A partner in Peshawar Print E-mail
March 2009 Politics
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Shajehan Sayed - professor, journalist, archeologist

Anyone in Pakistan who is looking for German contacts is bound to come across Shajehan Sayed, 55, as this professor of journalism has long been a focal point for Germans in Peshawar. This hearty yet unassuming intellectual lives in the capital of Pakistan's untamed North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). And he may well be the only vegetarian Pashtun.

Shajehan studied in Berlin, Bochum and Münster, returning to his native country in the late 1980s. He has been working tirelessly for German-Pakistani friendship ever since. As Chairman of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Peshawar, he coordinates regular exchange programs for both students and academics, financed by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German government-backed development agency Inwent. He also reports on a freelance basis for Deutsche Welle, even from the troubled region along the Afghan border.

"The time I spent living in student dorms in Berlin was the best time of my life," says Shajehan. Even though he had very little money in those days and lived with his wife, Gulaley, in one small room, he reveled in the revolutionary mood in Germany in the 1970s. "I was a hippie and I didn't really want to go to Germany," he recalls. "But an Afghan student in Kabul talked me into coming with him. We took the Orient Express from Istanbul to Frankfurt. In a pub, over our third beer, he convinced me to stay."

Even though his three children were born in Germany and the entire family spoke fluent German, Shajehan opted to return to Peshawar after completing his doctorate. "I loved being in Germany but there are so many qualified people there," he said. "That is not the case in Peshawar. You can achieve more here." Besides, Shajehan, an amateur archeologist, is better placed here for his research into Pakistan's Buddhist history: He has excavated a number of Buddha figures.

Through his contacts in Germany, Shajehan has been able to help get modern equipment for the Journalism Department. Deutsche Welle paid for a transmitter and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation financed a studio for the campus radio station. In conjunction with the Mediothek for Afghanistan, Shajehan is currently organizing a project that brings together Pashtun journalists from Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the support of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

The family home in the Hayatabad district remains a meeting place for aid workers, journalists and academics from abroad. But, to the family's regret, visitors are becoming rare. The poor security situation in the region is not just scaring off foreign guests. People in Peshawar too are concerned about the growing strength of the Taliban. Many districts around the city are already in the hands of the radical Islamic militia.

"We are all asking ourselves how long we can go on like this," says Shajehan. But he is not about to give up: "After all, we came back to do something for our country."

- Britta Petersen

 
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