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A better tomorrow for Pakistan.

LAHORE, Pakistan: As young Pakistanis, my friends and I often sit and discuss the country's political and developmental issues. With some dismay, we acknowledged one day that Pakistanis generally wait for others to get things accomplished because they feel hopeless after having voiced their concerns for over 60 years to no avail. However, we can no longer perpetuate this kind of culture; we need to take collective action to move forward as a society.

We decided to prompt change in the country ourselves by building a sense of communal responsibility. At the time, we didn't outline clear objectives, but the idea was to get up and do something for the greater political and economic good of Pakistan.

We formed Zimmedar Shehri (Responsible Citizens), a group of individuals who believe in a better tomorrow. Pakistan is a developing country, but it has potential for growth and change. We stand by a simple philosophy, that each individual has a part to play in the improvement of the country.

Young and enthusiastic, we started at the grassroots level to create positive change. We decided to find a solution to the growing garbage problem in Pakistan. Everyone complains about garbage spilling on to the sidewalks and filling the streets, but there is no real action from anyone -- locals or politicians -- to put an end to it.

Our initiative began as a small group of young men and women who cleaned crowded and dirty market places on Sundays. Sometimes, we would stay in one small area for up to three hours to clean it thoroughly. Our objective was simple: we wanted to help people realize, through our actions, that each person has a responsibility towards society as a whole, to accept that responsibility for change lies not only with the government but also with the people, and to realize that we need to work together to achieve this change.

This initiative also has a larger aim: regaining Pakistanis' trust in government. It was important to show people that once you get something started, people notice and help will come, no matter how great the obstacles might be.

When we first began the project in March 2009, we began as four young men--all 22 years of age with a Facebook group to spread the word and the intention of doing hard work. Now, almost 40 people regularly join us in our marketplace cleanup events, which are held every Sunday. We also get locals from the area to join in, and once they do, the number of people can sometimes reach up to 80.

We carried out surveys amongst local shopkeepers and nearby residents and found out that more garbage bins were needed, so we are putting pressure on the city council to provide those bins. Members of the National Assembly of Pakistan have visited us during our events and have assured us that these bins will be put up if we can arrange funding for them.

Just last month, we opened a chapter of Responsible Citizens in Islamabad, headed by Ali Faateh and Meekal Jamil. They hold regular events. One week, they picked up trash in a busy neighborhood and the following week they, along with prominent human rights activists, organized a candle-lit vigil outside a church in a Christian neighborhood and apologized to the Christians on behalf of the nation for the violent anti-Christian riots in Gorja last month, which resulted in the death of seven Christians and the destruction of 51 homes.

We also started a clothing donation campaign to assist those living in slums. We have already collected approximately 100 bags of clothing from our families and friends and there are still many more waiting to be packed. In addition, we plan to establish a volunteer base for our events and three-day workshops on community service and responsibility in schools nationwide.

Currently, we are negotiating with people in Karachi and Peshawar to open chapters of Responsible Citizens in those cities as well. There remains a great deal of work to be done. But through these projects, which have already begun to grow and inspire change, we hope to foster a new sense of commitment for a better tomorrow in Pakistan.

Murtaza Kumail Khwaja is the founder of Zimmedar Shehri ( www.zimmedarshehri.com ) and a fourth-year medical student at Fatima Memorial Hospital College of Medicine and Dentistry in Lahore. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Sep 24, 2009
Words:747
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