how the world sees america

My Press Visa to Pakistan Has Arrived!

backpack.jpg
Me, bearded.
New Delhi - I was supposed to fly home yesterday to Washington DC to recoup for a few weeks before pushing off to Syria or Indonesia. But just five hours before my flight, I got an unexpected call from the Pakistani Embassy. My press visa has come through. Four months after applying for it, I’m now allowed to spend one week in Pakistan. Not a lifetime, but better than nothing.

Life in this business does seem to turn on the tiniest intervals of time. So I’ve canceled my flight home, and in its place booked a flight to Lahore for next week.

I admit, my emotions are mixed. Yesterday I felt tired, ready for a break, ready to see my rabbits -- Bonbon and Kimchi -- and my family after an over-stimulating two months. Part of me is afraid of going to Pakistan. From the media reports I read at home, it looks a bit like a lawless land. Old images of a besieged U.S. embassy and a decapitated Daniel Pearl fill my thoughts. My mother isn't pleased. I reassure her and myself: I’m brown and I haven’t shaved in about a month. This surely helps.

Mentors in India like Surjit Bhalla, Ali Asani, and MJ Akbar assure me I have nothing to fear in Pakistan, as long as I stay away from tribal areas. “It’s a beautiful country, strikingly like India,” says Surjit. “American media paint a dire picture of Pakistan but it’s not so bad at all.” Next week I’ll be there, and we’ll see…

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Comments (47)

Shehzad Ahmed Mir:

Hey Amar - Forgot to tell you. With the beard you have a striking resemblance to our former cricket Captain INZAMAM UL HAQ or INZI!!! So either ways...with or without the beard, you'll do well here!

Shehzad Ahmed Mir:

TO REDDY - Dude, next time you fly out of any Indian Airport make sure to roll down the window pane of of your seat so you don't catch your country men and women taking a dump next to the runway! Even Newsweek reported your country's famous crapholes and sheer poverty! Its kooks like you who tend to overlook reality and are consistently living in bollywoodland! Whatever happened to Incredible India?? Indian development is a figment of overzealous economists imagination. And by the way, your Incredible India is the largest beggar of money from the World Bank. Got it? So check your reality before you go around and take a poke at Pakistan. Remember, we bite back!!

Aamir Ali:

MOA: Muslims dont have "four wives". If you think so, then you are just a dumb American with a big mouth.

Aamir Ali:

MOA: yes what you claim is possible in Western society. Nothing to be proud of. If you think Muslims have "four wives", you are just a stupid American with a big mouth.

Shobha:

Hello Amar, this is Shobha here from the Bangalore Mirror newspaper in India. I was wondering if it is possible to have an email interview with you. If you are fine with the idea, please send me your email id to simplyshobha[at]rediffmail[dot]com
Thank you :) Besides, just wanted to add that your project is extremely interesting. Looking forward to for more articles on the Anti-American sentiment :)

MoA:

hasnatf says, "Well, in Western societies instead of four wives you can have a wife and three girl friends, at the same time."

But remember, in the West, you can also have a husband and three boy friends at the same time as well (as long as none were picked when they were six and *** when they became nine, if so, you get your address published).

If you live in a glass house, don't throw stones...or does the good book encourage that as well. Oh, well!

Vijay:

President APJ Abdul Kalam despite all the discriminations that M. Malleck writes in his message above, went on to become top nuclear scientist and the President. That means he got plenty of breaks from Hindus.

Malleck cites one case of a Hindu being appointed CJ temporarily, but the fact is no non-Muslim can ever be elected to the highest posts in Pakistan.Even in non government areas, like sports, a non-muslim can not be a captain.

Contrast that with India where Muslims are on top in government and in non-government positions (sports, bollywood, business....)

Dinesh:

Interesting back-and-forth between Reddy and Malleck.

Like Reddy said, Hindus and India are certainly not perfect (note millions of Hindus want to and have gotten out of India for a better life). I like Reddy's point that India will never develop until it drastically changes its social structure (i.e. female infanticide, caste and dowry system etc.).

But Muslims, are not only intolerant and narrow minded but are blowing up civilians on a daily basis worldwide (read yesterday 7 tourists blown up in Srinagar, Kashmir).

Reddy:

and you can get busy blowing people up

Mohamed MALLECK:

My poor Reddy,

Well, as you will be able to confirm from other readers of your postings and mine, you NO DOUBT need a psychiatrist!

It's now totally up to you!

Reddy:

Oh...by the way...how different is your experience at work than millions of others. It is called work place discrimination and improper treatment. the reasons might change but not the story. Believe it or not there are some laws in most countries to protect employees against it. If you look closely you might even find something at IMF for all your Ph.D's worth.

Reddy:

Mohammed Malleck
Sorry..long post but completely unrelated.

If you for one second think I consider Hindus are any way sacred or superior you are completely mistaken. There are innumerous flaws in the relegion (personally I dont consider hinduism as a relegion).It suppresses millions of people and wastes so much human capital. By the way suicide bombing is a Hindu invention (Tamil Tigers) so no credit for any creativity to muslims there. Poor muslims the only thing they are good at is also not their idea.

Hinduism and India (before the muslim scum) contributed immensly to this world. Ever heard of a place called Nalanda, how about the Takshila (in pakistan now). These are minisucle examples of a great society and civilization.

It is the oldest unbroken civilization dating atleast 10,000 years. Over the years the systems that served became corrupt and the residue is causing so much pain for millions. You dont have to go even that far

"According to economic historian Angus Maddison in his book The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, India had the world's largest economy in the 1st century and 11th century, with a 32.9% share of world GDP in the 1st century and 28.9% in 1000 CE".

India had one of the largest economies as recently as the late 1800's. I think the great days for India are in past in what we are seeing now is the rubble and other remaining of a great civilization both physically and culturally.

Despite recent economic gains and rosy predictions by many pundits India will be a poor and struggling country for a long time. Its economic conditions can not be solved without solving the cultural and relegious conditions.

Future of India belogs to the downtrodden and oppressed classes. It has started in UP already and will spread all over India in no time. I think I am going far off my original point here.


My point is Muslims are good for nothing but to blow themselves and kill others. Through out history muslims are nothing but barbarians. I am sure you will point to some astro-physical and mathamatical work of arabs. You know as well as any one that it is not their work but learned in India and China. I dont think they claimed it theirs other than these recent so called arabic pundits who wants to show something positive about muslims.

Here is my belief (you can call it Islamophobia...i am fine with it..but you can not prove me wrong).
Your educational qualifications doesnt make you any less of a probable terrorist if not more in light of all the evidence. All 9/11 hijackers are highly educated and every other person in al-quaida is and so are the london bombers.

I still didnt hear your expertise in the minority situation in Pakistan, bangladesh or anyother muslim country. Lebanon doesnt exactly suit your point if not the contrary. So there was a rule put in the constitution to make a christian president. I didnt say you cant get things done with muslims by gunpoint. Thats the only way they actually behave.

Senegal you say..I am sure there are even more tiny wheeny parts in the world that are closer to utopia..but they dont measure up enough to make a statement.

Muslims in india have utmost freedom than they have in most of the world. In what country do you see a minority attacking the majority for no apparent reason and majority still unable to claim their cultural and relegious places in their own country.

You talked about Gujarat..it is definetly inhumane but well derved. Muslims did so much distruction for so long that they need to be taught a lesson. I hope every time they shoot a bullet we fire back a missle. We waited and waited for centuries for them to change and all they want is destroy us.

We gave a better part of our country to these scoundrals and still they are not satisfied and look what they did to the places they were given.

Earlier they couldnt live with other relegions and now they cant live with themsleves.

Mr. Mohammed as with anything else there are no absolutes and there are always exceptions. When you call a person a bad person it doesnt mean everything he does is bad there could be good but the bad part is overwhelming. Likewise every good person would have doen something he is not proud of. When I say all Muslims are eveil I am sure there are atleast 10-15% that are not part of that but we can not risk our lives to find them when the overwhelming majority is cruel.

Mohamed MALLECK:

Reddy,

You write : " Dont even dare to talk aout Kalam...he is a decent human being not filth like you people".

Why don't you call a psychiatrist to cure your Islamophobia?

Psychiatrists are the right people to cure phobias.

I quote from Kalam's autobiography (pages 9-10): " On the whole, the small society of Rameshwaram was highly stratified and very rigid in terms of the segregation of different social groups. However, my science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer, though a very orthodox Barhmin with a very conservative wife, was something of a rebel. .... One day, he invited me to his house for a meal.His wife was horrified at the idea of a Muslim boy being invited to dine in her ritually pure kitchen.She refised to serve me in her kitchen....".

Next, I shall tell you somethng else.

In June 1975, I went back to Mauritius, my country of birth, after having completed very brilliant studies in Canada for my Combined Honurs degree in Economics and Mathematics, my Master's and my Ph.D. degrees in Economics, the latter up to the 'Comprehensives Examinations' which I passed suuccessfully in Monetary Economics and Econometrics, and immediately after presented my Ph. D. thesis proposal on The Transmission Process for Monetary Policy.

When I was in Mauritius, the Managing Director of the Central Bank of Mauritius (which institution I had served for 3 years before going to Canada) persuaded me to apply for a position of Research Officer, promising that the expatriate Director of Research (of Indian origin and seconded to mauritius by the IMF) was going to be leaving in 2 years and I would be the ideal candidate to implement the Bank's already-advertised project of recruiting a Mauritian Director of Research who would, after one year's service in Mauritus, be seconded on attachment to the IMF for 2 years, and then become substantive Director of Research. In spite of my apprehension of the devious ways of the bosses, which I had sampled during my previous employment with the Bank, I allowed myself to be persuaded to apply, then returned to Queen's University in Canada to complete the residency requirements formy Ph.D., having calculated that I would use my two years' attachment at the IMF to complete my Ph. D. thesis.
Well, guess what? After I had got back to Mauritius and taken up the job, the usual dirty tricks, which I had anticipated but naively thought would go away, started. Notably, the purportedly high-caste Governor of the Central Bank had then set his eyes on a lesser-qualified (and, of course India-trained) recruit as a potential fiance for his daughter and the unassailable candidate for the project of Director of Research designate to be seconded on attachment to the IMF. The bugger played along, but was recalcitrant to the marriage plans.
Caught in a dilemma of his own making (unless the had been other factors in play, which I hope he will sepll out in the unlikely case that he reads this and chooses to respond), he took all his hatred out against me, because, evidently I was the guy in the firing line, being best and most appropriately qualified.
He was of so much hatred that, that Ramadan of 1976, while I was fasting and we happened to be together, along with other colleagues, at iftaar (fast-breaking) time, he tried to force me to drink beer, alcoholic beer.
I have never forgiven him and will never forgive him!
One final word, in case one of the WAPO moderators reads this. In a WAPO forum commentary bu Rami Khori some two months back, David Ignatius, responding to a comment I had made that maybe David could chip-in for financing the post-war reconstruction of Iraq (I contributed myself for the post earthquake relief costs in Pakistan) David made a one-liner response to me that maybe instead of a 'Son of Saddam' that one of the posts had proposed as a solution for correcting the mayhem in Iraq, we should have a 'Son of Mandela'. I thought of telling David: "Yes, it would suit you that Rami Khouri or myself be a Son of Mandela so that Bush or Cheney or Khalilzadeh or Abizaid or Petraeus can be Wouter Basson (he was known as Dr. Death in apartheid South Africa)". But, David is too decent for me to have made that comment then. He will excuse me that, today that YOU, REDDY, have used the term 'filth like you (Muslims)', I spell out the thoughts that crossed my mind then.

Oh! Before I end, the name of the bloke who tried to force me to drink alcoholic beer when Iwas about to break my fast during Ramadan 1976 is K.C. Khushiram.

Well, Reddy, at this point I shall take back my comment about your seeing a psychiatrist,and wish you all the very best that life and peace and goodwill towarda all human beings can offer to you and to us all.

Reddy:

I see a lot of people talking highly of the paradise called pakistan. I hope they are not mistaking it for switzerland or something. You know just in case....

Jerseyite...you are full of it or just plain blind.
Pakistan is already on worldstage ..all over it with suicide bombings everyday and slitting throats for fun.

I will tell you one reason why Pakistan is not on world stage you ignorant bas.... Ask them about the rights of minorities and ask them some statistics about minorities since independence. Ask them how many hindus are killed, converted or just plain raped and taken as 3rd and 4th wives so they can wipe out them.

Yeah sure they are hospitable if you throw a $100 every second on their face. The only reason that country is surviving is because of the international aid. They are nothing but beggars and worse.

Mohammed Malleck,

Spin it anyway you kow muslims are incapable of doing anything but blowing them selves.

Dont even dare to talk aout Kalam...he is a decent human being not filth like you people.

So explain me the minority situation especially about hindus in pakistan. So there was a guy who was made chief justice for a brief period. Alberto Gonzalez is attorney general so america loves mexicans.

So pakistan was heaven on earth for a long time but in a bit of trouble lately. Gee..I cant remember the name of a country where every 4,5 years military takes over and hangs the current PM.

Mohamed MALLECK:

Dinesh,

I shall give you just three examples -- Pakistan, Lebanon,Senegal. When Chief Justice Chaudhry was recently suspended by Musharraf, who became Chief Justice? A Hindu. Check it out for yourself and check out what the Lahore-born Advani had to say after his visit to Pakistan about 2 years ago, following which the Hindu fanatics forced him to give up his leader post in the BJP.

Meanwhile, A.J.P. Abdul Kalam was not given a second term as President of India. Why? Because he wisely averted a great catastrophe to India when he advised Sonia not to press too hard her case to become Prime Minister of India cognoscenti know that it was at that very moment when the very wise Kalam did so much to sapre India a disaster that Sonia had taken the decision that he ouwld not get a second term. But, one cannot prove that one has avoided a disaster, because you cannot let events take their course, let the disaster occur, then rewind and play back with the indertion of your act of heroism thatyou claim, avoided the disaster.

Now, Lebanon. The country is majority Muslim; but it is an inheritance of the constituion agreed under the 'post-WWI protectorate regime of the Allies' that the President of Lebanon always has to be a Christian.

Next, Senegal. The country is 95% Muslim. Yet, for very, very long years, Sedar Senghor, a Catholic was President.

Moreover, you are right there are 50 Muslim majority countries or countries that belong to the Organisation of Islamic countries (among which Nigeria which had, for the past 10 years had the Christian Obasanjo as President), but there are more than 191 countries in tjhe world. That's where my figure of more than 140 non-Muslim countries comes from, with over 250 million Muslims. How many told you that they do not want to or are incapable of living in a country where Islam is not the dominant religion?

Yet more. You 'hear' Muslims involved in violence in India? Did you read the Supreme Court findings about what happened in Gujrat, both the train fire and the Godhra riots? Are you aware of what is happening to sentiment about Narendra Modi these days within his own BJP, because of his anti-Muslim hatred?

I was going to quote for you a couple of extracts from the autobiography [Wings of Fire] of Abdul Kalam, but, if you are a man of any decency, you would, after what you have written, get a copy of the book and read it fromcover to cover for yourself.

All the best to you.

Dinesh:

To Mohamed,
Where are the minorities in Islamic countries? There are more than 50 Islamic nations. To me that seems in your face discrimination against other religions.
Do these Islamic nations give equal rights to all minorities?
I hear Muslims involved in daily acts of violence in not only Muslim majority countries but also in places like India, Thailand, Phillipines, UK....

Mohamed MALLECK:

Dinesh,

You ask : "Also should we expect Muslims in Western countries to have the same attitude
[saying that they do not want to or are incapable of living in a country where Islam is not the dominant religion]?"

There are more than 140 countries in the world where Islam is not the 'dominant' (what does that mean, please?) religion and where at least 250 million Muslims live. That category of countries includes South Africa where at least 2 million Muslims live, and were the ones who first taught Mohandas Gandhi non-violence (the Gujrati Muslims of South Africa made a struggling lawyer from Gujrat come to South Africa as their legal adviser to counter the 'pass laws' -- as Richard Attenborough depicts in his movie Gandhi one Mr. Khan had been among the leaders who had been using peaceful protest and non-violent resistance long before Gandhi's arrival to fight apartheid; even today, Ahmad Kathrada is revered as a modest self-effacing stalwart of the anti=a[artheid struggle; ask Nelson Mandela).

Now, Dinesh, how many of those 250 million Muslims have told you that they do not want to or are incapable of living in a country where Islam is not the dominant religion?

Finally, there is this recurrent rant "the West", about "this country' which is defined arbitarrily as the US or the UK depending on where a blogger who is the target of your hatred lives. Let the 'first nations' of 'the West' or those who colonized "the West" and built its infrastructure, its culture, its commercial and financial systems speak for themselves, will you, Dinesh.

Regards!

OD:

Both the British and US govts have flatly denied any visas, even transit visas, to Dr Riyadh Lafta of Al-Mustansiriya University College of Medicine in Baghdad, who wanted to speak at BC University in Canada.

He eventually had to travel to Jordan, fly to eastern Canada, then cross that country.

His offence? He was one of the authors of the Lancet epidemiological study which estimated around 655,000 Iraq war deaths.

So clearly this kind of banana republic behaviour is not limited to Pakistan.

I'll bet any harassment you meet in entering Pakistan will be as nothing, compared to trying to get back into the States with that beard.

Aamir Ali:

Baloch: Your tribal lords are the failures, and they are on their way out.

Pakistan certainly has serious problems, we are trying to solve those problems, including your violent and greedy Baloch tribal lords.

Long live the Baloch people and Pakistani nation!

Dinesh:

To Baloch: Pakistan, a "lawless failed state that should not have existed... single most source of terror".

You are right, but the fact of the matter that Pakistan's Muslims will say that they are better off than living in a Hindu dominated India.

In other words, they seem to be saying that they do not want to or are incapable of living in a country where Islam is not the dominant religion (by the same token, I believe Kashmir is as good as lost for India).

Also should we expect Muslims in Western countries to have the same attitude?

Baloch:

Islamabad is the capitol of Pakistna Military Inc so for the most part you will be safe. People who just go to Islamabad think that things are ok in Pakistan which is not the case. Besides lawlessness has seeped into Islambadad as well as seen by the recent events of lal masjid.

To be blunt Pakistan is a lawless failed state that shouldn't have existed in the first place. Pakistan is the single most source of terror in the world.

Dhar:

Ramu is right. I have been ripped off by auto rickshaw, taxi drivers and even five-star (Taj) hotels.
Also about cleanliness: I do not know how Indians can live in absolute filth. Seems like the whole place is an open sewer. It is a shame because Mahatma Gandhi was very passionate about cleanliness. I guess Indians do not respect him any more.
I would be very curious to read Mr. Bakshi's experiences in Pakistan, as far as how common man lives, quality of life, cleanliness etc.
I do not buy my Indian friends' explanation for India's living conditions due to Islamic and White man's invasions. I believe many countries around 1940s were much worse off than India and are now doing much better (at least as far as living conditions).Pakistan could be one of them

Aamir Ali:

Pakistanis cannot compare themselves to India as Indians now compare themselves to china and within 15 years, Indians will be comparing themselves to USA and Switzerland.

Poor Pakistan is left far behind. However we still have culture and hospitality!

Ramu:

"...like India". It can not be. Indian cities are hell on earth. I can not imagine any other place worse off than India where you can smell sewer in all major cities, can not drive, can not breathe in fresh air, people are out to rip you off, etc.

From what I have heard Pakistan is a much more developed/modern country with a higher quality/standard of life, although going thru a rough time right now because it is a theocracy, which openly discriminates against other religions.

Kim.Y.:

Salaam aleikum, and congrats on the permission to go to Pakistan!

While you're there, perhaps you could solve a mystery for us: In the fall of 2002, the young sons of al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were nabbed in Pakistan in a failed attempt to arrest Mohammed. The boys were 7 and 9 at the time, I believe.

Were the children ever returned to their mother? And whatever happened to her -- was she arrested or detained as well?

Shukria, wa wa'asalama.

A. J. Ranjha:

I would certainly drop the beard to blend in with the mainstream Pakistanis. Being a Pakistani myself who hadn't lived in Pakistan for the last 20 years; I had the same apprehensions before I started visiting there for business. I must say that after re-discovering Pakistan, I have been blown away by the talent, hard work, and creativity of the people there. It is unfortunate that most of this talent is going un-tapped due to lack of marketing of Pakistani talent in global forums. Especially, after 9/11 due to relentless portraying of Pakistan with all things terror.

While you are there, please take the time to visit the local BPO scene like Call Centers, Software Development shops, and other BPO companies that are doing business around the world. Get their opinion and you will find them equally poised for success like their Indian counterparts who work for multi-nationals. There is also a growing local market for their talent.

Please also report on the telecommunication and media revolution that has taken place in Pakistan in the last 5 years. Average Pakistani is now well informed, well connected and well rounded in her opinion. You can virtually connect to the Internet from anywhere – even while riding in a car. I came to know a few kids who are building and selling websites around the world from a village.

All that of course is not without its dark side that everyone seems to be focusing on. I hope that during your visit you will be able to see and report on the brighter side of Pakistan that she badly needs.

What awaits you is a: brighter, generous, fascinating, and an emerging Pakistan. Enjoy!


Shehzad Ahmed Mir:

P.S - Dump the beard dude! You look like a typical western projected terror suspect!! ;-)

Shehzad Ahmed Mir:

Amazing comments from people who have not seen Pakistan. I am a US graduate and came back to Pakistan in 1992. I have not had the urge to travel back to the US or even miss the so called life style just because I am very happy in my country. I live in Islamabad, travel all over (even to the gorgeous northern areas with peaks over 8000m) and hey I love wearing my shorts in summer.

As you said, US Embassy bombings and Pearl's misfortune has been blown out of proportions by the western press for more internal motives. You are more likely to die in an accident off the I-495 to DC then be killed in Pakistan.

Lastly, Pakistan is far better than India. We have far superior road & infrastructure networks, no one sleeps on footpaths at night, people are more courteous and hospitable to foreigners and the landscape is much more varied and exciting.

The so-called travel advisories and other western media generated hype are similar to how Homeland Security wants you to believe that there is a terrorist next door in every neighborhood in USA.

Grow-up guys! and judge the world with both eyes open.

John:

You're a man, you'll have no problems. I'm white with no beard in Pakistan now, and I have not had a single negative experience interacting with people (except maybe with overeagerness - physically pulling me into a shop to share a cup of tea when I would have rather been on my way) while I have been here. Most of the time I feel safer in Pak, because of the strong taboos against petty crime, than I did on the sometimes ghetto streets of my Washington, DC neighborhood. All violence so far in Islamabad has been pretty random, and everything else mostly confined to Waziristan, specifically around Miranshah. That said, use your head and stay away from the few hot spots. But by all means, wander Islamabad, if you go there, all you want any time of day or night. Try to get a mix of class experiences, interacting with both the English-speaking elite and the guy on the street who sells five rupee flowers to make a living...

AppeaseThis:

Good luck, blend in, be safe.

Umair:

Please do travel to Karachi. u'll know the difference of the mistake u have done of comparing PAkistan to India. Pakistan is far cleaner, modern and etc etc... but yes! some afghan-indian trained extremists, who are trying to make our lives hell!

other sabrina:

nice beard...! as to the most recent comment: i'm glad to hear 'acha' will come in handy for you in pakistan - use it often. safe travels.

Asghar Abbas:

G'day (Salam) Ammar,

You are most welcome to visit Pakistan :).

Don't forget to enjoy some traditional desi food at Food Street Lahore or Village (Restaurant), M.M Alam Road Lahore. Zouk' chef makes one of finest stakes. Freddy' Cafe for its high tea and Chicago Grill is good for its Pizza's.

If you get time, visit Harapa, Lahore Fort, and Indus Valley to discover the wonders of our rich history. If you can visit Northern areas, you can match its beauty to Swiss beauty.

learn the magic word "Acha" (pronounced as A-cha). It is equivalent of "Good", a nod, and its pretty useful.

Its funny to see you having beard -- while coming to Pakistan.

Unfortunately, Newspapers, buy and sell the bad news. Western Media has even given front page sensational coverage to those extremist elements whom no one has even heard in most of Pakistan (80%+). Actually most of foreign journalists come here to find some red hot news about the extremists. In doing so, they miss the vast majority of Pakistani people (liberal to core of heart). They go back and just report about what they were up to.

If i believe what is portrayed in Western Media, then i am surly living in some alien land -- Not Pakistan.

Trust me (Pakistan' love it), your trip can be joyous, If you just show respect and love people with a warm smile, you will surly get heart catching love back.

have a wonderful trip.

Cheerios,

A Pakistani.

Mohamed MALLECK:

Mr. Amar Bakshi,

Desifriend (I could not wait to read the other posts before responding) is right.

You don't have to be so self-deprecating to be acceptable.

Lightskinned, 'white', 'brown', 'yellow', 'red',
'black', 'octoroon' etc. are words in the vocabulary of people whose self-esteem derives from the most superficial attributes. A decent human being appreciates others on their humanity, the emotional intelleigence, yes their 'intellectual abilities' as well. and, yes looks also matter, but more general appearance and upkeep rather than skin color or color of hair or beard, turban (not to be confused with 'taliban' as vicious people once did).

You will appreciate the warmth of the Pakistani people. Give them my salaams. I am a Muslim citizen of the world, unfortunately not a Pakistani.

Bon voyage.

Varun:

For the sake of argument, it can also be said that Iraq is a safe place to go as well. Well, look at all the people who are not getting killed ! Population of Iraq is ~25 million, and only a very small percentage of that are getting susbtantially influenced by the violence. Safe to go. Thus proved !

O well...looking forward to your pakistan experience as a journalist.

Aamir Ali:

Well unfortunately you will be going to Pakistan during a period of unrest. Stay away from police/paramilitary and military troops and installations,as they are currently being targeted.

That said however, I am a Pakistani who believes no Western journalist should be allowed inside the country. The only thing Pakistanis get out of it is for their country to be portrayed as a violent, backward,poor, dangerous and crazy place. Whereas there are serious problems in Pakistan, there is more to the country than just problems.

fahdp:

pakistan is really a lot safer than people make it out to be. you'll find is completely different from the way it is portrayed in the media

Varun:

Its pretty easy to find something really bad and point to some specific incident and extrapolate it for any developing country. Not fair enough.

Wherever there is poverty, there are bound to be problems associated with it.

XYZ:

As someone who has never been to Pakistan, it is not clear why you are being urged to disregard headlines. Are the headlines from some other place than Pakistan?

On the Washington Post World page right now a headline says about the heart of the capital, Islamabad:

"Students Try to Take Over Mosque; Bomb Nearby Kills 11"

The BBC says it was a suspected suicide bombing.

The commonsense view of such violent unrest anywhere in the world would be that impressions about safety of foreigners which were true last month may not apply today or in the immediate future. In the case of Pakistan, such a situation has nothing to do with the proverbial hospitality of Pakistanis or general civic situation in happier times. It is sad but one doubts ordinary Pakistanis have any control over such episodes even with all the will in the world.

Pukhtoon:

It's intersting to read about not straying too far down the paved road (NWFP). If you wanna know what hospitality is you need to go to NWFP. However, I know there are people there who are giving a bad name to all pukhtoons. If somehow we could get rid of all of these militants (mostly forieners or at least influnenced by them) Peshawar would be a heaven on earth.

Good luck and have fun.

Eric:

I was in Pakistan, specifically Islamabad, a few years ago working at the US Embassy. Your concerns are justified and you should be aware of your surroundings...but once you get comfortable (although in a week it might be tough) you will realize Islamabad is really a nice modern city. If you get a chance read Musharraf's book...it will give you some good insight into the country. They are really a proud country and people...at the moment, are at a crossroads in their history.

Generally the people are more intrigued and curious of Americans than hateful and spiteful as the western media portrays them. Of course the political climate and the red mosque raid has changed the atmosphere some since i was there. You are still generally safe. But i would recommend telling the embassy were you are at all times, and don't wander to far off the paved trail (NWFP). It is a nice country and enjoy yourself, but you should still keep your spidey senses on high alert.

Jerseyite:

Amar- if your experiences are anything like mine, you'll find a nation of enterprising, hospitable, caring and well-informed people who would give you the shirt off their back just to make you remember them and their country with fondness. Yet, you will also find poverty and deprivation in a country where every god-given resource can be found in substancial abundance. Pakistan to me is a paradox. I fail to understand why a country like this has not made it yet on the world stage. I encourage you to make it a point to discover its history (esp from the muslim era) and to reach out to people of all ethnic and economic backgrouds. You'll find a nation divided by its political views, but united by its hospitality and passion for life.

Amar:

Thanks for the comments. It's an important point, in many ways driving this project, that you can't judge a country just by headlines. All of my friends say much what you do Desifriend, including references to the peoples' hospitality and the wonderful food. I look forward to having my preconceptions shattered. I'm just trying to present some of my honest feelings before entering on this vlog, so, hopefully, some before/after contrast stands out.

Kakpraat:

"“It’s a beautiful country, strikingly like India,” says Surjit"

Well, duh! India and Pakistan are the same country split by a corrupt and inefficient British empire in it's last death throws. Hindi and Urdu are the same language.

History will judge the partition of India and Pakistan to be one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of the 20th century.

hasnatf:

There should be no problem in getting a Visa in four months. Pakistani citizens get U.S. Visa in six months or never. A reciprocal gesture, which is a common norm in diplomatic relations.

Well, in Western societies instead of four wives you can have a wife and three girl friends, at the same time. Secondly, don't mix up Pakistan with Afghanistan!

Desifriend:

Your remarks are non-analytical, amateurish, and self-promotional. Having just returned from Islamabad, and returning in a few months, this light-skinned American was impressed not with any violence or reason for fear but with the hum-drum of daily life and the palpable generosity of the Pakistani people. There is no "besieged U.S. Embassy" in Pakistan. You will not encounter bombs going to the airport. Some litter perhaps. To describe Pakistan as "lawless" is incorrect and misleading. You should learn the difference between the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and those areas under central Government control. You should learn about pockets of extremists and the complex ways in which one must deal with them. My hope for you is that you mature to become thoughtful and analytical, and then learn the value and power of words, and then apply genuine journalistic standards, and not use words for self-promotion.

Multiculturalism is now a one-way street:

Nice beard. And speaking of beards in the traditional Hollywood sense, will you also be "rockin'" a faux-wife who wears a full burqa and walks 3 paces behind you "for her own protection"?

Might as well complete the transformation, I say.

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