The video fades in from black to show a government schoolteacher, a news photographer and a gynaecologist spearing one after the other. “I will save a life. I will break stereotypes. I will educate the future of Pakistan.”
The two-minute video is the face of the Let’s Think Pakistan campaign — a fresh new social media revolution that is the brainchild of Boston University graduate Arsla Jawaid who returned to Karachi with one goal in mind: to make a change.
In its essence, the campaign that operates from a small Karachi office but is taking social media by storm — Facebook, Youtube and Twitter — is based on a simple premise. “The aim is to get individuals who can think for themselves to become agents of development,” explained Arsla, the director of the initiative. “As a Pakistani, we want to send out a message to this generation: Get up and bet on yourself. Make a difference.”
The Let’s Think Pakistan website is a surprisingly user-friendly designed platform where a popup allows you to leave behind a 140 character pledge in response to the question “What will YOU do for Pakistan?” Some of the 80 pledges that have already been uploaded include ordinary Pakistanis vowing to rise above peer pressure, identify with each other beyond religious and cultural divides, and promise to stop littering.
“You don’t need to be a political leader or a CEO to bring about positive development,” Arsla asserts. “The aim of the campaign is to target as many Pakistanis as possible through an online network and to inspire a generation. And while Facebook and Twitter is the obvious choice, we have also reached out to special organisations, development bodies and public schools. In the LTP video we have images of everyone from a Pakistani priest who represents the critical minority population, to a ‘dhol wala’ who is just synonymous with Pakistani culture.”
The Let’s Think Pakistan campaign began recruiting a small but dedicated team in December 2011 to help lift the project off the ground. Though launched only a week ago, the movement is ambitious in its scope.
Over the next month the team is launching a photo project whereby people from all over the country will be invited to share pictures of themselves doing simple acts of charity or good deeds. “In the end we hope to make a montage which can go viral. We want to trigger a trend of development on the ground level. People have made a lot of pledges, but now we want to give them time to fulfil those pledges. Step two is all about accountability, and that’s where the montage comes in.”
The movement’s founding chairman is Syed Jawaid Iqbal who also runs the decade-old Moderates think-tank promoting tolerance, democracy and interfaith harmony. “I have high expectations of the Let’s Think Pakistan project,” he maintained. “It’s received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from people all around. And though the word ‘Think’ is there in the campaign’s title, it’s also very much concerned with implementing change. ‘Pehla pathar utha lein, log peechay chaltay hain.’ For me personally, I would like to see a tolerant Pakistan. We should be able to tolerate each other.”
When asked about the change she would like to see in Pakistan, Arsla replied, “By this time next year — i.e. August 14 2013 — if the campaign has inspired a generation of Pakistanis to be accountable for their deeds, I think it will have done its job. And just to be clear, I don’t think we need an exclusive day to feel patriotic. For Pakistanis all around the world, every day should be a 14th August.”