Rafiullah Kakar Winner of Rhodes Scholarship-2013

The youth belonging to rural areas lack even the basic educational facilities what to talk of quality education.

Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): Please tell us about your achievements?

Rafiullah Kakar (RK): Well, by the grace of Allah, I have had many achievements in life. I have been a position-holder since class five except for two years when I joined BRC (Balochistan Residential College) Loralai. Actually, it was a major change in my academic career because I transferred from Pushto to English medium. First two years were quite difficult, nevertheless, I passed my matriculation and intermediate exams with distinction.
In 2007, I got admission in Government College University, Lahore in Political Science department. I was a topper consecutively till 8th semester and I also won Gold Medal, role of honour and many certificates in several academic and extracurricular activities. While studying at GCU, I went to the US in Global Students Exchange Programme. It has been a great experience and this, in fact, inspired me to go abroad for higher education.
Actually, I belong to a lower middle class family. So, I started searching reasonable scholarships. After research, I found the Rhodes Scholarship the best and most suitable to me. Hence, I decided to chance my arm and by the grace of Allah, I was successful. I couldn’t afford studying at Oxford, however, Rhodes made my way to Oxford quite easy.

JWT: What makes Rhodes a prestigious scholarship and how did you manage to get it?

RK: Rhodes is the World’s most prestigious scholarship; actually second best to the Nobel Prize. It was launched way back in 1901 and is given to one student each year. From around 25 countries, 83 students are selected and out of them only one is from Pakistan and I am probably the first Rhodes Scholar from Balochistan in the last 66 years. Mr Waseem Sajjad former chairman Senate, Babar Sattar, Shahid Javed Burki former Vice President World Bank, are some prominent Rhodes Scholars from Pakistan and it’s really a great honour to be a part of this distinguished fraternity. Actually, for scholarships like Fulbright, Rhodes, etc. one cannot prepare in two or three months because one’s whole career is the testimony for one’s selection. Talking about Rhodes, specifically, the criterion is an all-round performance. A student having best academic career but poor in extracurricular activities cannot get the Rhodes scholarship. For this scholarship, no test or exam is required; one simply has to submit application form and the most important part of the application form is your personal statement because your all academics and other credentials are fixed; one cannot change marks, GPA or other records. I would advise all the students to maintain a very good GPA and participate actively in the extracurricular activities if they want to apply for such scholarships. In fact, your personal statement gives you the opportunity to convince the panel that you are the only suitable candidate for the scholarship.

My childhood inquisitiveness, exposure to new ideas in school and a growing interest in politics helped decide my future academic path. Though my performance in the natural sciences could have earned admission into the top engineering institutes of Pakistan, I switched to social sciences to explore answers to the questions that for long had been weighing heavily on my mind. I left my province and chose to attend Government College University (GCU) Lahore to major in Political Science. During four years at GCU, I took advantage of a wide array of curricular and co-curricular opportunities, which aided the development of leadership skills and broadened my intellectual horizon. Against the backdrop of what is termed as ‘religious extremism’, I set about comprehending its dynamics and implications for society. Moreover, given escalation of crisis in Balochistan, given my background as a representative of the province at Lahore, my interest in federalist politics and ethnic identity issues was fueled. The quest for understanding such complexity sparked my interest in the field of research as intellectual vocation. My initiation into research was a paper on Baloch ethno-nationalism, eventually published in a national journal with supervisor as co-author.

Additionally, I began writing for GCU publications, newspapers and other magazines. Subsequently, I supplanted my academic study and research with involvement in social-change organizations defending religious freedom. Once again the GCU experience was transformative, inspiring a new vision fundamentally different from the myopic world view of the Zaer Zamin. Here is another para from my personal statement:

With these goals in mind, I seek the sound academic grounding for which Oxford has earned its world-wide reputation. An M. Phil in International Relations from Oxford will strengthen the intellectual tools necessary to grasp the intricacies of world politics and provide me with conceptually rigorous understanding of the theory and history of International Relations. I particularly aspire to develop expertise on conflict resolution, political reforms and post-conflict state-building with specific focus on conflict management in the developing world. The intellectual breadth, rigorous research methods, and pluralism at Oxford will help me grow as an individual and equip me with the skills and context necessary for embarking on a challenging academic career. My complex background, experience, and learning over the years will not only enable me to add to the pluralistic environment that Oxford thrives on but also give me sufficient practical background to properly understand the source of conflict and potential aspects of its resolution in Balochistan.

Rafiullah Kakar
Rhodes Scholar’ Elect Pakistan 2013
Member Youth Parliament Pakistan

JWT: Will you please elaborate the Personal Statement?

RK: Well, personal statement comprises mainly three parts; in the first part, you tell how you perceive your career and what you have achieved till now, second part is about what your goals are and in the third part you enumerate how this scholarship may be helpful to you in order to achieve your goals. Apparently, it is pretty easy but, in fact, quite difficult because when you start writing you have to be extremely careful. The start must be interesting and dramatic and the whole statement must contain a coherent theme. It means, there are a number of technicalities. When I was to apply, I prepared my personal statements of just 1000 words in nearly 45 days. In fact, I wrote twelve drafts and got them checked from at least ten to fifteen experts. This is how I managed to produce a splendid statement.

JWT: You opted for the public policy, what’s the reason behind?  

RK: Frankly speaking, I want to become part of the policy-making system of Pakistan so I opted for the public policy. My area of interest is peace and conflict studies because I belong to Balochistan that is a conflict-ridden area. Thus, I want to apply my knowledge and skills, which I will learn while studying public policy, to develop a pragmatic approach to resolve the conflicts.

JWT: What are the dilemmas of the youth of Pakistan in your opinion?

RK: Well, the youth of Pakistan are facing multiple problems. For instance, they go or look for shortcuts to achieve their goals. This is a common tendency in the educated youth of Pakistan. Here in this context, I would like to share a quotation ‘Don’t waste a lot of time fixing your weaknesses, play by your strengths’. Everyone has some strengths and weaknesses; what needs to be done is that one should realize his or her strengths and then capitalize on them in the most appropriate way. I advise the youth to devote appropriate time for both academics as well as extracurricular and healthy activities instead of wasting most of the time in gossiping with friends on cell phones and on social media because we waste lot of time in cafés and on social media. In addition, I would say unemployment, disappointment, lack of counselling, radicalization and extremism are the gravest problems facing our youth.

I think the main cause behind this fiasco is the absence of quality education. Furthermore, youth has become tool in the hands of politicians.

The youth belonging to rural areas lack even the basic educational facilities what to talk of quality education. While, conversely, the urban youth have access to good education but they may become more dangerous because of the prevailing trends of radicalization and extremism. Because our education system made them more vulnerable as it provokes hatred for certain communities. Lack of quality education has deprived us of comprehending what is right or wrong to us.

For instance, in last year’s Salala attack, our 22 soldiers were martyred by the US forces. The whole nation stood up against brutality but, ironically, we don’t rise against those who had killed more than 50,000 Pakistanis in last few years. And even some of us have soft corner for them. So, to me our education system is responsible for this sorry state of affairs.

JWT: Do you have any dream to pursue in your life?

RK: Yes, I do have a dream. I want to be a PhD from Harvard University.

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