Reality of Pakistan is far better than its image

[Hand made carpets, crafted in Pakistan]. Pakistan is amongst the world’s largest producers and exporters of hand-knotted Oriental carpets. In the last few decades, Pakistani carpets have reached the farthest corners of the world.
Contrary to widespread belief, the art of weaving developed in the region comprising Pakistan, at a time when few civilizations knew about it.
Excavations at Moenjadaro and Harrapa – ancient cities of Indus Valley Civilisation – have established that the people knew the use of spindles and spun a wide variety of weaving materials.
In fact some historians are of the view that it was the Indus Valley Civilisation that for the first time developed the use of woven textiles.



by M. M. Alam


German journalist Joachim Holtz has observed that more & more Europeans were reading ‘Made in Pakistan’ on textiles they bought back home: “Then you have excellent young managers, doctors (many of whom female); you have a new generation to change the country, to change the image or non-image! I tell you”. He was speaking about changed perception regarding Pakistan after his visit, here at Karachi Press Club.

Consul General of Germany Dr. Tilo Klinner, while introducing Joachim Holtz informed that he had worked for the leading German public TV broadcaster ZDF & gained fame through his assignments as foreign correspondent in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), USA, the USSR/Russia & China. Currently he teaches TV journalism at the Technical University of Dresden. Klinner said that during his three-year-tenure here he intended to organize events to ameliorate the image of Pakistan (in Germany) & inviting a senior journalist was the first of that series. He said that from the very beginning he realized that people should come here to get first hand knowledge & find out the new picture, discovering the hidden aspects. He stressed on promoting meaningful tourism, organizing conferences etc., “whatever you can do to bring people here”. He observed though – thanks to the works of German Orientalist Annemarie Schimmel – knowledge about aspects like Sufism was not alien to Germans, it must be made known to wider circles.

Joachim Holtz, while referring to Gyari avalanche misfortune, pointed out that Germans were not only the first to reach Himalayas to help Pakistanis, they were still there. Showing articles published last March in the leading German newspaper (read by the influential) reporting Literature Festival held here recently, he maintained that complimentary pieces like ‘An Oasis of Free Speech’ & ‘Who Dances HereDoes Not Dance for Fun’ (about Sufism) also appeared along with negative reports.

“You have one more friend now! I would not have said that if I had any bed experience here”, said Joachim Holtz. Though foreign affairs had been the main topic of most of his professional life it was his first visit to Pakistan. As ‘an outsider looking in’ he said that (except for the Foreign Ministry or some Company Headquarters) for common Germans there was no image of Pakistan at all. He said that for German public at first sight Pakistan was just an Islamic country of Asia. “On second sight there is an awkward feeling, feeling of fear & also of respect. A hazy imagination of strange people in a far away country. Germans know little about your history; your millenniums old culture; the Partition; invention of the name Pakistan; they don’t know about Mohammad Ali Jinnah; they don’t know about your beliefs. However, Germans are aware of trouble with India; I remember the (Francis Gary Power’s) reconnaissance (U2) plane that was used to spy on Russia, at that time you were the closest ally of America; General Ayub Khan; what Zia-ul-Haq did; Bhutto; Benazir Bhutto…And yes, we know about your mangoes & passion for cricket. Actually Pakistan is mentioned in German media especially since Germany is involved in the NATO adventure in Afghanistan. Then it is well known that Pakistan is a nuclear (weapon) power while Germany is not”.

He said that despite his two stints in Afghanistan during War with Russians, he never crossed Pakistan border but, “it was a strange experience as I was shot at from Pakistan side when I was in Khost close to the border I flattened to the ground”. He informed that when he told his friends that he was planning to go to Karachi, they exclaimed “are you crazy”! He said that now after visiting Pakistan he was “equipped to counter their fear & ignorance: Now I can explain what I have learned in Pakistan”. He said though his travel agency had made an elaborate itinerary, shortly after arrival the trip was cut short: “We could not go to Peshawar, Swat Valley…Gilgit & Hunza”.

From Karachi Joachim Holtz & his wife went to Islamabad, Murree Hills, Lahore, Wagah, Multan, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Thatta & back to Karachi. “I never have imagined before that I could go to Karachi & move around. With Dr. Klinner & his wife we have been to so many places. (No, I have not been to Lyari of course. I better not!)”. He said that in a rented car without any escort they have visited Mazars… “I have been swimming in the sea, I have been to Empress Market & to nice restaurants… hardly I have seen any country where people were so open. I never met anybody here who was unfriendly, somebody with a RPG or a bomb! I never could have imagined this because my image before I came here was totally different”.

German journalist noted that there were not many international events happening in Pakistan, accordingly the only news reported were about “the impact of war: terror & bombings; Raymond Davis case; blasphemy law (we don’t understand its rigidity); Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s assassination; Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead; Pakistan had experienced the worst floods in 2010; I’ve read about the self-confident & independent role of military & secret service; I’ve read about nuclear proliferation by professor Khan; We have read about terrorist attacks in Mumbai in which Pakistani militants are suspected of being involved; Mr. Zardari being called Mr. 10%; notions like ‘elections will be bought & not fought’ etc. ; I’ve read about NATO aircraft having killed 24 Pakistani soldiers; I’ve read about drone killing Pakistani civilians; Osama Bin Laden; lawlessness in Karachi & now the plane crash. So first there is no image of Pakistan then this knowledge creates the negative image. You have an image there & you are unhappy with that, it means Germany should get more information”.

Joachim Holtz further observed: “One thing is obvious, Pakistan is not a tourist destination though it has lots of attractions, culture & hospitable people … Even the poorest & the least educated goes out his way to feed & serve strangers, it is so touching”. He quoted an experience at Faisal Mosque where they were wished at Easter by a Christian family. This, he said, was a “counter attack against bombings killings & sectarianism”. Still stressing on the importance of opening up for ameliorating the image of Pakistan he observed that there were huge areas here that were out of limit for foreigners, “this has to change”. Further observing that in 2010-2011 highest number of journalists was murdered in this country, he lamented that foreign correspondents needed special visas, yet they were not free to move or interview people (of their choice) without supervision. “Tourism is crucial for learning about a country for simple people who don’t visit professionally. They talk about what they learn & thus people ask for more”. 

Provincial Information Minister Shazia Atta Mari speaking on the occasion said that Pakistan was moving towards institutionalizing various organizations & forums. Citing a number of Pakistani achievers in education, sports, etc she said that good news should be communicated to the world. Appreciating the efforts of Dr. Tilo Klinner she said that such attempts should multiply. Hoping that German journalist Joachim Holtz would act as an Ambassador of this country she said that Pakistan needed friends like him. Stating that good news should also go out with bad news, she observed that while stories of corruption here found space in foreign media, there was no mentioning of such practice in other countries”.

Shazia Mari maintained that Pakistan was paying the heaviest price for peace while the results would be enjoyed by the people all over the world at large. “So yes, Pakistan is the state that has to be appreciated. Being the front line state against terrorism we have lost over 35000 precious lives. We have contributed a lot for the peace, though Pakistan was not the creator of this mess, this terrorism, this war. Pakistan is cleaning what others messed up with that compelled the people of this country to take bold decisions. The world needs to know that we are Muslims & thus enlightened. Islam does not teach to kill people or torture women. It is just a mindset that had sadly spread this negative propaganda about Pakistan & the religion. We keep on fighting this mindset on day to day basis because we want to ensure that this mindset is not only eliminated in Pakistan but the wrong perception that has been created, is eliminated. Children of today’s Pakistan are genius, excelling in computers, maths… They know that Pakistan is going to shine because of their efforts. Today, people are well aware of the potential of Pakistan, a friendly country where people are loving, welcoming & hospitable”.

You might also like:

1. Are we wrong about Pakistan? 2. Discovering a totally different country – Pakistan 3. TimeAustralian takes issue over skewed article on Pakistan



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