Features

Why Pakistan’s most successful businesswoman should be celebrated

As the founder of 256 schools, Seema Aziz has transformed the lives of millions. So why does the West ignore her story?

16 January 2016

9:00 AM

16 January 2016

9:00 AM

Pakistan society intended Seema Aziz to be a wife and mother. Her father arranged for her to get married at a young age, and by her early thirties she had a comfortable life as a Lahore housewife, married to a chemical engineer.

Then she took charge of her own fate. In the late 1970s, well before the era of jihad, Pakistan was flooded with western products. People began wearing jeans and T-shirts, leading Seema to conclude that there was a market for high-quality Pakistani clothes produced locally. She opened her first shop in 1985, when she was 34, in Lahore’s ancient cloth market. Her family told her they were ashamed because she had gone into business, but her instincts were vindicated: the clothes flew off the shelves. ‘Later I came to understand what entrepreneur means: you create a product that people don’t know they need with money that does not exist.’ Today she controls an empire of 450 Bareeze stores (translated as Blessing of God) across Pakistan and the Middle East. Seema is the country’s most successful businesswoman, which in itself makes her amazing. What makes her extraordinary, however — and a figure who should be celebrated internationally — is something else.

Seema Aziz’s schools have rarely been written about in the West. This is probably because they disprove every western prejudice about Pakistan. They are a story of success and not disaster; about hope rather than despair. They do not boost the profile of western politicians coming to the rescue of a failed state. No western aid agency helped to get them established.

Today Seema operates 256 schools, many in rural areas. They give a sound education to boys and girls who would otherwise be illiterate, and many of her alumni have gone on to become teachers themselves. Others have trained as engineers, businessmen and women, doctors, surgeons, soldiers — their lives utterly transformed by Seema Aziz and her CARE schools. Indeed, they are now starting to change Pakistan itself, helping this beautiful but damaged country make use of the abundant talents of its population.

The story begins in 1988, when the Ravi river, which flows through Lahore, was about to overflow after heavy rains. Engineers saved the city by bursting the banks so that water escaped into the surrounding country. But countless homes and villages were washed away as the water rose.

Seema had set up a factory in one of these villages, so she travelled to the stricken area. At first she concentrated on building new homes and delivering food and clean water. ‘There was no sewerage, no drinking water, no electricity, no roads,’ she recalls. ‘It was absolutely heartbreaking, only 15 miles outside Lahore, the cultural centre of Pakistan. I became like the pied piper, with hundreds of children following me around, all barefoot, matted hair, runny noses.’

Seema asked why the children were following her. She was told that there were no schools and they had nowhere to go. That was the lightbulb moment when she made the decision that would go on to transform the lives of so many of her fellow citizens.

Her decision to set up a school and provide those children with an education did not meet with universal support, however. Many ridiculed her when some of the children who would attend her school didn’t even have a home or a roof over their heads. Others told her that ‘The poor don’t want to study.’ Her response: ‘Everyone wants a better life for their children.’


‘I put the money together, begging it from friends and family,’ she remembers today. ‘I counted the bricks. I signed every bag of cement so it wouldn’t be stolen. The day we opened the doors — 17th January, 1991 — there were 250 children standing outside, all barefoot and with the same matted hair. Little children with a shawl and no trousers. Or trousers but no shawl. The first week we gave everyone a towel and soap and a comb.’ By the start of the second year there were 450 pupils, and a year later the number had doubled again to 850. For the first four years Seema drove herself out of Lahore to the school every day. During that time she painstakingly established the principles and systems that today guide all CARE schools across Pakistan.

‘I wanted to give boys and girls an equal chance,’ she says. ‘There was no way I could segregate them.’ This challenged the rule that all schools should be single-sex. ‘For many years I was terrified,’ remembers Seema, ‘because I feared that if we failed we would take back the cause of education and freedom and equality.’

A setback came when her policy was attacked by a politician on religious grounds, forcing Seema to announce that the school would close its doors. The following morning 500 parents had gathered outside the school gates demanding that it should be kept open. The politician retreated.

The second principle guiding Seema’s schools is the teaching of English. This, too, was regarded by some as heretical: many leading Pakistani politicians, Imran Khan included, have insisted on the use of local languages. But Seema maintains that refusal to teach English amounts to apartheid, because it cuts pupils off from Pakistan’s cultural, business and political elite. ‘How can I say that my children will go to English schools, but I will open schools where children only study in Urdu?’ asks Seema. ‘We are educating the children of our nation, the future of our country. We must give them a fair chance.’ Equally controversial has been her third guiding principle: that her schools should charge a fee. ‘There are two things wrong with the idea of free education,’ says Seema. ‘People don’t have a stake in it, so they don’t take ownership. I don’t want any child growing up believing they are being educated on charity.’

After four years, Seema was ready to open a second school, and soon afterwards a third. In 1998, the Punjab government, impressed by her success, asked her to take over a group of 10 failing government schools in the suburbs of Lahore. But, says Seema, ‘they had no toilets, no drinking water, no library. In some schools I found children doing guard duty, or massaging teachers’ legs, making tea, looking after teachers’ children. This was not education.’

For two years teaching unions blocked her reforms, but in the end she was successful. Today CARE educates approximately 175,000 children. Huge though the number sounds, however, it is still a drop in the ocean: there are estimated to be 52 million children in Pakistan, of whom barely half attend a school of any kind.

Many of those who do are pupils at one of the country’s notorious government schools. We visited one in Mal, just a few miles away from the country estate of the Punjab chief minister, Shabaz Sharif. The children were dirty and the classrooms squalid. There were supposed to be five teachers at the school, but only three were present. One of them was on the phone while simultaneously teaching several different age groups.

In one primary school we found two teachers in charge of 101 children. At another, the classrooms were empty, while three teachers sat in the courtyard in front of a blank whiteboard. When we arrived, they stood up and apologetically started to teach. Many government teachers don’t believe the poor are worth the attention. Others have multiple jobs.

The record of these government schools is dreadful. In rural areas, 43 per cent of ten- year-olds can’t read a sentence in English, and 37 per cent can’t read elementary Urdu.

By contrast, when we visited Seema’s schools (all funded by private Pakistani donors) the classes were full. There was a sense of purpose. Children stood up when we entered the room. We detected a palpable sense that education is precious.

As our time in Lahore came to an end, we asked Seema to take us back to Sheikhupara, where she launched CARE schools 25 years ago. As we drove across the Ravi river she told us that she herself had only been allowed to study home economics at school. ‘I can never forget that when I wanted to apply for a master’s, my father said, “You’re crazy. You’ve studied enough already. Now get married!” ’ When she did eventually take her bar exams in her mid-thirties, she came top in the national exams.

Graduates from Seema’s schools are an inspiring bunch. We met 22-year-old Muhammad, who owns a call-centre business employing 30 people. Fatima, a confident young woman, also aged 22, won a scholarship to Lahore’s University of Technology and Engineering to read civil engineering. She now works as a consultant to a big firm and plans to do a PhD. We asked whether she was bothered that she was not married. ‘I have not thought of it yet,’ she told us.

Muhammad Azam, the son of a casual labourer, told us how he is now in the final year of a cardiology degree. There is no other graduate in his entire extended family. We also met Umair Ali Akmar, a musical prodigy who regularly performs in front of the prime minister. She told us that but for CARE she would never have learnt that she had any talent, let alone pursued a musical career.

As we prepared to leave Lahore, we asked Seema Aziz what she planned to do next. She said she’d like to expand CARE schools to teach one million children. ‘Because I believe education is the right of every child. We must reach every child. We want to change the destiny of this country. Because the thing about education is that it’s not one person that you are educating — it’s for ever. An educated person will never allow their child to be illiterate.’

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  • sebastian2

    “This is probably because they disprove every western prejudice about Pakistan ..” Perhaps. But what we know about Pakistan as based on fact, is sufficient. We don’t need prejudice. The grim realities tell their own story.

    She has performed a remarkable and profitable service to her community. But the problems of that blighted country remain severe and perhaps intractable. She’s the exception rather than the rule.

    • Altaf

      She has indeed been a wonderful contributor to society, but why do you take away her achievements because of the country’s problems? Those problems are more often due to a few powerful people whose negative impact is larger than it should be. It does not make her an exception, because the larger population wants to be educated and give their children better lives – that in fact is the rule. Please don’t mix stereotypes and perceptions with ground realities. I speak as a Pakistani and a resident of Karachi. I assume you haven’t visited Pakistan, therefore I invite you to visit the country and see for yourself, before painting the larger population with the same brush as those few who have tarnished the country’s name.

      • sebastian2

        I take nothing away from her achievements. I place them in contrast to the wider society that, no matter what the people allegedly “want” remains corrupt (126th out of 175), indelibly mohammedan (it’s an Islamic State), discriminatory towards other faiths, and excessively reliant on foreign aid and remittances from ex-pat Pakistanis. It has a 55% literacy rate (more children out of school than in almost every other nation) as precious resources often go to “ghost” schools and “ghost” teachers, and a 69% infant mortality rate. The madrassas are unreformed and all but out of control, but useful as a political tool for islamo-nationalist sentiment. There are problems with counterfeit medicine and counterfeit documents. In the UK, Pakistanis have earned for themselves an unfortunate reputation.

        Pakistan tarnishes itself. The “stereotype” is of your country’s own manufacture and is routinely conformed to (Pakistani cricket, for example, is rampantly corrupt).That ordinary people suffer (as they do) is an indictment of the entire country. Until you rid yourself of corruption and mohammedan bigotry (islam being an ideology rather than a religion), you will not make decent, national progress.

        As I said, this particular lady is quite an exception. Unfortunately, her and others like her, though they can touch lives, are unlikely to rid Pakistan of the wickedness rife throughout the political, economic and social infrastructure.

        Sorry, but that’s how it is.

        • Altaf

          So let me get this straight, you contrast it to a wider society that you have never actually seen firsthand? You would prefer to generalise through random negative facts, commonly found as Daily Mail headlines, for a population of 200m (about two thirds of Europe) without knowing more about the country’s problems? Its easy to list a nations ills and faults, no country is perfect (I’m also British, so can speak educatedly about both nations). But what I’m interested in is what can be done, and what any of us do. I for one work as a professional, run businesses that employs locals and sit on the board of two educational charities. So excuse me if I don’t need a lesson in self righteousness. Ignoring the clearly bigoted comment about Islam, it’s always easy to criticise from afar. But I for one prefer many more Seema Aziz’s than commentators such as yourself in helping improve Pakistan.

          • sebastian2

            I think it’s quite enlightened of me to advise you to abandon the “Final Testament”. It is neither “final” nor a “testament” worth the name. Neither is it perfect or infallible. To follow it is to strut foolishly down a road to nowhere, urged on by a falsehood. Pakistan is an islamic state in crisis.

            You are correct in one thing though. You do not need lessons in self-righteousness from me. This is the least of your requirements. Self-reflection and critical thinking would serve you better. That is the starting point for any of the improvements you seek.

            The world would be better off with many more Seema Aziz’s. Pakistan would be better off with many of those, like yourself, who abandoned your country for the better life the West has to offer. You should return and take back the lessons in civilization, decent governance, and tolerance that you might have learned. But it would be best off with Orthodox Christian Vladimir Putin as your President.

          • Altaf

            What is unfortunate in your responses is that it seems liberal values and “civilization”, as you put it, makes you no more tolerant. If anything, you appear to have more hate towards others, than I supposedly or allegedly do.

            Just a few final clarifications, firstly the First Testament refers to the Bible, or even the Torah. So you’re getting your religions mixed up.

            Secondly, who abandoned which country? Both Seema and I live in Pakistan and are making this place better. Whereas yourself? You say you don’t want to be self righteous but clearly can’t help yourself.

            And finally, for you to recommend Putin as President of Pakistan, or any other nation, just lost you complete credibility. So thanks but no thanks, I think this “debate” is truly irrelevant and therefore over.

          • sebastian2

            I actually wrote the “Final Testament” which is how mohammedans refer, rather conceitedly, to the qur’an.

            As for “tolerance”, well …..tolerance has its limits. Many are growing weary of the Religion of Peace fallacy and our tolerance of it is diminishing fast. As is our tolerance of mohammedan Christianophobia (Christian persecution is increasing) and of other phobias you are prone to – including islamophobia, by the way. But that’s your problem.

            It’s unfortunate that you describe proper scepticism and reasonable, evidence based criticism as “hate”. Of course, it is nothing of the kind and we both know that. I guess this false description must be a form of psychological projection where you project onto others, sentiments you have yourself. You require counselling.

            I congratulate you on your efforts to improve Pakistan. It needs all the improvement it can get. But, dare I say, you will use your British citizenship as a refuge, when it suits, from the ills of a country steeped in grinding poverty, corruption and flawed notions. If you cannot see that from overcrowded Karachi (where municipal workers are often not paid, where the transport system is a shambles, and where power supplies are unreliable – I could go on) we can.

            On second thoughts, perhaps Putin wouldn’t suit you (too liberal) and I doubt he’d want the job anyway. I was tempted to suggest Hitler but let me propose, instead, the Dalai Lama who will guide you all back to your Buddhist ancient roots that mohammedism brutally destroyed. I’m sure you’d be a lot happier for it. You may not be richer but you’d learn tolerance and respect for life.

            Otherwise – “Instant karma’s gonna get you …” (If it hasn’t already.)

          • Psy Cha

            That’s right Putin is way too liberal 😉 , as for the one who’s claiming that “he is making Pakistan a better place” i think your version of Pakistan is limited to certain areas of the city you are acquainted with!!! I AM from Karachi.. You need to visit places like orangi town, site area, qasba, and places like that to “SEE’ real Karachi.

          • sebastian2

            An interesting contribution to a stimulating discussion. Thank you.

          • Altaf

            I work with low income schools, among other projects, in Sohrab Goth, Lyari and other places across Karachi. Thanks for your comment, but I know Karachi very well (maybe even better than you might) and have expanded into areas of Balochistan and KP for these projects. Rather than finding ways to attack others, maybe you can ask yourself how I can help.

          • Joe Sixpack

            Hang in there, Altaf. Whilst I agree with the general thrust of Sebastian2’s comments (i.e. that Pakistan has deep and wide-ranging problems), your country (and the world) need more people like you who are trying to make a difference. Not sure why people seemed to be attacking you on this forum.

          • Altaf

            Thanks, that’s kind of you to say.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Because he’s dishonest.
            Wrapping bs into a nice little bow, doesn’t make it less stinky.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Karachi, Karachi…hmmm.

            The cities with the most terrorist attacks on the planet.
            Say again….?

          • Altaf

            I must admit, I was shocked by your response, because of the personal attacks on a public forum. It was reason enough that I thought I would not respond, but I decided, I would it give it another chance.

            For some reason, you have preferred to attack and accuse me of several things, when I haven’t done the same to you, nor in fact was the original article a basis on which to attack anyone. The article’s title even says, the lady is to be celebrated, but sadly you skipped over that.

            While no one here has anything to prove to anyone else, I thought I should at least set the record straight. I am a professional who worked many years in the City and earned in the top 2% bracket, paying significant sums in taxes and in all other ways, being a law abiding UK resident and citizen. I chose voluntarily to move to Pakistan to help do whatever I can. The fact that you find this offensive is surely disappointing but, I hope you will see, also unnecessary. So there is no question of my being a refugee, I have actually forgone a lucrative career in order to at least see what can practically be done here on the ground to help improve things. If I and others like me don’t do this, who would you suggest should?

            I have shared links with others in the comments section that I will share with you:

            http://sopheesmiles.com/2015/08/22/pakistan-unveiled/
            http://sunday.com.pk/

            These are just to show you another side, I hope you will accept that for what it is. It is also to show you that we can have a decent and honest conversation without being personal and giving due respect to each other.

            After posting this, I guess you have a choice. You can either continue
            to see me as the embodiment of all negative stereotypes (when frankly, I have nothing in
            common with those, not even their religion) or you
            can take the chance to have an open minded conversation as we start
            again, and consider that maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.

          • sebastian2

            I think you completely misunderstand the thrust of my general remarks and have chosen to take them as a personal ad hominim assault – which of course they were not.

            I am being forthright about the severe problems in The Land of the Pure which I ascribe to, inter alia, mohammedism. It is that idolatrous creed and its multiple adverse consequences (Sam Harris describes it as the “motherlode of bad ideas”) that is the true object of my concern. However, for those who identify themselves entirely in terms of their “faith” and allow their thoughts, feelings, dispositions and actions to be determined by it and little or nothing else, then they must inevitably share in the disapproval I and others have for this ideology called “islam” and its totalitarian manifesto called the “quran”. (“Non-muslims” are not the demeaned and anonymous constituency mohammedans consign them to when they use – as they often do – that derogatory description. We will look you in the face and see what we see. Mohammedans need to grasp that pronto. We have no fear of “islam”.)

            Whether or not you fall into that category, I cannot say. Either way, no intelligent person could assume that a blogger here is insensitive, or ignorant of the many decent “muslims” there are and who, quite often, are victims of their “religion” along with many others. We are intelligent, fair minded and perceptive. But when we observe the ummah or the Dar Al Islam from afar, we see division, mutual antipathy, bigotry, rivalry (often bloody as in the sunni/shiia divide) recidivism, implacable conquest, genocide and obsession with the improbable and mystical. We hear threats and promises of overthrow. And so we consider mohammedism’s lofty claims of infallible purity, peace and tolerance against this background of abject reality. We draw our own conclusions and feel pity for “believers” whose lives have been blighted and trapped by its incessant vicious circle of failure and self-abuse. Women confined to houses, clad in sheets and treated like chattels. Children forbidden a proper education. Opponents assassinated. Sharia courts dispensing brutality rather than justice. (This is not the entire picture I know, but it is one I focus on here because it is so widespread among the most “islamic” of communities)

            There have been, as many will point out, phases of comparative enlightenment and for these one is grateful. However, seeing the so-called islamic world today, we note a different pattern entirely. And it is “today” with its terrorism, murder, bigotry, Christianophobia, with its IS and the global spread of the virus of wahabbism and its close companians, with its Boko Haram, Al Shabab, with the Ikhwan Muslimin that Egypt had to put down but that has links with the UK and elsewhere, with all of this and more, we feel a justified apprehension and profound scepticism.

            As we should. As you should. As all “muslims” should.

          • Altaf

            Sadly, all I can see is connecting various issues and threads that are not related. But you’re not going to believe me or be convinced one way or the other.

            As such, I wish peace of mind, away
            from these intense feelings.

          • sebastian2

            Perhaps you should wish Yazidis and Syrian Christians peace of mind, away from the intense feelings inflicted on them by ………………….. well, you know who.

            As for mine, thank you for your concern, which is unnecessary. These are not issues of sentiment. As for being convinced, I fear the facts generally contradict the entire Religion of Peace narrative and its preposterous claims. You should examine them sometime.

          • Altaf

            Again, for the record, I wish everyone peace including all those who are being murdered around the world, not forgetting African-Americans at the hands of US police (or Americans generally as they resolve their gun law issues) and those massacred by Norwegian mass killers. I don’t reserve my pain for just Muslims versus Non-Muslims.

            The facts are of your own choosing. There is much you don’t know, which I say with sincere honesty. But in order to be convinced, you need to start with an open mind and heart.

          • sebastian2

            Nobody sensible is denying all this. We are acutely aware of the world’s wider horrors: including in parts of S America; in parts of Asia; in parts of Africa. But whilst noting this, let us confine ourselves with the issue raised here: Pakistan and, by association, mohammedism.

            Mohammedism makes the most extraordinary claims for itself. The loftiest being that it is “perfect” and that the alleged “prophet” was the perfect exemplar in everything. So much so that he is adored or idolised by millions who never met him, and who know of him only by (as some might say) pages of self-serving propaganda that do not reflect the fuller historical truth but that they cannot question or challenge for fear of blasphemy. Pakistan is steeped in this, as are many Pakistanis in the UK. People have been killed for blasphemy.

            It is neither insensitive nor prejudiced to observe all this and pose questions. All matters of “pain” or “hurt” are irrelevant to the proper examination of this creed, its origins and the deeds done in its name.

            So ………. do we think the qura’an infallible and perfect? The absolute and flawless word of a deity delivered to an illiterate, unwitnessed, in a cave? Generally we do not. Do we think of the “prophet” as the ideal man – complete and faultless? Exquisite in all? No, we generally do not. Do we see mohammedism as a religion of peace and tolerance? No, we generally do not. Do we have good reason for doubting or questioning its entire religion of peace narrative? Yes we absolutely do.

            That the rest of the world is imperfect too, is beside the point. What is germane is that mohammedism – perhaps along with other ideologies, for sure – cannot fulfil or live up to the credentials it claims for itself. This is obvious. As such, it must take its place alongside other man-made, defective schemes and busted notions. It is, like them, a fallible, blemished human invention.

            Until this is admitted to, the creed can never be reformed. After all, you cannot reform the already perfect. Those that try may be persecuted, discredited or killed. It remains, therefore, generally frozen in medieval arabia (even though mohammedans who escape to the west may amend their practices better to integrate into a kuffar society that offers so much more then the one they departed from). So much so that some groups, despairing of its “progressive” features and utterly hostile to them, have returned to its purist origins, replicating now what they believe was its ideal condition then. They are literally fundamentalist – resorting to the fundamentals. For them, it’s not “islam” that’s wrong, but mohammedans who have betrayed the faith over time, and the world that has yet to be subordinated.

            These are deep waters that cannot be addressed here. However, it seems quite proper to me to treat this cult (for that is what it is) with intelligent scepticism. Muslims should do likewise for the sake of their own salvation.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Most black people today aren’t being killed by Americans, but by Muslims.
            Try again.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Altaf, I know you don’t realise, but reading your posts, only fortifies the impression some of us (most of us) have of stereotypical Muslims and Islam:

            whiny, whinging, ever-complainig, dishonest, outrageously hypocritical, never self-criticising, and overall: just bloody pathetic.

            p.s.: if only everybody’s feeling weren’t as ‘intense’ as the stereotypical Muslims’ feelings, about pretty much anything and everything. LOL

            Hey, let’s draw a cartoon, and then talk about ‘intense feelings’, shall we?

          • Harryagain

            I expect you are rich unlike most in Pakistan.
            Do you need an armed guard when you travel?

            Pakistanis in the UK are almost universally despised.
            This due to the rape culture that seems to be widespread.
            (As advocated in the Koran.)
            https://kafircrusaders.wordpress.com/muslim-grooming-paedo-map/
            http://bolobhi.org/its-your-fault-a-pakistani-guide-to-rape-culture/

            Not only Pakistan but everywhere the violent, evil cult of Islam rules.
            http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

            I hear the imams in Pakistan try to stop people having polio vaccinations by telling people it’s a Western plot to stop them having children?

          • Altaf

            Actually my wealth is education, rather than cash or assets. I’m also from the UK, and no, we are not a despised lot as much you claim. Where in England do you live?

            Its sad to see such statements made by someone about someone else’s faith. I just hope and wish you find peace from these intense feelings.

          • Harryagain

            Well, if from the UK, you know as much about the situation in Pakistan as I do.
            If it’s so marvelous there, why are so many people leaving?

            If you think native British do not despise Pakistanis and their evil religion that advocates slavery and rape of non-muslim women, you are truly in Lala Land.
            http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

            Even in the 60’s in Yorkshire,Pakistani men would creep up behind white women and rub themselves up against them.
            How can you love people like this?

          • Altaf

            Once again, lets look at the facts. There are 8m expat Pakistani’s around the world, from a population of 180m. The number who live in the UK is 1m (based on 2011 census), from a total population of 60m. The percentage of Chinese outside China is higher. The number of Indians abroad is higher than Pakistani’s.

            The rest of your commentary is simply ad hoc conjecture. I lived in London for many years. My family and friends, of Pakistani origin, are highly educated, professionals and law abiding citizens. So frankly, my existence and life alone disprove your view.

          • Harryagain
          • Caviar luvvie

            And yet, over 80% of Pakistani women, and over 50% of Pakistani men in Britain are on benefits, and contribute nothing.

            Isn’t that something.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Pakistan is so amazing, even Pakistanis don’t want to live there.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Education…….hmmm.

            How about little girls who want to get educated?
            How does it work out for them, all over Pakistan?

          • Caviar luvvie

            I always laugh when Muslims lecture others in loving others.
            If only everybody loved their people, like you muslims love your brothers and sister, ey?

          • Malcolm Stevas

            Does one need to see any society first hand before judging it? I’ve never been further east than Prague but I always knew the USSR was wicked and oppressive and an economic basket case.
            You talk about stereotypes and so on, but seem ready to smear opinions you dislike as “Daily Mail” material.
            You must excuse millions of Europeans for seeming to be “bigoted” about Islam, since an awful lot of violence in the world (some of it directed against us, like yesterday’s atrocity in Turkey, or the mass sexual assaults by young Muslim men on New Year’s Eve) is very much a product of Islam.

          • Altaf

            Malcolm, actually yes in my view it is necessary to visit a place and meet its people before making any conclusions or setting firm views. It gives you firsthand experience of a place and its people, whereas otherwise you rely on second hand information. It is after all the virtues and benefits of travel, wherever you go in the world. It builds humanity and helps us to cross bridges that allow us to overcome suspicion and avoid potential hatred. And in any event, I also believe that you shouldn’t judge anyone, from afar or when you’re up close, for example when you visit them.

            I have also visited Prague and found it to be a beautiful city rich in history. My perception before I visited was based around its communist era, so I was certainly pleasantly surprised. My humble suggestion is that the same can happen when you visit Pakistan. You may wish to not believe me, or even attack me (which would be rather unfortunate as I have not chosen to do the same) but maybe its best if you read someone else who has gone through such an experience:

            http://sopheesmiles.com/2015/08/22/pakistan-unveiled/

            After posting this, I guess you have a choice. You can either continue to see me as the epitome of all evil (when frankly, I have nothing in common with those who profess violence, not even their religion) or you can take the chance to have an open minded conversation as we start again, and consider that maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Muslims are all liars and hypocrites: he complains that we’re not allowed to criticise this backward hellhole, because we have never been there, yet I am 100% sure that his ilk rants and spits at Israel and/or the US, and I am certain, none of them have ever been to Israel, and a very small percentage to the US.

      • Harryagain

        Pakistans problems will disappear when it gives up it’s mad-cult religion.
        As that’s not going to happen, things will just get worse.
        Especially for women.

        • Altaf

          I beg to differ on both counts. Just for your entertainment, here is a link to a fashion magazine in Pakistan and a music video with an all girl band:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvLv2-A0mnc
          http://sunday.com.pk/

          There is more to it than meets the eye.

          • Harryagain

            All very unIslamic.
            They must be targets for terrorist gunmen?
            I expect they have to have armed guards.

          • Altaf

            Actually neither un-Islamic, nor are they targets, nor do they have armed guards. I’m sorry to say wrong assumptions on all fronts.

          • Harryagain

            Well they shot that schoolgirl Malala whats-her-name.

          • Altaf

            Her name is Malala Yousafzai, who is one girl in a population of 100m women in Pakistan. “They” being criminal murderers. The same “they” who go in shooting rampages in US schools, but which doesn’t make every US school dangerous. The same “they” who gang rape women in India, but which doesn’t mean Delhi, India or Hindu’s are collectively rapists. The biggest thing missing in this entire public forum is perspective.

          • Harryagain
          • Altaf

            Actually again no, I know the girls in the band personally. My answers for them are accurate. I don’t deny that others have guards. Having bodyguards is not unusual in the West, for those who need them. And yes, Pakistan has a history of being dangerous, but that doesn’t mean things are not improving nor does it mean that its universally dangerous – as much you think it does. And how I know this, I live here!! Which makes me more qualified to comment than someone who’s never been but simply surfs the net.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Yes, she is 1, and yet this sort of inhumane barbarity ONLY happens in Muslim countries.

      • Nusrat Rizvi

        I have visited Pakiland after 50 yrs and found populous to be so infused with Islam they can not think or do anything worthwhile except perhaps to reproduce more of their ilk.
        There is no clean drinking water anywhere and most of nations wealth is subservient to military need.
        Who in his right mind would attack a nation of 190 million inhabitants who are diseased illiterate starving masses, every single one is seeking salvation by some good deed like blowing himself and others up just so he can be with the quota of 72 virgins.

        • Altaf

          I’m sorry you feel that way. Clearly I disagree, and in fact, find that assessment to be very unlikely of your trip to Pakistan. I have strong suspicions that your trip to the country is made up, and the overall comment is disguised as more unnecessary hate. Sad state of affairs, where no one believes one another and just prefers to use verbal attacks to get their points across.

          • Nusrat Rizvi

            A comment like yours is so full of paranoia it loses the point you are making. What I stated was based on what I saw yet instead of refuting me point by point you make a blanket assumption I made the whole thing up.
            You sound more and more like a hated Punjabi disliked by all minorities of this so called nation.
            What you can not deny is that with each passing day Pakistanis get less to eat and more anxious to leave the land of the pure for places where pork and liquor are part of the culture.
            I am sure Donald Trump will use this as a litmus test to see if the Muslims are fit to live in this land of the free.

          • Altaf

            Forgetting for a moment that you do not come across as a 50+ lady of Asian origin, the fact that you mentioned pork in Pakistan confirms that you’ve never visited (it’s not part of the local culture or cuisine, leave alone the religion). Bluff called. Or otherwise, go on tell me, where did you stay, what did you see, when did you come?

            And by the way, I’m an Urdu speaking Muhajir. Another wrong assumption.

          • Headstrong

            Maybe you should be less sanctimonious and more observant. He did not mention pork ‘in’ Pakistan – but of the proclivity of Pakistanis leaving the land of the pure ‘for’ places where pork and liquor are part of the culture.

          • Caviar luvvie

            pathetic – you don’t like what this person says, so he or she made it up?

            You ppl are incorrigible liars.

    • Bonkim

      Spot on. Pakistan is of little interest to the world except the perennial war with India over Kashmir, the warring tribes on the West and as a safe haven for Islamic terrorists. It is a failed state with illiterate and backward people. This Lady however good as a businesswoman and benefactress will not change that blighted land.

  • Liaqat Hussain

    Respect to you sister…

  • Joe Long

    Oborne seems as enthused with Pakistan as he is contemptuous of the English victims of epidemic Pakistani sexual abuse

    “On Question Time last night Tory writer Peter Oborne said the victims had “accepted the advances” of their attackers and blamed modern social decline. He added: “What does it tell us about what’s happened to our society that we have 12 year old girls, 13 year old girls, who are happy to give up their affection and their beauty to men in exchange for a packet of crisps?”

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/rochdale-grooming-gang-to-those-of-you-828599

    Very nasty brute, some sort of High Tory apparently whose arrogance is matched only by his pig ignorance.

  • Harryagain

    Won’t be long before some crazed islamonut puts a bullet through her head.

    • MathMan

      Then she will be shipped to UK for surgery and, after recovering, will be paraded on TV every 20 minutes and then given the Nobel Peace Prize. Sound familiar?

      • Harryagain

        Yep. You got it.
        All at taxpayers expense while loony politicians pose round her on TV.
        Probably bring all her family over as well. At least fifty of them.

  • jim

    More muzzie PR…none of which changes anything ..The moslem rape cult in europe concerns me more than anything happening in Pakistan

  • Bonkim

    Why should Western Media report on Pakistani businesswoman? All said done Pakistan is a backward nation (or a hotch potch of nations) and Islamic bigotry, illiteracy and poverty endemic. Not much to report there. Pakistan’s main preoccupation is India and the Islamic bigots that are tearing the country apart.

    • Raj N

      Your point is fair regarding the need of Western media to report the lady. However, the same media sometimes rake up even small issues to heighten terrorism related issues and they totally ignore that there might be few citizens who are not sharing the agenda set by hardcore Islamists. I am no fan of Pakistan (Infact I am an Indian) and have no love lost for the nation or rigidity of Islam. Still I have to say what the lady is doing under the circumstances is highly noble.

      • Bonkim

        Yes she is doing her bit – but under Islam the poor are helped through their tax system – and you will not find many beggars in Pakistan’s cities whereas next door they are everywhere.

        • Raj N

          “Under the islam the poor are helped through their Tax system” is a big Humbug and it never actually worked anywhere even when Islamic empires were at their peak. The observation regarding beggars is half correct as I can see beggars in both India as well as in pakistan. I don’t know how these observations are related to my views. Regarding the remaining paragraph, your views are same as mine.

          • Venk

            Giving a tenth of ones income or Tithe was widely practised in Christendom and also Islam – and the poor in principle do no go hungry in most Islamic countries. Have you been to any such as Pakistan? Regardless of sectarian massacres, and widespread corruption not many beggars on streets.

          • Raj N

            Is it working in Somalia or any other African muslim countries? I did not visit Pakistan nor I can. However if u say that is the truth I have to take it in good faith but still I have my doughts

          • Raj N

            In Christianity they give to church which is different in that case many Hindus give it to temples. The sad part is during last 200 years temples stopped being places of cultural and educational centers in addition to religious place and that is sad.

    • Raj N

      One more observation regarding extremism is I do not believe personally that better technical education is going to reduce it. A better technically qualified person can be terrorist (as we are seeing frequently these days) and only a balanced education, society and liberal understanding of religious views can mitigate the risk.

      • Bonkim

        A religious view is based on applying the teachings of that religion – and it is not for others to interpret religion according to what suits them at a particular location and time.

        All religions are faiths or superstitions and one cannot be rational about faiths – by definition.

        • Raj N

          All religions are indeed based on superstition. But not all faiths are equally dangerous to people following other faiths. Throughout the history, various abrahamic faiths persecuted other faiths where they hold the sway and in many instances brutally killed them. In the indian subcontinent, with few exceptions Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikkism ) always engaged in inter faith dailogue and respect. That fabric was somewhat destroyed due to colonial rule. My point is while religions are based on superstitions some of the belief in Islam (as well as in Medieval Christianity) are extremely dangerous. So they deserve special condemnation (like the caste system in Hinduism) whose beliefs are not consistent with the new era humanitarian values. All religions have to adopt the new minimum standards.

          • Venk

            Yes – the 30 years war was no different to the situation in the Middle East today. However judging/condemning history by today’s standards serves no purpose – Regards Hinduism, Buddhism, etc, benign neglect and caste persecution/exclusion not much different from say the ISIS or Medieval Christian/Conquistadore’s justice practices of instant beheading or burning of those considered unfit company.

            Human history has many barbaric episodes – still continuing – past experience of the Tamils in Sri Lanka or Muslims in Burma cannot called benign neglect and that Buddhists are peace loving gentle-folk – they can be as barbaric as any ISIS follower or Medieval Crusader. .

  • Cardio

    History marches on, awarding outcomes to communities,nations,civilizations based on some very bland,secular criteria of performance & behavior.Human minds evolve(for better or worse)being influenced by economic,social,political environment and gun powder realities.Nations trapped in adversity will either perish or excel and pull out of misery in compliance with above principles.We are very hopeful about future of Pakistan,thanks to people like Seema Aziz and will be part of this revolutionary struggle.

  • Shreenidhi Venuraju

    I am an Indian and I thoroughly applaud this lady. For far too long our countries have obsessed over getting the better of each other to the detriment of the region. The problem lies with a few power hungry elite who know full well that peace between us would only mean a decline in their personal spheres of influence. In india it is now de-rigeur to blam everything on Pakistan.
    What we need is more people like her on both sides to make a difference. Only through education will we escape the quagmire of hatred that, if unchecked, will consume us all.

    • Headstrong

      From another Indian – agree. Whole heartedly. Except – “In india it is now de-rigeur to blam everything on Pakistan”. Unfortunately, it is so with Pakistan as well.

  • Raj N

    Kudos to the Lady. Inspiring and keeping the hope alive that Pakistan also can be normal given the chance to acquire better education.

  • DazEng

    Ah Mr Oborne. May you forever be subjugated by the “Noble Religion” you adore so much. First class chinless twit. Heaven forbid you actually get on with some real journalism and expose the Muslim perpetrated mass rape cover up?

  • Andrew Smith

    She is probably an impressive lady. But why do we have to celebrate her? We can admire, look up to etc. Celebrations only ever used to be for birthdays and Christmases.

  • NorBdelta

    I applaud her efforts and she is to be praised for her accomplishments.

    However, as lightly skimmed over as it was by the author, the underlying issues are not being dealt with adequately, for women it is that they are not allowed to be educated or even allowed to have rights in quite a few to many cases. Look at her families response to not getting married, I doubt many parents are that tolerant of deviations from religion and culture.

    These issues must be dealt with alongside the educational issues. Same for boys, many families dont want an educated child, they want another worker on their farm or someone to care for them in old-age, and being uneducated themselves they cannot see the benefits of an educated generation on both themselves and the country.

    There is a big lack of long-tern economic planning and social development which needs both political and social attention, and religion is a big thorn in this endeavour.

  • maha

    Just an observation
    People most affected by islamic terrorism are muslims! And the terrorists have been indiscriminately attacking the citizens of Pakistan. You might say ‘you reap what you sow’ but the sad part is that people who get killed in terrorist attacks are just collateral damage. And on top of that, the whole world despises every muslim they see.

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