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Harvard Affiliates Embark on ‘Pakistan Trek’ Over Spring Break

Students pose for a photo on the Pakistan Trek. A group of 27 Harvard affiliates traveled to Pakistan during spring break.
Students pose for a photo on the Pakistan Trek. A group of 27 Harvard affiliates traveled to Pakistan during spring break. By Courtesy of Simon J. Levien
By Rachael A. Dziaba and Kenith W. Taukolo, Contributing Writers

A group of 27 Harvard affiliates traveled to Pakistan during spring break for “Pakistan Trek,” a weeklong trip to the country that included attending sporting events and meeting prominent current and former government officials.

The trip, jointly organized by the Harvard College Pakistani Students Association and the Pakistan Caucus at the Harvard Kennedy School, offered travelers a “unique experience” to “come together to explore Pakistan’s vibrant culture and develop a connection with the South Asian nation,” according to an Instagram post from the group.

Co-organizer Hamaad W. Mehal ’23-’24 said the purpose of the trip was to provide Harvard affiliates the chance to interact directly with Pakistanis.

“Pakistanis, in my opinion, are the friendliest, most welcoming, most hospitable people out there. They’ve gotten, I think, unjustly misportrayed, and I think the goal of this trip was to show people that this is a people with a rich culture, a rich history,” Mehal said.

Sadiq K. Soofi ’25, another trip organizer and an international student from Pakistan, said that Pakistan is “never really the center of discussion itself” and is instead often talked about in reference to other events, countries, and issues around the world.

Soofi, who also served as co-chair of the Pakistan Forum, said he hoped that the trip would provide “a more nuanced experience of the country than an academic conference would be able to do on campus at Harvard.”

As part of the trek, students met prominent Pakistani government officials, including Ayesha A. Malik, the first female judge on the country’s Supreme Court; Qazi Faes Isa, the current Chief Justice of their Supreme Court; and Shahid K. Abbasi, Pakistan’s former prime minister. They also visited nonprofits working on a range of issues from health, education, and climate change.

Quirin von Blomberg, a student at Harvard Kennedy School, said conversing with the Chief Justice and the “highest members of the state” was “super exciting,” adding that he was “super happy” with the “diverse mix” of stops the group made during the trip.

During the week of traveling, the group visited the cities of Islamabad and Lahore before spending a night at Pindi Umra, a village in the Punjab province.

Soofi called the visit to Pindi Umra a “very human interaction” with “no formalities, no official programming.”

Mehal said visiting the village was his “favorite part.”

“Just being able to see the village life — see the sunrise, sleep under the stars, watch as cattle were being herded around the village — I think that experience itself was very unique for all of us,” he said.

Namira Mehedi ’25 described staying in the village, which she called an “authentic Pakistan” and “an experience like no other.” As a Bengali-American, Mehedi thought the trek was an opportunity to “understand the cultural nuances” of Bangladesh and Pakistan’s shared history.

Before leaving Pakistan, Soofi reflected on a moment during the trip when all male members of the group went to a mosque to pray, something he said “stuck out” to him.

“The trek for me was really about these individual moments that people got to have that I think will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Soofi said.

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