Easton Hosts Pakistani Visitors
Two Pakistani officials visited Easton this week to learn about the interworkings of local government.
Shagufta Ansari sat in what was formerly the house of Anna Ames at the Town of Easton Offices on Elm Street Thursday afternoon. Her eyes spanned what used to be a dining room and is now the Board of Selectmen meeting room.
"One surprising thing for me is everything is made out of wood – and beautifully made out of wood – everything," she said.
Ansari, the Assistant Director fo External Publicity for Pakistan visited Easton this week along with Sadaf Rani, the producer of FM-101 Islamabad, the state-run radio station in Pakistan.
Ansari and Rani spent the day Thursday touring the town along with Board of Selectmen Chair Colleen Corona as part of the Institution for Training and Development's U.S./Pakistan Professional Partnership Program for Public Administrators. The purpose of the program was to have a U.S./Pakistan Professional Partnership Program for Public Administrators.
Ansari and Rani were placed in Easton by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which ITD subcontracted for placements.
The U.S. Educational Foundation of Pakistan (Fulbright Commission) selected the Pakistani participants for the program.
"We’re bringing people close to each other so it will help in making good relations between the two countries," said Ansari. "We have had a lot of interaction with the local institutions and local government. We came to learn how the local government is run and how it works so we can bring it back."
She said she had the opportunity to learn about Pakistani culture while teaching Ansari and Rani about the interworkings of government and society in America - particularly in Easton.
"There is great education, and community involvement is very strong," said Rani.
Both visitors also noticed one exceptional quality about the shovel town.
"Lush green," said Ansari, referring to Easton's wooded area, farms and countryside. "Everyone takes care of their houses. Everyone takes care of their lawn."
Ansari and Rani hoped that their visit would clear up misconceptions about Pakistani people, as well, particularly regarding the role of women in Pakistani society.
"There are misconceptions that we can be very conservative as far as the women are concerned," said Ansari. "We are both strong individuals and lead our own lives. We also have a strong family system, but we are independent."
Corona said it was beneficial that two Pakistani women were paired with a woman town official.
"What I’ve found by having this interaction is we share exactly the same problems," said Corona. "They work high up in the government in Pakistan and struggle with family commitments – the same situations that we have here, they have there. I’ve learned a lot and gotten rid of some of my own misconceptions."
Both Rani and Ansani are high-ranking Pakistani officials in media and media-relations. Ansani coordinates with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior on policy matters and obtains clearance for foreign journalists from South Asia. She also supports foreign Press Sections by providing material.
Rani plans, produces, presents and supervies live radio transmission presentation of live news headlines, and a daily sports show.
"Media in Pakistan is very strong," said Rani. "Especially the private media, it’s very strong. And social media as well. Social media is also playing its big part."
No communication is better than the person to person communication both visitors received in Easton this week, though, both agreed.
The Pakistanis agreed that their American counterparts were welcoming and hospitable.
"I think this should continue," said Rani. "I think American officials should visit Pakistan."