Friday, September 04, 2009

A Mystery on the World Stage?

cover story

Have you ever wondered how people in other countries perceive Pakistan? If you were to ask them what came to their mind when our country was mentioned, what would they say? Well, as curious as we are, that's exactly what we did! And here are their answers:

Anansa, Trinidad and Tobago
- The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Pakistan is cricket. :) However, on a serious note, Pakistan brings thoughts of culture, tradition, religion (Islam) and strength of a people.
- The overall image I have of Pakistan is a strongly Islamic State with respect for religion and traditions. The history of Pakistan of being part of India once and then separated, sad but true, also captures my image of Pakistan. Of course friendly, yet strict with traditions.
- What people in my country generally think about Pakistan: At times you hear mixed contributions from citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. Some think fundamentalist Muslims (terrorists) are bred in this country and many Islamic States resulting in wars, unrest, etc. Most think amidst all the negatives there are loving, God-fearing, law-abiding and peaceful citizens of Pakistan. But generally, all countries have their issues and negativities, but it is how they are being dealt with that makes the difference and how each human being can make the difference. I must add that the media has its part to play in portraying a country and at times that is what we depend on, but at times it may not be accurate. I guess it is left up to an individual to research and get the facts!

Anya, 19, Ireland
- The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Pakistan: I get this image of a busy bazaar, with people wearing headscarves, lots of things for sale, a lot of oriental pastries/sweets, those Persian carpets and donkeys.
- The overall image I have of Pakistan: Fascinating country with interesting customs. I think it's not a rich country, so there's a lot of poverty there. Also, I think it would be dangerous to visit, in particular for a foreigner, because they would stand out. To be honest, my image of Pakistan is influenced by the movie A Mighty Heart (it's incredible, by the way).
- What people in my country generally think about Pakistan: Over here people's opinion of Pakistan is very much influenced by what's on the news: terrorism, India. Generally though, people don't know much about it.

Brian, Computer Programmer, England
- The overall image I have: I can vaguely remember Pakistan not being too bad at hockey; it was around the same time the UK got a medal or two in that area. There are quite a lot of people who originally came from Pakistan in Britain, and there are quite a lot of Pakistani areas in England. Culturally, I guess, most people think of them with reference to those people who have immigrated to the UK. So for example, Foleshill which is a heavily Pakistani area in Coventry, has plenty of specialist meat shops, sari shops, and quite a few temples, and those that I work with are a lot more family orientated than most of the Brits are. Often have big weddings with lots of people turning up.
- What people in my country generally think: I can't speak for everyone, since Coventry is a very multicultural city, but when I hear Pakistani, I think cricket! I think you'll find in the UK, Pakistan -- cricket is quite a common view! Most of the terrorists we hear of are actually British, but of Pakistani heritage, second or third generation, and they are certainly a minority. It's the kids and grandkids of the original immigrants that seem to cause most of the problems. In any grouping you always get some bad eggs; it's just a shame that America spent the last eight years being "lead" by one!

Seher, 23, Library Assistant, Holland
- The first thing that comes to mind: I think of different people, different religions (Muslim, Hindus), and the caste system.
- The overall image I have: I don't have a real image of Pakistan; I haven't been there. I do love the Pakistani people that are here.
- What people in my country generally think: No idea what people here generally think of Pakistan. I know they think it's awful what has been happening there; they hope the bombing everywhere stops.

Anny, 33, Marketing Assistant, Australia
- The first thing that comes to mind: I thought they were cricket obsessive.
- The overall image I have: Close ties to India, probably Hindu.
- What people in my country generally think: Cricket fans probably think they're a rubbish team? Not sure. I'm not a cricket fan. Political fans probably think that [Pervez] Musharraf is a dictator and it's great he's out. I think that they might see [Benazir] Bhutto's assassination as a tragedy, and everybody else -- well I don't think they really think about it at all. I think it just doesn't register.

Charlotte, 24, RE Teacher, England
- The first thing that comes to mind: I think about my friend Shaheen, the town Bradford (when my mum grew up -- it had the nickname of Bradistan), the colour green, curry, Islam, war.
- The overall image I have: I think it's probably okay, bit too hot for me, nice scenery, troubled, I honestly know very little about the place, but it looked nice on the photos my friend had.
- What people in my country generally think: Depends who you talk to -- most people I know are white, middleclass, and tend to be a little more open-minded. Other people I know don't like the place and can be very racist in conversation -- even my friend whose families come from places close to Pakistan.

Saar, 22, Student, Belgium
- The first thing that comes to mind: I've seen a programme about it the other day, how Belgians find love outside their country, and it was about Pakistan. What comes to mind first are the differences between the country and the city life. Cities are more developed and modern. Also the trucks that are beautifully decorated with lamps, colours...
- The overall image I have: A country that is diverse, colourful clothes and people, and with many differences in living standards.
- What people in my country generally think: It's an unknown country here, I think. People see it as the country next to Afghanistan and India, with large poverty. It is exotic, but not really a holiday country or something.

Simran, 17, Student, Singapore
- The first thing that comes to mind: The country that is, like, 'fighting' with India.
- The overall image I have: Nothing much? I don't know anything about Pakistan at all.
- What people in my country generally think: Their thoughts aren't too nice?

Nadia, 21, Student, Holland
- The first thing that comes to mind: The political problems within the country, as well as the nuclear bombs-conflict that Pakistan has with India.
- The overall image I have: Not so positive, but also not completely negative. I know the country has some problems and I know their national politics are in a mess but I don't think the situation is hopeless.
- What people in my country generally think: I don't know what they generally think of, as I only remember talking about Pakistan once or twice during International Relations classes, where students thought the whole India-Pakistan problem was quite dangerous. I understand that viewpoint, but I can also understand the situation there. In addition, I think it's interesting to see what the news reports, as good things generally are not reported and thus people only hear about the bad stuff that happens in the country.

Dennis, 63, Headmaster, Australia
- The first thing that comes to mind: Good cricketers and hidden terrorists (because terrorists from other countries are getting support in Northern Pakistan).
- The overall image I have: A strong nation with a bullying neighbour.
- What people in my country generally think: In Australia, they would be seen as having a sporting strength. The terrorism angle is far less obvious. The government needs to do more.

Margaret, 61, retired Chartered Accountant, Australia
- The first thing that comes to mind: Muslims and India. Support for terrorists.
- The overall image I have: Fighting and civil unrest.
- What people in my country generally think: It's hard to know. Probably cricketers. Good at sport if the political unrest will allow them. Terrorism is so much everywhere that we become inured to it, like white noise that you hear all the time, and so you end up not hearing. You hear what you look for and we look to hear how we're going in the sport. In Australia, many Indians seem tight (don't like to spend money), but Pakistanis don't seem so tight.

Martin, 55, England
- The first thing that comes to mind: Failed state.
- The overall image I have: Northern section (Kashmir) controlled by terrorists.
- What people in my country generally think about Pakistan: [A lot of] immigration in the 1960s [from Pakistan to England].

Casey, 34, Homemaker, USA
- The first thing that comes to mind: unrest.
- The overall image of Pakistan I am getting is that they care about terrorism. They are one of few, if not the only country that took a direct hard stand and said they would not tolerate being invaded. I hope to see more rights for the people there.
- What people in my country generally think about Pakistan: I think people in my country insult Pakistanis, and it seems to be done as racial insults or slurs. I'd like to say it's a minority though. I think in general people in the US are leery of Pakistan. We have a difficult time understanding the culture, maybe.

Rasah, United Kingdom
- The first thing that comes to mind: The country next to India, where my mum was born (while it was still India; she was born on a British army base there).
- The overall image I have: That they're a bit more aggressive than India, presumably because of the stuff they've had to deal with over the years. I suppose I think of them mainly as the country that's similar to India but which I know a lot less about. Also, my nan was from Burma and so had a big problem with people from Pakistan (not 100 per cent sure why); she was usually polite but she said quite a lot of negative stuff. I guess the point here is that I really don't know much about them at all, apart from what I see on the news!
- What people in my country generally think: Difficult one to answer... I think the overall impression is that we seem to have a lot of medical professionals from both India and Pakistan (my doctor is Indian and I'm pretty sure one of his partners in the practice is Pakistani). When I was growing up, the attitude was very much that people from Pakistan were moving over here and taking over all the small shops, they were referred to as [ethnic slur] and weren't treated particularly well; but I really believe that's got a lot better over the years. All of that is about the Pakistani people rather than the country though. I guess most people probably think of Pakistan as 'the country that used to be part of India' -- it's awful but I really don't know anything about them! (I just asked a couple of the girls on my team and they both said "don't really think anything, don't really know anything about them"). It would seem they're a bit of a mystery on the world stage!

Billy, Scotland
- The overall image I have: I feel like I am racist, not at the people but at how they have treated us by what they have done. Our society has welcomed them with open arms, saying 'welcome to our country'. I remember reading an article about a family who immigrated over here with no money but a big family so the council gave them a 1.6mil house and the council pays their bills from the taxman's money. Meanwhile, we have to live in rundown houses and are forced to pay or be evicted.

Fefi, 42, Shift Supervisor, Uruguay/Spain
- The first thing that comes to mind: I always associated the skylines of its cities with a clear sky, a lot of people in the streets, long clothes, and very united families.
- The overall image I have: I'm from Uruguay, and I didn't hear so much about the country, except as a child when we studied it at school, and glimpses about its political situation in newspapers. I met Pakistani people in person for the first time when I came to live in Spain, almost three years ago, and that's where the things I really know about this country come from. I verified what I knew about Pakistan with a lot of co-workers in Barcelona, where there are a lot of men taking jobs; they stay here, to raise money or support their families, and visit their wives and children almost every year. It's a great sacrifice. I remember very well a lot of men showing me, with pride, pictures of their wives and children on their cell phones. Many of these women come at last to live with their husbands in Europe, and you can recognise them on the street for their hijabs. You can see here that men keep their religious traditions too, praying several times per day, and avoiding some kind of food. Speaking of food, I see that they love cooking with a lot of curry and spices, and they definitely adore pepper! Men are very careful with the money, and keep as much as they can. I consider them very respectful of others and of their own traditions and religion, and good co-workers, good people to chat with.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 4th September, 2009