 3 weeks ago
  • @ M. Mahmood and Ali Malik— I think the first sentence of the piece makes it quite clear that this is not the way of all children who are privileged. Nevertheless, I do feel that those who are making an effort to do right need to be lauded. I am not sure what has led you to think that I am proposing that all children of the elite are doing good–there is nothing in the piece to say that. However the number who are working towards a positive difference is higher than in previous generations and their methods more innovative and that is all I am alluding to. It is important to also look at things that are going right, even if they are small efforts, than to only focus on what is wrong—don’t you think?

    Ayesha Ijaz Khan 3 weeks ago
  • @Ayesha ijaz khan

    Do these selected children of the elite you mention practice what they preach? Do they have the courage to apply the sermon of honesty at home? In short, have they tried to make sure their parents are not robbing the nation of the due taxes? Or do they focus on fixing “others” and fail to notice the rot within?

    I’d be interested to know your honest opinion.

    Tippu 3 weeks ago
  • Here I would like to endorse Ayesha that if someone has done good he deserves appreciation no matter to which class he belongs – numbers do not matter. We must focus on the ills of the system that is producing haves and haves not.

    Humanity is right in saying: “…unless the evil of hate initiated with CONSTITUTIONALLY sanctioned SECTARIANISM is not marginalized and eradicated, change should not be expected.”

    Focus on constitutional lapses and their redressal is the only peaceful civilized way for eliminating social and economic evils.

    Zahid Hussain 3 weeks ago
  • @ Tippu—To answer your question, I think the students that I mention and met are practising what they preach. They are using their holidays to involve themselves in relief activities and are fund raising throughout the year. I also don’t think that you can generalize and say that the parents of all these children are not paying taxes, etc. I don’t know what the situation in each and every household is, but I can tell you that there are honest people in Pakistan who pay their taxes (the numbers are small but they exist) and some of these students have parents who work outside of Pakistan and cannot escape taxation in their respective countries. The fact that their children are still so concerned about Pakistan certainly deserves mention. I think taxation is a very important issue and have written on it previously as it is key to getting Pakistan on to a road of self-sufficiency but it is not the subject of this piece, and nor does it tie in here, because I am talking about students who don’t earn as yet. Even if one were to assume that in some cases the parents are not paying taxes as they should, the sins of the father cannot be visited upon the son.

    Ayesha Ijaz Khan 3 weeks ago
  • @ Ayesha,

    Everytime i visit pakistan, im disgusted by the show charity balls these people organize. Or the feel good relief activities they engage in. These kids are all gungho about looking for solutions outside the house but would never think of questioning how the behavior of their own household is the cause of all the misery in the first place.

    The elite in pakistan robs the nation of about $30billion in unpaid taxes each year. This figure is based upon the tax ratio and our GDP and goes to show the damage the parents of most of these kids are doing to pakistan. And this is the norm rather than the expection.

    If these kids are really sincere, id like to see them question their parents on how much tax they pay. That would be a much bigger contribution than the feel good effort of charity balls and sending food packets and self congradulations all around. But most of these kids dont have the brains or the guts to look inwards at how their own household contributes to misery of the general population.

    Sure, there will be exceptions, but lets highlight the norm shall we? It isnt rosy, but it is the truth. Lets see these kids tackle those issues before we glorify them.

    Tippu 3 weeks ago
  • @ Tippu—I think you are being too judgemental and I think there is a lot of questioning among the youth. I really wouldn’t be surprised if in some cases the children do have massive disagreements with their parents about several things including taxes, but I doubt that a child can get a parent to pay tax or vice of versa. This needs to be implemented by law enforcement. Maybe you need to make an effort to spend some time with these students to really make an informed judgement instead of relying on transient visits to Pakistan to judge all and sundry. And btw though I have no disagreement with the fact that a very large number is robbing Pakistan of taxes every year, there are also those who do pay taxes. There are some people who work at corporations and their incomes are tax-deducted at source yet they make enough to send their children abroad for education so don’t you think lumping everyone together is unfair and counter-productive?

    Ayesha Ijaz Khan 3 weeks ago
  • @Ayesha

    I have no trouble accepting the fact that some “elite kids” may indeed be doing good work. But i have a problem when the title of your article glorifies all elite children based upon your limited observations of a few good kids. And here im assuming that the kids you base your observation upon are not the show-charity-ball ones.

    The fact remains that the elite in pakistan do not pay taxes and are therefore nothing more then glorified thieves. And the children of these robbers do indeed have the capacity to question and push their parents into doing the right thing. I kid refusing the ill gotten wealth can be a powerful incentive for the parents to change. But they dont refuse this stolen loot. I know this because if these children were indeed questioning their parents and shaming them, you would not see pakistan lagging the world in tax collection.

    So i’d rather not glorify “the children of the elite” and paint them all with the brush of generosity based upon the actions of a few kids you may have come across. More importantly, we must not ignore “the children of the common man”. They carry the burden of the nation on their tiny shoulders while the very same “elite parents” rob them dry of opportunities to send their own “elite children” abroad for education.

    PS And as to your suggestion of my visiting pakistan more often to get the real picture, i must state that i have been there plenty of times and still go there. This despite the fact that meeting these “elites” makes me throw up every single time. But the pleasure of meeting the common (and often poor) man in pakistan keeps drawing me back. Id like to see the elite carry the burden that the common man does. And the “children of the elite” are the key to making this happen. But they are as empty headed and shallow as their parents im afraid to say and i see no ray of light in that tunnel.

    Tippu 3 weeks ago

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