By Sajjad Khan Bangash,
I get overly disheartening and feel pain when I hear from my friends across the globe that ‘Pakistan is a country where there’s always escalation, violence, religious fanaticism and extremism and women are being suppressed and not given equal status and rights and where people of the outside world are not welcomed or shown contempt, similarly Pakistan is a safe heaven of terrorists where terrorists are being harbored, trained and send off to kill innocent civilians and destroy the peace of the world. They think that Pakistani society is very ignored, less civilized, uneducated with highest level of poverty and poor are being mistreated and suppressed.’
Such are the views are commonly referred for Pakistan by majority of the people even Muslim friends across the globe.
But the ground realities are very different than such belligerent and less informed views but this seems quite illogical to mind that ‘without knowing the ground realities or personally visiting, exploring the place or event, we must not form a mere assumption and express our opinion about something or someone.’
It’s something that I see the high mountain and I start telling about its exact measurement about its height to the people without mathematically measuring the height.
The people of the world must understand and recognize the fact that as a society, we Pakistanis live under inter-connected social societal set-up and norms where our elders are given esteem and respect and elders are given importance in our lives important decisions.
We’re very multifarious and diverse society where we have cultures and sub-cultures with variances of regional languages and dialects spoken, religious and cultural diversity in beliefs which make our society overly socially, economically, religiously, culturally and politically diversified. We celebrate our cultural and religious rituals with warmth of care and active participation. Similarly, by saying ‘Women are oppressed and not given equal status and rights.’ Then, I would disagree with this reservation of the West since, culturally we are being brought up in this pattern of lifestyle. If you ever ask a woman that why, you wear Abaya, Hijjab, Dupata (Pakistani Headscarf) or Burqa then she’ll happily reply you with a saying that ‘I feel highly secured, respected and revered’ and it gives me sense of integrity and self-respect.
Majority of marriages in our society are decided as ‘arranged’, although the trend of ‘Love marriages’ is equally rising but thankfully, our marriages are everlasting and in Pakistan divorce ratio is very low as compared to Western societies or developed countries.
To us, everything we do in life either getting education, deciding about marriages, employment or commencing businesses, we always have to consult mutually and agreed upon.
Religion plays a significant and dominate role in our daily life affairs as of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Parsi etc. we always seek religious consideration and guidance in every affairs of life.
Being an international writer, I am honored to regularly communicate with friends across the globe to learn from their part of experiences, cultural, social, political and economical textures of their respective societies. It immensely enhance my knowledge, vision and exposure about people of different cultures and societies since we learn a lot by personally visiting or learning from the people where they reside.
Luckily, I met a Scottish friend of mine who have visited Pakistan several times and he spent a memorable time in Pakistan. I met him on Facebook where he posted some comments on my pictures of northern areas of Pakistan and since he already visited those areas and he had a lot to tell. So I decided that I should talk to him and ask him to share his part of experience exploring Pakistan since he came from Europe and his perspective as a western world’s perspective is worthwhile to help educate people of West about Pakistan.
Mr. Lauchlan Campbell is a renowned personality for making documentaries on several issues confronted by the world and he shown his willingness to share his memories and experiences traveling Pakistan and meeting the people.
“My name is Lauchlan Campbell, I was born in Glasgow Scotland on 23/05/1950.”
I asked him about his experience in Pakistan and said ‘Mr. Lauchlan Campbell, as you traveled different parts of Pakistan and you made documentaries. How did you find Pakistan and people of Pakistan?
Mr. Lauchlan Campbell narrates his experience in his words as.
“My first visit to Pakistan in the year 1984. I crossed the border from India by foot then took a local bus to Rawalpindi. My first impressions of Pakistan was it was similar to India in climate and how the people looked. Once I was there a few days the noticed the food and attire differed, depending where I travelled.
I found the people of Pakistan to be friendly and welcoming. I think like most countries in the world depending on your economical situation how you are treated. I did not meet any people who were not prepared to share what they had whether that have been a cup of tea or a hot home cooked meal at their home.
When I visited someone’s home or at times chatting to someone in the marketplace or tea shop, one of the most common questions I was asked was about my salary in my country. The people were surprised when they converted my salary into Rupees but I assured them the cost of living in my country was around 10 times higher than theirs so the salary was not that high.
Pakistan is certainly a beautiful country with diverse cultures intermingled depending on what part of that wonderful land you travelled. I ventured all the way up the silk road from Peshawar to Sust and Pirali to the Chinese border. I also took diversions to other remote areas the wonders of Pakistan are awesome to the mind eye and soul.
I visited Karachi a well known sea port and found the bustling city vibrant but did not have much connection to the people there. I found that the culture in that busy seaport not really to my liking as I was looking for adventure in other remote areas.
I then travelled to Peshawar in the northwest frontier of Pakistan by local transport. I found the landscape to be green and fertile. I meet lots of very interesting people and became friends with a family of the Pathan clan. I found the northwest area very exciting and friendly.
I visited two towns one known as Barra and the other Darra (Peshawar District) these were areas run by tribal chiefs were the Pakistan government did not have full control over. It was like entering Noman’s land the entrance into them were guarded with fully armed men with automatic guns. In the town of Darra I visited areas were automatic weapons were being handmade and narcotics were piled high to the rafters in shops and stores.
I also visited the museum in Peshawar and viewed the remnants of the old Gandhara period with glances of Buddhist statues reminding the visitors of a culture past gone.
I went to Chitral and also visited the Kalash minority people. I found Pakistan to be very exciting and somewhat strange in a mysterious way. Example the people from Kalash did not follow the Muslims ways and claimed to be descendants from Greece with the invading army of Alexander the great. I meet people there with fair hair and blue eyes and very beautiful and colorful costumes.
The customs regarding marriage were unusual also were the women could pursue another husband if the man could pay double the dowry of the first husband. I found this to be interesting as in Islam it is the man who can pursue other wives. Life is truly full of surprises.
I enjoyed the food in Pakistan which mostly consisted of goat Kebab, fresh yogurt a mixture of dried and fresh fruit. and nuts. The hot Naan bread was always plentiful and coming direct from a clay oven onto your table.
I would advise anyone to visit that wonderful land and if you know someone there it is even better as you can get a true feel of the culture being guided by a local.”
Mr. L Campbell.