July 16, 2012

It is fact, not defamation, that Pakistan doesn’t live up to its name. We really aren’t the land of the pure or clean, and were probably never that to begin with. Now we’re further away from that idealised, pristine state than ever before. Facts and clichés aside, Pakistan isn’t as bad as it seems, it is worse. But why always concentrate on things that make us angry? All countries including Pakistan have unique things about them and many of these things may not affect us daily, nor come up in conversation organically. But they will show you that despite everything wrong there is a shimmer, maybe  glimmer, possibly a twinkle of hope that may make Pakistanis proud. Here are some facts that may make you feel that way:

Pakistan is home to several cultures and religions — whether we continue to celebrate other religions and tolerate other cultures is a separate topic to contend with. One culture and group of people that has survived and thrived are the Kalash, a minority from the Chitral district who, despite their polytheist views, have survived and are even protected by the government —  although this was not always the case as many were forced to convert in the 1970s and their numbers dwindled to half. This is the same government that keeps the  draconian blasphemy laws in place which are an antithesis to the philosophy of the creation of Pakistan. But don’t worry, we’re protecting a single tribe of people who, due to tourism and other externalities, are being enlightened to the wonder that is Islam and are slowly converting.

Speaking of tolerance and the blasphemy laws, we have a Nobel Prize laureate, Dr Abdus Salam, who won the Nobel Prize for physics but subsequently left Pakistan in 1974 because of the very same blasphemy laws whichdecreed Ahmedis as non-Muslims. Pakistan lost its best scientist — the one who gave us nuclear energy and a space programme. But what do we know about honouring a national hero?

Moving on to greener pastures, opium cultivation in Pakistan is also at an all time low and according to a  UN report in 2008,  opium cultivation has been completely wiped out by the Pakistani authorities. Despite bordering Afghanistan, a country which produces  nearly 90% of the world’s opium  (USD 30 billion worth in 2012), opium is trafficked through Pakistan to the rest of the world. Also, marijuana grows wild and unrestricted in Pakistan, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and is not regulated by the government. So why bother going to Amsterdam at all?

Pakistan has only had one notorious serial killer, Javaid Iqbal, who killed over 100 boys (20 other he claimed to have killed, were subsequently found alive). He was tried and sentenced to death and although he did die in prison, he was not executed by the government — his body was found in his cell. The autopsy report states that he was strangled, but police officials claim that he committed suicide by poisoning himself. We may never know the truth. But the positive side of this is that we caught and tried a serial killer.

Pakistan also boasts the Karakoram highway, previously known as the Silk Route, considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in the world.  It does have an unpredictable terrain with surprise landslides that lead to vehicles  falling off the edge, but it is the highest paved international road in the world, at about half the height of Mt Everest and is 1300 km long. The Karakoram highway took nearly 20 years to be completed and its construction was a Pak-China collaboration. It took the lives of 910 Pakistani labourers and 200 Chinese men.

With an efficient road system that borders multiple countries, Pakistan also plays host to the world’s largest refugee population. Despite the fact that a large amount of people leave Pakistan for foreign climes quite regularly to never come back again, there are still places in the world worse than Pakistan , from where people come here as refugees. There are approximately 44 million displaced people worldwide. Pakistan hosts approximately 2 million of them, a majority of whom are Afghans that came during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Better to be a refugee haven than a war-torn country.

On that note; Pakistan Zindabad!