The film protests seemed to make people around the world think that Pakistanis are inherently angry people. Such a small issue, they said, and such a disproportionate response! The days of rioting seemed to confirm their suspicions that the population of Pakistan consisted of mainly angry people and religious fundamentalists, many of whom were also pretty angry.
I disagree. The thing which strikes me most about Pakistani people is how hospitable and friendly they are. I was struck by this when I arrived here and it continues to have an impact on me, more or less every day: when shopkeepers offer to buy me drinks and chat, when taxi-drivers and samosa-sellers try to refuse my money, when just about every man I meet in the bazaar engages me in polite and interested conversation.
The amazing thing about this is that Pakistanis have every reason to dislike and distrust foreigners. The land which is now Pakistan has been invaded by just about every military conqueror that history has to show: Alexander the Great, the early armies of Islam, the Afghans, the Persians, the Moghuls, and finally my ancestors, the British. And even after that, when Pakistan was founded and people finally achieved their independence, the influence of world powers flowed across this land: the long proxy way against the Russians in Afghanistan and then the Americans, with their counter-terrorist operations and their drone strikes.
Think about it: if your country had lived through all of that, wouldn’t you be suspicious of outsiders? And if those same outsiders were still bombing targets within your country, free from any restraint imposed by international law, mightn’t you be a bit angry?
But no, Pakistanis are invariably polite, welcoming and hospitable, despite the fact that foreigners have been meddling in their affairs for about two thousand years. Angry Pakistan? Painfully Polite Pakistan, more like.