What a challenge. I was told that I was mad (again) to visit Pakistan and at times I wondered if the best option was to get to the nearest airport and go home to my loved ones.
Pakistan is a divided country, but there are common desires amongst all of the different groups. Uppermost in their wishes is for peace and an end to lawlessness and corruption. The image we in Europe and the USA are presented with, of a militant religous led group of terrorists and supporters is very far from the truth. By and large the militant tendancy are a very small minority and shunned by most of the population. Much of the violence in the country is directed not at western interests, but at Pakistani interests and people, and they are upset that we should believe the worse of them.
I found the southern areas that I visited extremely poor but the Punjab is far more prosporous. Agriculture here is good, the country is green, even lush in some areas, the towns are much cleaner and employment easier. That’s not to say everything is rosy, the country’s economy is a disaster and their politicians unable to cope.
Lahore, like many other ex-colonial cities, has retained the best things from the days of British Empire. There is evidence of this all over the city; street signs, buildings, city archives, the railways and even some customs such as ‘high tea’. The people of all persuasions are fiercly patriotic as witnessed at the Wagah border crossing ceremony held every evening.
I shall be interested to see if the level of interest is as great in India as it has been in Pakistan. The web site analysis shows that after the UK, Pakistan has produced more hits than anyone, even pushing Australia into third place, a fantastic increase. Before I arrived here there had only been three visitors from Pakistan and currently there has been only two from India. Overall 25 different countries are regular visitors and in the UK 41 different cities are represented.
All in all I shall be sorry to leave Pakistan; I have met some beautiful people here, but India is calling and so is my need to travel.