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Thread: Indian Yournalists Share " Eye Opening " Stories Of Pakistan Visits......

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    Indian Yournalists Share " Eye Opening " Stories Of Pakistan Visits......

    Indian Journalists & Writers
    Share "Eye-Opening" Stories of Pakistan Visits
    By Riaz Haq
    Several prominent Indian journalists and writers
    have visited Pakistan in recent years for the first time in their lives. I am
    sharing with my readers selected excerpts of the reports from Mahanth Joishy
    (, Panakaj Mishra (Bloomberg), Hindol Sengupta (The Hindu),
    Madhulika Sikka (NPR) and Yoginder Sikand (Countercurrents) of what they saw and
    how they felt in the neighbor's home. My hope is that their stories will help
    foster close ties between the two estranged South Asian

    Mahanth S. Joishy, Editor,
    : (July, 2012)
    Many of us travel for business or leisure. But few
    ever take a trip that dramatically shatters their entire worldview of a country
    and a people in one fell swoop. I was lucky enough to have returned from just
    such a trip: a week-long sojourn in Pakistan.
    It was a true eye-opener, and a thoroughly enjoyable
    one at that. Many of the assumptions and feelings I had held toward the country
    for nearly 30 years were challenged and exposed as wrong and even ignorant
    The Western and Indian media feed us a steady
    diet of stories about bomb blasts, gunfights, kidnappings, torture, subjugation
    of women, dysfunctional government, and scary madrassa schools that are training
    the next generation of jihadist terrorists…
    Upon arrival in Karachi two uniformed bodyguards with
    rifles who were exceedingly friendly and welcoming climbed onto the pickup truck
    bed as we started on a 45-minute drive. I was impressed by the massive,
    well-maintained parks and gardens surrounding the airport. I was also impressed
    by the general cleanliness, the orderliness of the traffic, the quality of the
    roads, and the greenery. Coming from a city government background, I was
    surprised at how organized Karachi was throughout the ride. I also didn’t see
    many beggars the entire way. I had just spent significant amounts of time in
    two major Indian cities, Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as several second-tier
    cities like Mangalore, and none would compare favorably on maintenance and city
    planning, especially when it came to potholes and waste management. This was
    the first surprise; I was expecting that piles of garbage and dirt would line
    the roads and beggars would overflow onto the streets. Surely there is dirt and
    poverty in Karachi, but far less than I was expecting. Karachi was also less
    dense and crowded than India’s cities.
    My second pleasant surprise was to see numerous large
    development projects underway. I had read about Pakistan’s
    sluggish GDP growth
    and corruption in public works and foreign aid
    disbursement. This may be true, but construction was going on all over the
    place: new movie theaters, new malls, new skyscrapers, new roads, and entire new
    neighborhoods being built from scratch. In this regard it was similar to India
    and every other part of Asia I had seen recently: new development and rapid
    change continues apace, something we are seeing less of in the West…
    Lahore is more beautiful overall than Karachi or
    any large Indian city I’ve seen. Serious effort has gone into keeping the city
    green and preserving its storied history. Historians would have a field day
    here. In particular we saw two stunning historic mosques, the Wazir Khan and
    the Badshahi , both
    of which should be considered treasures not only for Muslims, Pakistanis, or
    South Asia, but for all of humanity. I felt it a crime that I’d never even
    heard of either one. Each of them in different ways features breathtaking
    architecture and intricate artwork comparable to India’s Taj Mahal. These are
    must-see sights for any tourist to Lahore…
    We did much more in Lahore. We were given a tour of
    the renowned Aitchison College ,
    which one of my friends attended. This boys’ private prep school is known for
    its difficult entrance exams, rigorous academic tradition, illustrious list of
    alumni since the British founded the school, and gorgeous and impeccably
    maintained 200-acre campus that puts most major universities including my own
    Georgetown to shame. Aitchison has been considered one of the best prep schools
    in the subcontinent since 1886…

    Pankaj Mishra,
    : (April, 2012)
    ...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not
    conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is
    steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.
    Born of certain geopolitical
    needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built
    up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China,
    and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence
    establishment into the war on terrorism.
    Seen through the narrow lens of the
    West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and
    tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the
    credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger
    phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
    through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its
    problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless.
    Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to
    corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the
    police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated
    in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe
    power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was
    the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with
    early summer heat.
    In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile,
    there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally
    prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new
    electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by
    English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West
    (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello
    magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).
    But much less conspicuous and
    more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political
    transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year
    term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have
    taken away some, if not all, of the near- despotic prerogatives of the
    president’s office…
    After radically increasing the size of the consumerist
    middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4
    percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of
    the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the
    architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned
    revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the
    city’s main beach, now boasts “a First World economy and sociology, but with a
    Third World wage and political structure.”
    Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased
    old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys,
    billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English
    language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the
    long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private
    colleges, fast-food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck


    CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE.............

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    Hindol Sengupta, The
    : (May, 2010)
    Add this bookstore to the list of
    India-Pakistan rivalry. A bookstore so big that it is actually called a bank.
    The book store to beat all bookstores in the subcontinent, I have found books I
    have never seen anywhere in India at the three-storeyed Saeed Book Bank in leafy
    Islamabad. The collection is diverse, unique and with a special focus on foreign
    policy and sub-continental politics (I wonder why?), this bookstore is far more
    satisfying than any of the magazine-laden monstrosities I seem to keep trotting
    into in India. ...
    Yes, that's right. The meat. There always, always seems
    to be meat in every meal, everywhere in Pakistan. Everywhere you go, everyone
    you know is eating meat. From India, with its profusion of vegetarian food, it
    seems like a glimpse of the other world. The bazaars of Lahore are full of meat
    of every type and form and shape and size and in Karachi, I have eaten some of
    the tastiest rolls ever. For a Bengali committed to his non-vegetarianism, this
    is paradise regained. Also, the quality of meat always seems better, fresher,
    fatter, more succulent, more seductive, and somehow more tantalizingly carnal in
    Pakistan. Let me tell you that there is no better leather footwear than in
    Pakistan. I bought a pair of blue calf leather belt-ons from Karachi two years
    ago and I wear them almost everyday and not a dent or scratch! Not even the
    slightest tear. They are by far the best footwear I have ever bought and
    certainly the most comfortable. Indian leather is absolutely no match for the
    sheer quality and handcraftsmanship of Pakistani leather wear.
    Yes. Yes, you
    read right. The roads. I used to live in Mumbai and now I live in Delhi and,
    yes, I think good roads are a great, mammoth, gargantuan luxury! Face it, when
    did you last see a good road in India? Like a really smooth road. Drivable,
    wide, nicely built and long, yawning, stretching so far that you want zip on
    till eternity and loosen the gears and let the car fly. A road without squeeze
    or bump or gaping holes that pop up like blood-dripping kitchen knives in Ramsay
    Brothers films. When did you last see such roads? Pakistan is full of such
    roads. Driving on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore, I thought of the
    Indian politician who ruled a notorious —, one could almost say viciously —
    potholed state and spoke of turning the roads so smooth that they would resemble
    the cheeks of Hema Malini. They remained as dented as the face of Frankenstein's
    monster. And here, in Pakistan, I was travelling on roads that — well, how can
    one now avoid this? — were as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks! Pakistani roads
    are broad and smooth and almost entirely, magically, pot hole free. How do they
    do it; this country that is ostensibly so far behind in economic growth compared
    to India? But they do and one of my most delightful experiences in Pakistan has
    been travelling on its fabulous roads. No wonder the country is littered with
    SUVs — Pakistan has the roads for such cars! Even in tiny Bajaur, hard hit by
    the Taliban, and a little more than a frontier post, the roads were smoother
    than many I know in India. Even Bajaur has a higher road density than India! If
    there is one thing we should learn from the Pakistanis, it is how to build
    roads. And oh, another thing, no one throws beer bottles or trash on the
    highways and motorways.

    Madhulika Sikka,
    NPR News
    : (May, 2010)
    This may be hard to believe, but the first thing that
    crosses your mind when you drive into Islamabad is suburban Virginia — its wide
    roads, modern buildings, cleanliness and orderliness is a complete contrast to
    the hustle and bustle of the ancient city of Lahore, some 220 miles east on the
    Grand Trunk Road.
    Islamabad is laid out in a grid with numbered avenues
    running north to south. The streets are tree-lined and flowers abound among the
    vast open stretches of green space.

    Perhaps one of the most beautiful
    spots is the Margallah Hills National Park. Drive up the winding road on the
    northern edge of town to the scenic view points and you'll see the broad planned
    city stretch before you.
    It's a Sunday afternoon and you could be in any park
    in any city in the world. Families are out for a stroll and picnicking on park
    benches. There's a popcorn vendor and an ice cream seller. Kids are playing on a
    big inflatable slide. Peacocks strut their full plumage as people are busily
    clicking away on their cellphone cameras. Lively music permeates the air as
    souvenir sellers are hawking their wares. Off one of the side paths I notice a
    young couple lunching at a bench, a respectable distance apart from each other
    but clearly wanting to be alone.
    So what's it like here? It's pretty much like
    everywhere else. On a quiet Sunday afternoon people are out with their families,
    relaxing and enjoying themselves, taking a break from the stresses and strains
    of daily life. For all of us this is an image of Pakistan worth remembering. I
    certainly will.

    Yoginder Sikand,
    : (June, 200
    Islamabad is surely the most well-organized, picturesque and
    endearing city in all of South Asia. Few Indians would, however, know this, or,
    if they did, would admit it. After all, the Indian media never highlights
    anything positive about Pakistan, because for it only 'bad' news about the
    country appears to be considered 'newsworthy'. That realization hit me as a rude
    shock the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered Islamabad's plush
    International Airport, easily far more efficient, modern and better maintained
    than any of its counterparts in India. And right through my week-long stay in
    the city, I could not help comparing Islamabad favorably with every other South
    Asian city that I have visited. That week in Islamabad consisted essentially of
    a long string of pleasant surprises, for I had expected Islamabad to be
    everything that the Indian media so uncharitably and erroneously depicts
    Pakistan as. The immigration counter was staffed by a smart young woman, whose
    endearing cheerfulness was a refreshing contrast to the grave, somber and
    unwelcoming looks that one is generally met with at immigration counters across
    the world that make visitors to a new country feel instantly unwelcome.

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