The Special Lecture Series at the Aga Khan University has for over a decade now been the forum for promoting dialogue between eminent personalities and the AKU community. Previous guests include Prince Hassan of Jordan, Nazir Sabir, the late Guljee and Abdul Sattar Edhi. As a result, there is always a special type of anticipation all across campus whenever a SLS is announced.
While welcoming Rehman to AKU, Dean, Medical College, Dr Farhat Abbas mentioned the different roles that Rehman has played over the years, from a journalist for over 20 years, to political activist, to legislator and to most recently Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States of America.
Ms Rehman began by explaining why what the topic of the lecture meant to her. “The choice of topic as coined and it was asked of me to connect the threads of my life as I see them is In the Service of My Country and I added to it after the colon The Politics of Living Dangerously; and the reason I chose to coin it as the service of Pakistan is because … it does make you think about your choices and what’s been driving your life; it’s certainly not some grand teleology or path of extenuated ambition, it’s never been that way, it’s been a fairly spontaneously, organically responsive to my circumstances kind of life.”
Rehman was also very appreciated of AKU, “… I appreciate the Aga Khan University’s services to the community and specifically to education … Aga Khan here serves as a beacon of light, as a centre of excellence, and to my mind it attracts some of the best minds and what’s best really about it is that it is not restricted to elites – this is crucial to building a path to modernity and to an inclusive future and even imaging a future that is based on progress, education.”
Speaking of her time in Washington as Pakistan’s ambassador, Rehman recalled that how many of the young people that she met would ask her why she did such a tough job. Her answer was always that, “… the service of Pakistan is the one thread that has tied all my career choices and it is the principal lens through which I have viewed all the paths taken and choices made.”
Rehman also spoke about how all choices made even at the domestic level were political classifying any act which pulled one away from their comfort zone as a political one. In Rehman’s view, the real heroes of Pakistan were the ordinary women who have to make such political decisions on a daily basis as they make the country go round from the fields to the factories, while raising our future generations.
Whether by design or chance, Rehman’s life has been spent challenging the status quo. Rehman spoke at length of her love for journalism and how she had worked her way up to become the Editor of The Herald. Those were the days when democratic norms in the country were hard to find, and yet Rehman found herself in the forefront of fledgling struggles which would go on to define her life’s work.
By the end of the lecture the audience knew that they had been privileged to be there and regardless of their personal politics walked away with a sense of shared pride in Rehman’s achievements.