I have decided, after weeks of non-answers, to go public. Because of a blog post I wrote elsewhere, a peace ambassador, Muhammad Tahir Tabassum, from an organization called INSPAD (Institute for Peace and Development), based in Pakistan has asked me to sit on their International Advisory Council.
I am committed both to peace and to development, and I would very much like to accept this gentleman's offer. Pakistan is, however, in the news, in not-such-a-positive way, so I decided to ask the government which represents me to validate INSPAD, its aims and intentions, and to let me know if I would be serving my nation well or poorly by accepting Ambassador Tabassum's invitation. It seemed a simple request.
I want only to contribute to the river of diplomacy in a productive way, and citizen diplomacy has a long and venerable history. I also want to make sure this organization is legitimate. In addition, I really would not like my name to end up on an FBI terrorist list simply because I said yes when I ought to have said no.
Here is the path I have taken to get that yes or no.
I called my senator's office three months ago, and spoke to a sweet intern there. He promised to have Senator Kennedy's foreign affairs people look into it and get back to me. They did not.
Then I called the Boston office of the U. S. State Department. A solemn (read: humorless) man took my information, gave me his email address so I could send him what I'd received from INSPAD, and said he'd do what he could. Weeks later I called to follow up. Eventually, I spoke to his two-levels-higher supervisor. He went to bat for me, and -- nothing, nada. I'm still waiting to hear from the first man.
The next logical step was the FBI. After all, they're the ones who keep the terrorist pulse squarely in their sights. I tried the Boston office. The Duty Officer wouldn't even tell me his name! Do I have to tell you that I still haven't heard from them?
Sunday's New York Timeshad two chilling articles about Pakistan. The first, by Jane Perlez, paints 61 year old Pakistan as a country in imminent chaos and deconstruction. The grave fear is that the United States is colluding in that dissolution. She asks bluntly, "So how will the promise by President-elect Barack Obama for a new start between the United States and Pakistan be received here? How can it be begun?"
Ms. Perlez, I have one answer. I could agree to be a part of beginning to build a bridge of peace and understanding between our two countries. Is it safe? Is it right? Would that contribute to our well-being and that of Pakistan? I don't know--which is why I called all these officials. I only want to do the right thing for all of us.
The second article was by Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. One of his four suggestions is that we ought to push harder for a peace deal in Kashmir. I am committed to peace, and I'd love to help INSPAD focus on it. In fact, I know from their literature that peace is Kashmir is high on their agenda.
Mr. Kristof further recommends that President Obama's first foreign journey be to Pakistan with a focus on education. Literacy is a serious dearth in Pakistan. And what I also know is that humans of all kinds will accept peace if we are educated about it. INSPAD is all about that.
So, Uncle Sam, would you please have one of your people call me and give me a green light to serve my country, in whatever small way I can, with Pakistan?
INSPAD is waiting. I am waiting. Peace is waiting for all of us.
P. S. I'm sending this to POTUS-Elect Obama via www.change.gov.