MORE: Why is it important for educated young men and women to return to Pakistan to make a difference?
SOC: It is the educated citizens of Pakistan that cater to its progress in the fields of health, education, business and the arts. These sectors have witnessed much development, but there is a long way to go, and the overall conditions of Pakistanis have urgent needs. If we abandon our country then Pakistan will be a nation of 180 million people, armed with nuclear weapons; the corrupt will get what they want. We absolutely cannot let this happen because the entire world will be unable to recover from damage of this magnitude.
MORE: What progress have you seen in Pakistan since your return?
SOC: Pakistan is a polarized nation; whilst there is much chaos and corruption at the governmental level, there is even more philanthropy and activism that cater to its good. The vocal activists are becoming even more powerful as the scope of the media and its freedom are expanding. The people who are working toward the betterment of Pakistan are engaging with each other, and this will eventually help Pakistan come out of this volatile stage.
MORE: What is something that those unfamiliar with Pakistan misunderstand about your country?
SOC: Pakistan is not a monolithic country. As Pakistanis, we too are struggling—if not more—to free ourselves from the shackles of terrorism. Decades ago, before the rise of a military dictator, Pakistan had a much shinier surface. Our women were educated, our art and culture were thriving, and tourists from all over the world would visit. A majority of Pakistanis yearn for these lost times and hope for a solution to our weak constitution.
MORE: What signs of hope do you see in the work you are doing with children through Citizens Archive of Pakistan?
SOC: The School Outreach Tour is a team that is dedicated to instilling critical thinking in the children of Karachi and Lahore. We have formulated a curriculum that is designed to engage and inspire the students. As a result of these enlightening lessons, the students have a deeper understanding of the roles other than those that the Muslim leaders played in the partition of Pakistan, and a raised level of tolerance for people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
MORE: How do Pakistanis respond to you as a Western-educated woman?
SOC: Pakistanis are not new to Western-educated women. There are many women who are like me in that they have traveled to the West for educational purposes; there are many more that are in positions of power. In fact, the former prime minister of Pakistan was a Western-educated woman; the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan is a woman, and there are many women who head businesses.
MORE: What is your next film project?
SOC: I opened my production house, SOC Films, in Karachi late last year. One of the projects we are currently working on is a socially motivated animated series that will be aired on Pakistani television. It is focused on superheroes, and designed in a way to inspire the children of Pakistan to take action and help their communities.
MORE: What gives you the strength and courage to do what you do?
SOC: I am often faced with emotionally challenging and high-risk situations in my line of work, but it is the bravery and resilience that my subjects show in the face of unimaginable circumstances that inspire me. It is the hardships that they face coupled with their unbending resolve that motivate me to continue to strive toward providing marginalized communities with a voice.