When we spent time in the UK recently I was surprised by how negative Pakistan’s reputation was. We bounced back full of exciting stories about Pakistan, photos of its stunning beauty, anecdotes of the hospitality of its people, and nobody could believe us.
“You mean it’s not just a desert?”.
“You mean people are actually friendly?”.
“You mean there are parks, and pizza restaurants, and literary festivals?”.
If you subscribe to similar notions then permit me to educate you: Pakistan is, at times, a completely wonderful place. It is exotic, vibrant, and beautiful. The food is fantastic. The people are warm, friendly, unfailingly polite. I have not once encountered hostility from anyone even though I am a foreigner and a Christian. The young people here are intelligent, well-informed, enthusiastic, eager to learn, full of ideas. The elderly still subscribe to old-fashioned notions such as courtesy and etiquette, such as standing when a lady enters the room. Everyone offers you tea.
Perhaps oddly, the beauty and potential of Pakistan can be heartbreaking too. The scenery here is stunning, easily the equal of Switzerland or Western Canada, but where are the tourists who would bring money and support jobs? Young Pakistani entrepreneurs are some of the most vibrant in the world, so why are their efforts choked by official corruption? Most painfully for me, why are such marvellously kind people viewed with such scorn by the outside world?
They deserve better. Pakistan deserves better. This is a land of immense potential. May that potential be fulfilled, and soon.