Pakistan: Perceptions vs. reality

Nosheen Abbas realises that Pakistan’s image has little to do with real experience.

Have you ever tried searching Google for images of Pakistan? You’ll be hard-pressed to find any pictures that depict the progressive and modern aspects of our country. Try typing ‘Pakistan progress’, ‘Pakistan modern’ or ‘Pakistan cafes’ in the search bar, and chances are there will be no results. But if you just type in the word Pakistan, you’ll be flooded by a collection of frightening pictures (excluding some seductive shots of ‘Miss Pakistan’): kids holding guns, bomb blasts and violence will inundate your computer screen.

When will the world see Pakistan from all angles – the good, the bad and everything else in between?

Two recent encounters suggest that the only way we can get people to expand their vision of Pakistan is by experiencing it first hand…

I’m at Rumours, the underground club of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. The walls are quilted, the lights are dim and the music is getting louder as some foreign journalists try to unwind.

I’m talking to a British journalist I’ve never met before who explains that he’s permanently stationed in Afghanistan.

‘How do you like being in Islamabad, then?’ I ask him.

He has a thoughtful expression on his face and is suddenly overcome by the urge to reveal a thought: ‘You know… Pakistan really isn’t marketed properly. This place is really nice. It’s clean, you’ve got cafĂ©’s and places to relax, you can walk on the streets with ease,’ he points out. ‘But people out there don’t know that,’ he adds, metaphorically pointing behind him.

‘Yes, that’s true. People think Pakistan is full of bearded men who run around brandishing swords,’ I respond a little emotionally.

‘Yeah,’ he muses. ‘I’d like to be back – the people are so damn nice here.’

Another time, another place:

I’m sitting in an empty restaurant interviewing Ethan Casey, author of ‘Alive and Well in Pakistan: A Human Journey in a Dangerous Time’. It’s almost like a two-way interview since he’s recording our interview and is prone to digressing. Casey has traveled to both India and Pakistan several times and compares the two as follows:

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Originally Posted by Nosheen Abbas in Featured Articles,
on 06 2nd, 2009 | 168 responses


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