Confused State of Affairs: What Being a Part of the “Overseas Pakistani” Community Taught Me?
I was first added to the Pakistani Community in Turkey’s WhatsApp group in October 2019, a couple of months after moving to Ankara.
A few friends had met a Pakistani girl from another university who told us about a celebration in light of a national holiday at one of the two (back then) Pakistani restaurants in the city.
Already devastated with the Turkish cuisine (it’s amazing, but can we PLEASE have something a bit spicier? We can only have so much steamed chicken and pasta every day), everyone decided to attend it.
The event was on 25th December- the birthday of our founder, the legendary Muhammad Ali Jinnah, or Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader), as we like to call him.
Well, most people went. Some of us had an engineering mid-term or something, which is why we couldn’t go. Nonetheless, it didn’t really stop me from getting involved in the process. Numbers were exchanged, shared and before I knew it, there was a WhatsApp group with every Pakistani in Turkey.
It felt super cool. I’ve always wanted to have a good experience with my countrymen.
Of course, it’s going to be the fifth time I realize that the reason we’re not doing well is that, as a nation, we have no morals or empathy. But I’ll get to that later.
The point stands, when my friends and I joined the group, the admins messaged all of eight of us. We introduced ourselves, our majors, and our university. We were then introduced to the group, where a few people (three) even welcomed us.
Like Everything in Pakistan, The Beginning Was Great
In the early days of this WhatsApp group, things were super cool. As an international student worried about getting a job in Turkey, it lifted my spirits greatly. There are hundreds of Pakistani engineers who studied and are employed in Turkey.
There are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, even Instagram influencers and YouTubers from Pakistan living and thriving in Turkey. It made me feel as though if given the chance, we could prosper as a nation.
When 9th February (what we call Kashmir Solidarity Day) came along, every Pakistani in town showed up at the Pakistan International School in Ankara. We watched a documentary on Kashmir and sang our national anthem as a unit.
It was an emotional moment. After all, there’s nothing like a sense of community spirit. Because that’s what it was. Even our Turkish and international friends (most of us students bribed them with free biryani) were moved by the occasion. My friends say that the 25th December event was cooler, but I personally believe that nothing brings a group of people together than a national tragedy.
After all, Kashmir is a national tragedy for both Pakistan and India. There’s never going to be a solution to this problem, no matter what the United Nations says. Legally, India’s right: Kashmir was handed to them by its ruler. But precedence shows that no, the Kashmiris in 1947 wanted to be a part of Pakistan, so they ought to have that.
Now, every other Kashmiri youth from the Indian side of the border wants to be a part of India, but the Kashmiris who were forced to flee to Pakistan want it to be a part of Pakistan. It’s an unsolvable situation with both sides being both right and wrong at the same time.
The Community in Action
You can say that the 9th February event was my unofficial baptism into the Pakistani Community in Ankara. It was really great for a while. When I had issues with my residence permit, the Pakistani Embassy itself was there to help.
When the pandemic gave way to the lockdown, the Pakistani Community’s response was phenomenal. From providing food to passengers stuck at the airport to financially assisting students and ensuring that everyone was doing well mentally, the work done was truly magnificent.
I’ll commend the Community for this. In fact, we even got in touch with students in Northern Cyprus. There was consistent communication with the Embassy in Ankara, the Consulate in Istanbul, and the Community. When the time came, we were given the option to go back home during a global lockdown because our government had sent special planes. All because of the Community’s efforts.
Honestly, it was brilliant. You don’t think that the overseas Pakistani Community would be so great.
There was a situation before the pandemic where a student needed financial support, and the community raised $1800 in a week. We didn’t tell them the student’s name or even provide proof. Just that someone needed help, and they stepped up.
Crazy, I know. So, where did things go wrong?
Where Things Went Wrong?
It started off subtly like most of these things are. It started during the lockdown when we were all waiting to go back. A bunch of Pakistani students from the leading university in Turkey claimed that they ought to go back first because they deserved more than the rest of us.
The majority of us brushed it off, and the Ambassador’s secretary gave those guys an earful. Then came the time to pay for our flight back and a rumor that some people were being asked to pay more. This, too, was dispelled.
Then there were several arguments regarding an air showdown between Pakistan and India (even though this happened in April, we were talking about it in June. Why?). Then someone decided to alienate every student in the group by deeming us unpatriotic for referring to ourselves as “Pakis”- a term my generation has done its best to reclaim.
That annoyed many people, and after a while, the group just became a virtual war zone between Babyboomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z. Basically, the boomers and Gen-Xers thought we were too “westernized,” and we couldn’t see why that or the pointless messages on the group were relevant.
I myself engaged in a lot of unnecessary drama. In fact, I can kind of proudly say that all my friends and I would just stir the pot whenever we were bored during the lockdown.
The group became irrelevant at this point. There was no sense of community anymore. Every Boomer and Gen-Xer would take offense to everything we did, including sharing a post to pray for India when the worst of the pandemic hit the country.
And then came the icing on the cake.
There’s A Scam Happening In Ankara
In early August, we learned about a scam being run by a very prominent member and restaurateur of the community and how, for some reason, no one was stopping them.
Well, the Embassy claims that the Turkish legal system is too complex, but how do you justify defrauding students and expat families? Things just went downhill from there.
The man responsible for creating the WhatsApp group and uniting the community was accused of harassment by this random Pakistani woman added to the group one day. It honestly seemed as though she had a vendetta against him. After all, all of us were asked to introduce ourselves. Honestly, the lady made it seem like a salam (our way of greeting each other) had suddenly become the substitute for a lewd message.
I don’t understand why this particular episode took place.
In the end, after being dragged through the mud for no reason, the guy ended up stepping down as a group admin. He’s stopped being involved in community affairs completely now. Then, it came out that several men in the group were sending inappropriate messages to the younger teenage students. Instead of actually doing anything about it, the group focused on India.
That’s right. Apparently, Bollywood is the reason why the world is what it is. At this point, no one really wanted anything to do with the group. It was in shambles, promoting alt-right, Islamist views all the while making fun of India’s WhatsApp University.
It surprises me how people fail to see parallels sometimes. Then there were arguments about people not wanting to hate India. Apparently, you’re not Pakistani if you don’t hate India. This is weird because a lot of Pakistanis actually emigrated from India in 1947.
Again, weird. But it keeps getting weirder.
The Pakistani Women in Turkey’s WhatsApp…Because That’s Totally How Equality Works
As time went on, we formed a Pakistani Women’s WhatsApp group where the wife of the man who’s scamming tens of Pakistanis in Turkey actively, shamelessly promotes her restaurant.
The women who are active in this group are the wives of people present in Turkey in an official capacity. This includes military personnel, embassy staff, and even civil servants. But none of these women care that the lady who’s selling that lovely biryani from last week is actually scamming our countrymen.
Here’s how the scam works.
Essentially, these guys advertise on expat groups about investing in their restaurant that’s doing quite well. It doesn’t matter what kind of group it is (I’ve never seen them on the international expat groups, though) because they only reach out to Pakistanis and offer them a “share” in their business.
Their victims are then shown the profits and potential of the restaurant. These guys invest up to seven figures to “develop” it into a restaurant chain that’ll be famous in Turkey and make our nation shine. I mean, say what you want about Pakistanis, but when it comes to doing something to make our country “shine,” we’re weirdly gullible. Which is how these people end up investing, and that’s the last time they hear from this couple.
The restaurant changed its location five times in two years. They conveniently “rebrand” themselves every time someone comes forward to expose their scam. It’s a brilliant business model, but it’s disgusting that these people have managed to lure AT LEAST twenty Pakistani families to Turkey under false pretenses that these guys will either run a branch of the restaurant or work with the owners.
And what do the officials of our country do? Well, they don’t do anything. Their wives have “kitty parties” with the lady. The group’s non-existent at this point, and it’s such a disappointment.
So, I guess, to conclude, it is safe to say that the state of affairs of the Pakistani Community in Ankara is quite reminiscent of the country itself. It went really well in the first year, but since then, it’s become a cesspool of paranoia, racism, sexism, and fanaticism. I’m not sure if I will be involved in “community” activities anymore, especially since the rampant corruption seems to have inspired quite a few people. I’ll talk about that someday!