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Student Cultural Groups: Pehchaan

“Pehchaan” means “identity” in Urdu, and an on-campus sense of Pakistani and Pakistani-American identity is precisely what the student group Pehchaan seeks to build.

“Pehchaan represents Pakistani and Pakistani-American students on campus,” treasurer Haider Abbas ’17 said. “But more than that, it’s about bringing Princeton students together on topics that are mutual between Pakistani students and all the other students from all over the world on campus.”


Founded in 2009 with the goal of creating a more cohesive community of Pakistani undergraduate and graduate students on campus, Pehchaan now has about 25 active members who regularly attend the biweekly meetings, though there are between 70 and 90 Princeton students and community members on Pehchaan’s listserv.

One of the group’s most popular events is Basant, the spring kite-flying festival Pehchaan hosts every year in April. Last semester, Pehchaan also co-hosted Sufi Night with the Muslim Students Association. Today, on Feb. 19, Pehchaan and Princeton Traveler are screening the documentary“Rediscovering Pakistan: The Untold Tale”and sponsoring an event with Moin Khan, the documentary’s maker.

In the future, according to Abbas and president Ali Hayat ’16, Pehchaan hopes to put on a Pakistani Awareness Week that would include the cultural events the group has hosted in the past, as well as talks with speakers like Maleeha Lodhi, the permanent Pakistani representative to the United Nations, and journalist Ahmed Rashid.

Another larger goal, Hayat said, is to “incorporate larger numbers of Pakistani-American students, because I think that’s a potential source for membership that we haven’t fully explored in the past.”

Ultimately, Pehchaan aims to foster a sense of community on campus but also to provide a space in which Princeton students can learn more about Pakistan.

“As one of six students who’s from Pakistan who study here, I think, willingly or unwillingly, I’m a representative of my country and its culture and its values, and I think, especially now, given that there’s an image that already exists, a lot of work needs to be done to rectify that image,” Hayat said. “My main motivation is to reconcile my own image [of Pakistan] with the image that a lot of people have and try to bridge them together.”