Pakistan Visitors Pleasantly Surprized
Islamabad: Well Organized, Welcoming:
"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."
10 June, 2008
Resurgent, Prosperous Middle Class:
"On the ground, of course, the reality is different and first-time visitors to Pakistan are almost always surprised by the country's visible prosperity. There is far less poverty on show in Pakistan than in India, fewer beggars, and much less desperation. In many ways the infrastructure of Pakistan is much more advanced: there are better roads and airports, and more reliable electricity. Middle-class Pakistani houses are often bigger and better appointed than their equivalents in India.
Moreover, the Pakistani economy is undergoing a construction and consumer boom similar to India's, with growth rates of 7%, and what is currently the fastest-rising stock market in Asia. You can see the effects everywhere: in new shopping centers and restaurant complexes, in the hoardings for the latest laptops and iPods, in the cranes and building sites, in the endless stores selling mobile phones: in 2003 the country had fewer than three million cellphone users; today there are almost 50 million."
14 August, 2007
Absurd Notions About Pakistan:
"Suicide bombs, battles in tribal areas, and states of emergency tend to put off casual tourists. But the impression such events convey can often be misleading and unrepresentative of a country as a whole. A few days ago I was sitting in a cafe sipping best Italian espresso and reading a news magazine. The front page was full of furious faces and clenched fists under the headline, The Most Dangerous Nation in the World isn't Iraq, it's Pakistan. The cafe was in a smart bookshop in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. I sighed and turned to the article inside.
It was a revealing analysis of some penetration of a few places in Pakistan by the Taleban and al-Qaeda. I pondered the magnifying-glass effect of dramatic news coverage. The suicide bomb attack on Benazir Bhutto's homecoming parade in Karachi in October, which killed an estimated 140 people, and the assault on a Taleban pocket in the Swat valley, a tourist destination, took place while I was in Pakistan.
But neither event had a noticeable effect on the general sense of security and stability where I was in Islamabad or on the road. The notion that Pakistan is more dangerous than Iraq is absurd."
12 November, 2007
Pakistan as Attractive Investment Opportunity:
"A little more than six years ago, immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities, few sane investment advisers would have recommended Pakistani stocks.
They should have. Their clients could have made a fortune.
Since 2001, the nuclear-armed South Asian country, blamed for spawning generations of Islamic militants and threatening global security, has been making millionaires like newly minted coins.
As Western governments have fretted about Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of militants, the Karachi Stock Exchange's main share index has risen more than 10-fold."
Jan 10, 2008
These eyewitness accounts of Pakistan by serious individuals are a reminder of the fact that fly-by-night journalism and sensational media reports are not reliable sources of information to guide policy on relations with Pakistan, investment decisions in Pakistan, the ongoing war on terror, and Pakistan's role in it. Let's hope that the international policy makers consider sources beyond the traditional commercial media when making important strategic decisions on crucial issues.