Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your city and your role.
I live in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and I am 26 years old. Islamabad is the 2nd most beautiful capital in the world. I work at a hospital as a surgical technician. I am very proud of my work and I love doing it.
How important is mental health, gender equality and women’s empowerment to you and in society, in general?
Mental health is the most important issue, be it a child, woman, man or elderly person, because if anyone develops a mental illness, it is very important that they recover. We should support them in their recovery. However, people do not talk about mental illness and the awareness of it is missing in Pakistan. If someone develops a mental illness, people will say that he has "tension" or "depression" because of a problem like a serious argument or a financial debt. They do not understand what mental illness is. They think "mental illness" means that the person has an external problem [causing the mental anguish]. Officially or unofficially, from politicians or even smaller foundations, I have not heard anyone speaking about mental illness at a greater level.
I support transgender people, they exist, but from an Islamic perspective, I do not support lesbian or gay individuals. I support gender equality between men and women; there should be no injustice. There is a rise in the LGBTQ+ movement here but a lot of Pakistanis are against this and the liberals who support this.
Women's rights are very important. There are many people in Pakistan who fulfill women’s rights and many who do not fulfill them. It is a basic thing—anyone should fulfill women’s rights. In terms of employment, if there is no breadwinner in a home with women, then they can work and have jobs. But if the father and brothers already earn and finance the household, then the middle-class does not support women working because they do not need to. The daughters of bureaucrats and landlords do work. I agree that women have the right to do everything. Women can study as much as they want. They can go to universities, become pilots, go into arts and do what they like. For women, people prefer a governmental job. That is a good opportunity because in the private sector, there is a lower salary, a harder work environment, it is hectic et cetera. There is also a trend of female entrepreneurship on the side like running a boutique, doing graphic design, tailoring, stitching, makeup and so on. There are technical institutes for similar subjects too.
The greatest impact of COVID-19 in these areas was on mental health. Everyone took things lightly in the beginning but when the shops closed, traffic stopped, street sellers’ businesses closed, things changed. Shopkeepers had stress and worried about the lack of income. Small companies also had to let people go, so people were depressed. People wanted to follow COVID rules and still work but that was not allowed. It was not easy. Half of Pakistanis do not follow COVID rules [in regards to masking]. They say you are going to die when you are meant to die.
How do you take care of your mental health? Do you find that men suffer in silence?
If I have any problem or an issue comes into my life, I do not stress about it. I say what will be, will be. If I start worrying about the future, it will make things harder. My main concern in life right now would be my salary because I want to get married and that will require a higher income.
Men suffering in silence is not about manhood. If a man stays silent and does not speak about it, does not talk to a doctor or go to a professional, it is because he does not want to upset his family. Here, people look at those with mental illness poorly; they stay away from them. This would be the reason that a man would stay silent. Instead of wishing him the best, people would taunt him, ignore him and avoid him. If people even do go to the doctor, they would not tell their family. Those with mental illness have patience.
What would you say to people who do not know anything about Pakistan?
Pakistan is a very beautiful country and the north is the best place to visit. Pakistanis are very hospitable. No tourist is in danger here; it is a very safe country for tourism. International media outlets that report negatively about Pakistan are not correct. We welcome everyone. Tourism has also developed a lot since 2008. Come and experience for yourself.
What are you looking forward to later this year?
I am thinking of getting married this year but I am not sure if it will happen.
Name a song, film or piece of work that you enjoyed recently.
I just started a book called Suno Tum Sitare Ho by Ali Sherazi. It is the best seller in Pakistan right now. I am one hundred percent sure that it will be a good book.
Translated from Urdu and transcribed by Madiha.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Madiha Foundation.