Three Pakistani officials arrived in Foxborough on Oct. 30 with the hope of learning about American town government and observing the social fabric of a community.
“[The purpose] of us coming to the U.S. was to observe things and to see how people work here in various departments,” said Rashid Kahn, a Pakistani police superintendent. “How efficiency in these different departments is being obtained and how political entanglements are being handled. [We would also like] to see the family structure and social fabric [of an American community].”
Fortunately for Kahn and his fellow Pakistani civil servants, Sajjid Mubin and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, they came to town at the perfect time.
Hurricane Sandy came and went shortly after the Pakistani officials arrived in town, giving them a chance to see how local government operates under challenging circumstances.
“You are having a disaster,” Kahn said prior to the Oct. 30 emergency Board of Selectmen meeting. “We are interested to see how [local government] handles these [situations].”
The three Pakistani officials attended several Board of Selectmen meetings to observe how town government operates and was impressed by the type of democracy exercised in America.
“We are amazed and surprised and happy to see that you have a very strong bottom-level democratic [process],” Kahn said. … “We have democracy [in Pakistan] but not at the grassroots level. We have it at the state level and at the federal level. It is surprising to us and good to see here.”
In addition to selectmen meetings, the Pakistani officials were able to experience Tuesday’s presidential election at Ahern Middle School. Town Manager Kevin Paicos transported the three civil servants to Ahern and explained the voting process in America and specifically, the state of Massachusetts.
Also scheduled during the visit to Foxborough was interaction between the Pakistani officials and various town departments to improve mutual understanding and knowledge between the two countries.
Socially, the Pakistani delegates spent time with Board of Selectmen vice chair Mark Sullivan’s family and other residents around town.
“[Pakistani civil servants got to see] a typical American family I would think,” Sullivan said.
Paicos stressed the importance of the cultural exchange program at the Oct. 30 BOS meeting.
“There’s much to learn about our families just as much as there is about our governments because if we are to be the good strong allies we are in the world it will only happen if we understand one another and that only happens when we understand each other’s families because that’s where it all starts, with our families,” Paicos said.
The Pakistani officials also spent time with Foxborough Town Historian Jack Authelet, who shared the town’s history with its foreign visitors.
“Jack was very happy with the discussions he had and some of the things they’ve seen,” said Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis.
On Thursday, the three civil servants will appear on a Foxboro Cable Access program to share information about themselves, their work experiences and country.
Kahn said he and his countrymen have enjoyed their stay in Foxborough.
“We are very thankful to be apart of the cultural exchange program,” he said. “We are also happy with the generosity and friendliness of the people of America. We [had] a very nice time.”
Town officials were equally appreciative of the opportunity to meet with the Pakistani officials.
“Want to thank them for coming to our town of Foxborough,” DeVellis said. “They came at a very interesting time.”
Said Paicos: “We [were] very excited to have them here and very excited to have this cultural exchange.”
The cultural exchange program is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department and is run through the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Institute for Training and Development in Amherst.