WOP Editor Speaks to Pakistani Spectator



The other day Ghazala Khan of Pakistani Spectator asked me if I could be available for an interview. I told her bloggers are mostly the people who do things mainly for passion, so she would be welcome for any such questioning session. Ghazla had a round of questions concerning this blog and me which she thinks is the pen behind this blog; it’s though as much an effort of my friends in the world of writing, photography, web formatting and above all my readers. Excerpts…

What made you enter the blogging world? Just an accident, a chance or an inspiration!

 Have visited many countries, firstly during my higher studies and later during my professional assignments. There are so many beautiful things there to see but Pakistan is unique. It has everything for everybody. Its beauty is original, untempered and as such attracts every mind. But people outside do not know this. My idea about ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ has been first of all to enable our own countrymen know the wonderous sites in their homeland and then to let the outside world know how beautiful, how wonderful and a hospitable country Pakistan is.

 Another motivating factor which necessitated / rather pushed me to launch this blog has been the discouraging and totally non professional approach of our government run establishments related to tourism. Many a time, I myself faced an indifferent, cold attitude from our various tourism outlets, so I decided to establish a platform, where people are able to learn a lot about our country; its rich history, heritage its mountains, rivers, art, everything.  

In what way do you think, Wonders of Pakistan is different?

We at WOP concentrate particularly on veracity of its contents. We try that each and every content that we insert, be it the history, heritage, art, and culture, tourism, every thing, is subjected to a strong testing ground, so overall quality editing is our forte. 

The top 7 wonders of Pakistan, in your opinion?

  1. Mehrgarh
  2. Karakorams
  3. Deosai Plain
  4. Moenjodaro
  5. Taxila
  6. KKH
  7. Uch Sharif

The top 3 places in Pakistan for ‘just married’ I mean the honeymooners?

Honeymooners have both the honey and the moon so it shouldn’t matter much for them where to go but if you ask me then:

  1. Shangrila Resort
  2. Murree
  3. A beach hut in Karachi

Only one characteristic you think has brought you success in life?

Ready to accept challenge.

The happiest and the gloomiest day of your life?

When I was informed by the title awarding committee of the Prague University of Technology that I was being conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Food Sciences. That was the happiest.

The day Mohtarma Benazir was shot at in Rawlapindi:

Am neither a PPP wala, nor do I sympathize with their political philosophy (its another matter that in theory what they say is at the heart of every Pakistani but actions speak louder than words; which I do not find in case of present PPP leadership), the day I learnt that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has been shot in Rawalpindi, I was so grieved including my family that for complete two days we didn’t take any thing. These fits of gloom grip me sometimes even now.

Urdu Blogs seem to have a huge potential, when do you think they can really take on the online horizon in Pakistan?

 At the moment, mostly the Pakistani blogs are being put up in English; the reason being the problem with its script. No suitable software is available in Urdu as yet. The script being used is cumbersome and hard to read. (Even today there is an ad in Urdu daily newspaper from world’s largest search engine Google on copy rights of authors & writers but being in computer script of Urdu its hardly readable).

Many a time when I find something of interest in an Urdu blog, I have to skip because of the poor readability. Though some blogs do use the ‘nastaleeq’ and in such a case I definitely read the piece of my interest. Am not computer savvy but I do believe ‘nastaleeq’ is being used in MS picture format. Once a completely new and perfected script is evolved, Urdu blogs will definitely get more readership, for then it would be far easier to become popular because majority of people find it more convenient to read Urdu rather than English.

 If I ask you to pick 3 top travel destinations in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would you choose?

  1.  The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
  2. Nagara Falls in Niagara, Canada
  3. Venice, the city on water (was there once, but still “Hae daikhnay ki cheez issay bar bar daikh!”). Venice is an Italian city.

Your favorite book and why?

History being my favorite subject, I mostly read books on history and of course a masterpiece in history, written by an American writer “The Rise and the Fall of Third Reich” is the book I liked most. William L. Shirer was the best selling author in mid sixties when he first published this book. I read it much later. Its style is so lucid and Shirer’s pen is so forceful and contents so interesting, that everything seems to proceed natural – it’s so absorbing you feel you are wandering in the streets of Hitler’s Germany. The day he enters the stage as a Nazi desperado after the end of WWI, goes through the great recession of 1930’s, the Reichstag Fire, waging the Second World War till the Nuremberg Trials. Shirer’s style is superb; while reading you feel you are a participant to the events of history he is describing in the book.

 And your favorite meal, dress, and sport?

Love sizzling chicken with rice done in Pakistani style. As for dress, I feel comfortable in western casual dress as well as shalwar qameez. About sports, frankly speaking, I do not have much interest in sports; instead I love to read books on history and travel.

 The first thing you notice about a person (whether you know him / her already or meeting for the first time?

Per se, I view the figure and then listen what he  / she has to say, for it’s the mind or thoughts which determine my assessment about the person am engaged in interaction or otherwise involved in one way or the other.

English blogs or Urdu Blogs, which one has a brighter future in Pakistan?

Already taken abbove.

How can Pakistani bloggers benefit from blogs financially?

 Blogs are an initial step to come into the world of publishing. Lately this medium of publication has become so strong in generating an independent, individualistic reader- viewership base that it has tempted even the giant publishing houses of the printed world, like New York Times, Washington Post, the weeklies Time and Newsweek, you name any and it will most probably be there on the web as a blog. But in essence it is a medium for those who want to write, what they want to write, not what they are asked or ordered to write. For such people, publication over a blog is the first step.

For writers, editors and publishers, weblogs offer a quick and free platform to express themselves. Once the people who are in the business or trade and start taking interest in the work of a particular writer, his value as a writer, analyst, editor, strategist is assessed, he or she can then market that skill to concerned business or trade through one’s own blog or through another whom one may think as stronger in marketing such a skill. Otherwise too, a writer can even launch a book through his own blog and market it too.

I personally foresee a tremendous potential on the financial side of blogging. As I already said, with internet getting high speed through new technologies, ISP charges getting down, internet usage is now further moving from desktops to mobile media like laptops, PDA’s and mobile phones. Message communication to focus groups and targeted readerships / viewers is more effective than other media. The role of President Obama’s weblogs and websites has been reported as one of the factors in his reaching the youth of America more effectively than his Republican rival John McCain.

Pakistani bloggers tend to remain somewhat self-centered and really don’t go out of their shells? Is it the oriental style of blogging, or are they still unsure which way to go about it?

Since I mostly view English blogs, whether Pakistani or foreign, I do not find much difference. Our bloggers are as loud, independent and bold to express their opinions, just like their western counterparts. Being self centered, ‘may be’ and I repeat ‘may be’ true for Urdu bloggers (as I said I do not view much of Urdu blogs) but Pakistani bloggers in English are not the inward looking, not just ensconced in their shells, no, no, I don’t think so.

 Where does Pakistani blogosphere stand right now?

Our blogosphere is more expressive and bolder than other media. As such it should be in the takeoff stage but it lacks professionalism. This too will come up gradually and will definitely be reflected in the PK bloggers by passage of time.

In this regard I wish to quote one instance. There is a site called PKKH (Pakistan ka Khuda Hafiz). Now this is a sentence uttered by our former dictator president Gen. (Retd). Pervaiz Musharraf, while he was announcing his resignation over Pakistani TV channels. If you go deep into the meaning of this sentence, it has connotations like “Goodbye forever Pakistan”.

Now this is something highly despisable. A dictator could say it because every dictator believes ‘après moi deluge’ but a site administrator ought to be careful in choosing a title. To be on the web doesn’t mean you can play with the wishes / sentiments of the people.

I sometime feel this site is perhaps being administered by a Hindutva guy because only such extremists can have sites like these. Even if the intention of the administrator who chose this title was sincere, yet, the title itself connotates a bad feeling for patriotic Pakistani nationalists.

Your top five favourite bloggers in Pakistan?

The following four:only:-

  1. Pakistaniat.com
  2. Rupeenews.com
  3. Lahore nama / Pak Tea House
  4. Chowk.com

 Have you ever been stunned by uniqueness of any blogger in Pakistani blogosphere?

It’s of course Adil Najam’s pakistaniat.com. Its uniqueness is its pakistaniat, its format and the contents.

 The future of blogging in Pakistan?

 Blogging is getting highly popular in Pakistan. The only problem is the speed. Since majority of net users do not have a high speed broadband facility (which is basically the technology for long term quality blogging), therefore, the high cost of broadband is a big deterrence. However, with net technologies getting more competitive, blogging may become as strong as other media (electronic as well as the hard print).

You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

 I do blogging whenever I have free time. I partly do it to satiate my passion for reading and writing, especially about the slugs I have chosen for my own blog. Secondly it’s also a part of my professional activity, so I fully enjoy my blogging time. My family too, is very responsive and cooperative in this regard.

And finally your future plans?

At the moment am financing all expenses of my blog (which is an e-magazine appearing every month on the web) from my own pocket. The writers and photographers, who contribute in WOP, too are doing this with a missionary zeal, but ultimately one has to stand on one’s own to sustain. I get a lot of requests from Pakistanis at home and abroad whether ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ is being printed in solid format which presently it is not.  I wish ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ could raise funds to meet its expenses through sponsorships from various stakeholders in tourism, history, heritage, hospitality, travel and similar activities and trades. Once we are successful, I would like that a magazine in hard format (printed on paper) comes up too. 

Then I get lot of mail from people in the US, Canada, the EU countries and Australia, who want to come to Pakistan, some want to see our culture, others want to delve in our history, there are others who just want to be here, this even at this moment now when we have this terrible menace called extremism with us.

I think we can have group visits too, provided our federal authorities can get us out of the negative advisory list.

Finally I would say through WOP, I intend to utilize our medium as the prime mover and shaker in developing and promoting the tourism potential of this country which is TREMENDOUS – if properly perceived and marketed.

Any Message for readers of our blog ‘The Pakistani Spectator’?

Be a proud Pakistani. All of us have great hopes for this country. Pakistan is developing and we certainly do have shortcomings. But they are all surmountable. We have a history of resilience right from the ancient times and we have a great future before us.

The legacy of our forefathers who demonstrated perseverance and a flair for innovation beacons us to a roadmap for Pakistan as a progressive, strong and great country. Let us work together, wherever we are, to make this a reality – within our life time

Published in: on 28/02/2009 at 10:11 pm  Comments (3)  
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Post Mumbai Conclusions: Tourism Not Terrorism

Building Peace: This file photo shows a Pakistani soldier greeting a BSF jawan on the occasion of Holi at the Attari – Wagah International Border. A powerful awakening among the masses on both sides is required for the successful India-Pak relationship.






The PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT under President Zardari started peace initiatives with India taking tentative steps to liberalise trade and tourism with India. Zardari doing a live webcast (his first ever) with English speaking Internet users in India and coining terms like “we are all half Indian / half Pakistani” was very optimistic.

In the time period between 6 September presidential inauguration and 26 / 11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Zardari administration  was still struggling in its initial days inside Pakistan with terrorist attacks on Marriot and the worsening law-and order situation in the tribal belt and north west frontier province (NWFP). There was “made-in-Taliban” tag in the world media; which scared off most westerns.

However, the peace initiative was a rare opportunity to kindle the beacon of peace between India and Pakistan. The Indian leadership (barring Sonia and her son Rahul) is in their old age of retirement, hardly a material for pragmatic and dynamic leadership. The anti Pakistan lobby headed by fire breathing Parnab Mukherjee who the people of his own west Bengal have rejected a number of times, fails to take the hint and quit gracefully. The oxford educated bureaucrat Man Mohan Singh sounds like a Punjabi supervisor from a Russian Tractor factory rather than an accomplished economist that he used to be. The right-wing leadership in BJP Vajpai and Advani have become irrelevant and cannot function properly.

It is the young leadership of India (Sonia and Rahul) who can effectively talk with young Pakistani government ( Zardari, Gilani and Qureshi). The vigorous TV campaign for a Visit India on the European channels was highly successful in “Incredible India” promoting Indian tourism and culture till 26 / 11 attacks when suddenly British and American visitors got scared about Indian tourism.

The Pakistan government initiatives — we have learned through previous experience of Visit Pakistan Year 2007 which went up in smoke of chief justice movement and terrorist attacks after the Red Mosque siege — are most of the time riddled with bureaucratic red tape, half-hearted, half-baked and ill-conceived tourism departments.

Nevertheless, Zardari made a start, which every one thought might bring better results this time around, but it wasn’t to be. The hawks in Indian and Pakistani establishments and media started talking of Terrorism rather than Tourism and dark clouds of war started gathering over the whole subcontinent , thankfully the sane leadership of India (Sonia & Man-Mohan) and Pakistan (Zardari and Qureshi) saved the countries from the brink of war.


There are a few silver linings appearing on even the darkest of clouds. Tourism today is one of the biggest industries in the world; it brings employment, opportunities and equality to otherwise less-developed areas in India such as Rajasthan, even more so in Pakistan. The terrorist attacks came at a worst time for tourist industry in India when the tourist season was just starting after hot monsoon season.

Pakistan is the best-kept secret of tourism industry. After the 9 / 11 and Afghan war Pakistan became a dangerous destination for western tourists. The Himalayan valleys in northern areas, The Kite runner Festival of “Basant” in the ancient walled inner city of Lahore (capital of Punjab and the north-Indic culture), Pakistan cultural and religious tourism for Sikh religion and Sufi shrines and  K-2 mountain climbers disappeared from the tourism industry radar , these are still as good as any in the world. Pakistan has to showcase the Indus Valley and Ghandhara Buddhist civilizations, Basant festival, performing arts festival, truck art, chicken-tikka masaala cuisine, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage places to new markets.

The Peace Tourism discussion is about how ordinary Pakistanis and Indians can play a part in defining what is meant by new friendship initiative. The Pakistani government focused on cultural exchanges, peace cricket tours with India (which was cancelled by Indian hawks in their war posturing), festivals at Shiv Mandir in Katas Raj and Kali Mandir in Hinglaj Balochistan. Also, religious tourism, if opened, can bring Non-resident Indians (Sikhs especially) NRIs from Europe and America. Its high time Indians are allowed free access to Pakistani destinations.

Common Indians are not scared of terrorism threats that world media projects about Pakistan. They know that most of Pakistan (and India as well) is a peaceful destination and the people are friendly and are nostalgic about the communal harmony in pre-partition days from British India.

Entry visas at arrival for business, family and package tourists will be the first right step in normalizing the peace process and increasing people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

Millions of Indians will be eager to cross the Wahga border for a day trips to savour the culinary delights of Lahore Food Street and Basant and other Punjabi festivals. This nostalgia and the bond of friendship was shown in Indian cricket tour of Pakistan 2004 when thousands of passionate Indian cricket fans turned Pakistan tour into a festive occasion and places like Peshawar (NWFP capital), the birth place of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor and the family home of Shah Rukh Khan, welcomed Indians with open hearts.

Everyone has his own ideas on South Asian future and identity, there are right and left wing views on secular, religious, urban and rural commoners and elites population diversities. Pakistan is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious society, which can fosters the concept of “unity in diversity” and “peace for friendship”, and this must be the key to “tourism for peace”. Pakistan tourism must focus on commonalities between the two countries so that Pakistani destinations become a permanent spot on the Indian tourism map.

Most Indians still have historical links with families, festivals, cities, food, culture, music and art of Pakistan. Pakistan can make it a year-long campaign. Institutions like PIA, already flying to Delhi and Mumbai, can become a calling card for Pakistani tourism and hospitality by increasing the number of flights to Indian cities. Private airlines from India and Pakistan can also share the frequencies in domestic network.

The shipping industry in both countries has already joined hands to promote trade and tourism. The Indian government terrorism assessment after 26 / 11can damage sea links between Mumbai-Karachi. State-run Pakistan TV and Dordarshan India should be allowed mutual reach in Pakistan, India and the Middle East. Organisations like South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) and Pakistan India peoples forum for peace and democracy (PIPFPD) can spearhead the peace campaign. Major Pakistani satellite channels like Dawn TV, Indus Group, ARY, Geo and Jang. AAJ TV are already collaborating with Indian film and media industry to bridge the gaps between two estranged siblings. Will India reciprocate the Zardari peace initiatives remains to be seen?

If Indians and Pakistanis decide to take ‘peace initiative” Westerns will surely follow Indian and Pakistan tourism

The  writer is the editor of Bradistan Calling, a website in Bradford, UK (Little Pakistan). Image



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Mehrgarh: The Neolithic Period (From 7th Mill. BC)


These houses were builyt by Mehgarh dwellers c. 8000 years BC

Here follows an account of Mehrgarh by pioneer French archeologist who explored the area from time to time, and was first to excavate the Mehrgarh site. Let us now see what does world’s top most researcher on Mehrgarh say about the archeological excavations at Mehrgarh — a breakthrough that bestows a totally singular position to Indus Valley Civilisation — the first civilized, urban settlement on face of this earth.

by C. Jarrige

In the fourth millennium and in the first half of the third, the Mehrgarh potters and those from other parts of Balochistan alike became known for producing very high quality ceramics which were either exported or copied in eastern Iran, southern Afghanistan, and even as far as present-day Tadjikistan, notably at the Sarazm site. These periods are also distinguished by the manufacture of human figurines of a high aesthetic quality, whose attributes seem to suggest references to an underlying mythology still unclear to us.


The Nausharo excavation, 6 km from Mehrgarh as the crow flies, revealed a dwelling-site contemporaneous and identical to the Mehrgarh, one between 3000 and 2500 BC and another, divided into three periods between 2500 and 1900 BC, characteristic of the urban civilization of the valley of the Indus, which is also referred to as the Harappan civilization, from the name of the eponymous site of Harappa. This excavation of Nausharo allows the Indus civilisation to be linked to the cultures which preceded it since the Neolithic and the ancient Chalcolithic times. The excavation of the Harappan layers led to the uncovering of a settlement which met the criteria of the urban civilization of the Indus, with discrete rectangular zones, and with the existence of baths and hydraulic features. The study of Harappan ceramics in Naushara has brought to light a clear stylistic evolution over time, thus contradicting the theories claiming that Harappan pottery had remained static for several centuries.

Starting from a period of about 2100 BC, which corresponds to phase-IV of Nausharo, ceramics and other objects begin to appear in the Bolan basin which are comparable to those from sites in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the east of Iran. Some of these objects had been found previously, notably on the upper levels of the great civilization sites of the Indus, such as Mohenjo-daro and Chanhu-daro. It had been thought that these were in fact remains which indicated the arrival of invaders from the West and from the North-West. Thanks to the Nausharo dig and to the discovery of necropolises (the Mehrgarh VIII cemetery) and of various sites on the edge of Nausharo or Mehrgarh, it is now clear that the “exotic” objects belong to groups who have co-existed with the “Harappan” populations, evidently peaceably. It can even be asserted that all these objects are an indication of the development of very important trading activities whose agents between the Indus valley and Mesopotamia were groups who controlled the routes for inter-Iranian exchanges around 2000 BC.


Between 1800 and 1900 BC, the urban civilization of the Indus disappeared to survive, in derivative forms, only in the territory of present-day India. The excavation of Pirak, a settlement of about ten hectares inhabited between 1800 and 600 BC, reveals the beginning of a new age. Several miniatures of horsemen and horses and of two-humped camels – animals unknown in the Indus civilization – symbolize important changes in society. The emergence of horsemen at Pirak, just like the discovery of horse skeletons at the time in the Swat in the north of Pakistan, is to be considered in the context of the arrival of new populations belonging, perhaps, to the very first Indo-Aryan groups mixing with a local community with an increasingly diversified agricultural economy. It has been noted that in fact the cultivation of rice, which demands the use of irrigation techniques, became predominant.

As for the structures where the interior walls are punctuated with rows of symmetrical marks, sometimes on four levels: these represent a style which was still found a few years ago in houses, particularly in Hindu areas, in this region. About 1200 BC, iron utensils and weapons would emerge.

Since the end of the expedition in 2000 to the Neolithic part of the Mehrgarh site, fieldwork has been halted to allow for deeper analysis of date and to write up publications. In 2003 there was an expedition to study the material at Mehrgarh, and the dig was scheduled to resume in 2004.


Courtesy: Guimet.com

Mehrgarh… The Lost Civilisation [2 of 4]

Although Mehrgarh was abandoned by the time of the emergence of the literate urbanized phase of the Indus Civilization, its development illustrates the development of the civilization’s subsistence patterns as well as its craft and trade specialization.
Following its abandonment it was covered by alluvial silts until it was exposed following a flash flood in the 1970s. The French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan excavated the site for thirteen years between 1974 and 1986, and they resumed their work in 1996.
The most recent trenches have astonishingly well preserved remains of mud brick structures proving the urban streak of this civilization.[Image above: Female figurine from Mehrgarh excavation ca.6000-3000 BC]



by Mahmood Mahmood


•  The artifacts from Mehrgarh are far more advanced and developed as compared to those obtained from excavations in Turkey and Middle East especially Jericho.

• The most unique discovery is the first known origin of the dental surgery and related medicinal activities exercised in Mehrgarh area. The discovery proves the great innovative mind and developmental level of those people about 9000 years ago.

• Mehrgarh was also a centre of manufacture for various figurines and pottery that were distributed to surrounding regions. These products are of a high quality given the circumstances and the time they were fabricated.

• No other civilisation in any other part of the world existed then; what to speak of a level of perfection in the art and craft elsewhere. (more…)

Origin of Civilisation

Till recently it was taken as universal truth, that the Indus Valley Civilisation emerged after the Mesopotamians—somewhere between 3,000 –1,000 BCE. However, elaborate archeological work by researchers like Jarrige, Cucina and Dani totally altered this picture. Their works revealed the startling fact that the IVC people started building their cities much earlier than the Sumerians and Mesopotamians. Their studies traced the origin of IVC to excavations in Mehrgarh, Balochistan to a period as far back as 9, 000 years BCE. Image above: The Priest King from The Indus Valley Civilisation



by Nayyar Hashmey


Samuel Huntington, (who died last year) in his treatise ‘Clash of Civilisations’ propounds a hypothesis of two different worlds, two civilizations opposing each other, and who, said he, sooner or later are going to clash against each other. Western civilization with its democratic institutions, liberalism and a respect of law is bound to come into conflict with Islamic civilization. A civilization based on tenets of Islam or the followers of Islam according to Huntington will be the next enemy of the West. Consequent to this hypothesis, a new charter for NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) which was principally constituted to fight out Communism, was chalked out. How far this concept is relevant in today’s world, is a debatable question. No wonder it’s being contested all over, but my present post is not about this clash of civilisations but civilisation itself. (more…)

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