Tuesday, November 13, 2007

British Reporter Calls Newsweek Cover Story Absurd

Is Pakistan the Most Dangerous Nation? BBC's Hugh Sykes, now traveling in Pakistan, vehemently disagrees. Here's a quote from his story on BBC Radio: " The notion that Pakistan is more dangerous than Iraq is absurd. Until recently suicide bombs, murder, and kidnapping were routine in Iraq. And there is no way I would do there what I have just done in Pakistan: take a holiday."

Sykes rented a car in Islamabad and headed out onto the partially completed M2 motorway that will eventually connect Lahore (near the Indian border) with Peshawar (the last city on the road to the Khyber Pass and Afghanistan).

But he found the motorways boring, so he left the M2 and re-joined the ancient Grand Trunk Road, which links most of the main towns of northern Pakistan.


As he saw it: "For much of the route it is lined with eucalyptus trees, their almost-autumn leaves and silvery bark shining in the clear October sun as I drove along."

Sykes says: "Driving in Pakistan is fast and sometimes chaotic, but not competitive.
They even hoot politely. And one great danger at home you hardly ever have to contend with in Pakistan is drunk drivers and people with concentration blurred by hangovers."

The conclusions that Sykes reaches are clearly in sharp contrast to all the sensational negative coverage you see in Pakistani and Western media on a regular basis showing Pakistan as a dangerous, unwelcoming place. I generally do not believe in conspiracy theories, but sometimes it seems like a conspiracy against the people of Pakistan with the participation of Pakistan's local media. Not only is this conspiracy depriving our people of the benefits of more international tourism, trade and commerce, but it is also painting all of Pakistan with the same broad-brush of extremism and fanaticism.


4 comments:

Unknown said...

Very good and positive reminder! Here's another thought I have had over the last two weeks of being immersed in the movement against the emergency:

Seeing the pictures out of Pakistan over the last two weeks, people have said all they feel is shame seeing, for example, 5 policemen beating up a lawyer. Me, I feel nothing but pride, for I see one Pakistani putting his self on the line for principle. People see a media blackout; I see journalists that a dictator has no choice but to ban.
[Full post at: http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2007/11/i-have-been-away-from-blogging-since.html ]

And an earlier post on pride in Pakistanis, from a month or two ago:

http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2007/09/today-i-am-proud-to-be-muslim.html

Riaz Haq said...

The western media coverage of Pakistan is almost always one dimensional, and sometimes downright venom-filled, as the piece (and its accompanying illustration of scorpion) from the Economist titled "Land of the Impure" shows in abundance. Here is an excerpt from it:

THREE score years and a bit after its founding, Pakistan—which means land of the pure—still struggles to look like a nation. Economically backward, politically stunted and terrorised by religious extremists, it would be enough to make anyone nervous, even if it did not have nuclear weapons. For these shortcomings, most of the blame should be laid at the door of the army, which claims, more than any other institution, to embody nationhood. Grossly unfair? If the army stood before one of its own tribunals, the charge sheet would surely run as follows:

One, a taste for military adventurism on its “eastern front” against giant India, which has undermined security, not enhanced it. No adventure was more disastrous than the one in 1971, which hastened the loss of East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh. More recently, in 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, then army chief, sent troops into Indian-controlled Kashmir without deigning to inform the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr Musharraf thus forced a confrontation between two nuclear states. It was an international public-relations debacle for Pakistan. Today the army remains wedded to the “India threat”. India, meanwhile, for all its gross abuses in Kashmir, is more concerned about economic development than invading Pakistan.

Two, endangering the state’s existence by making common cause with jihadism. This policy started with General Zia ul-Haq’s “Islamisation” policies in the late 1970s. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan (along with the CIA) financed the Afghan mujahideen opposition. The policy turned into support for the Taliban when the movement swept into power in the mid-1990s. Taliban support continues today, even though Pakistan is America’s supposed ally in Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban counterinsurgency. A new report by the London School of Economics claims that not only does Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency finance the Afghan Taliban, but the ISI is even represented on the Taliban’s leadership council. The claims have been loudly rejected, but in private Pakistani military men admit that corners of the army do indeed help the Taliban.

For years both Islamist and liberal generals have also backed jihadists fighting for a Muslim Kashmir. Though vastly outnumbered, the militants have managed to tie down a dozen Indian army divisions. Mr Musharraf and an aide once joked about having such jihadists by their tooti—ie, literally, “taps”, by which he meant their private parts.

Riaz Haq said...

Karachi: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for the Karachi-Lahore Motorway (M9) that would connect this southern port city with the northern parts of the country.
The first phase of the mega project is expected to be completed in two-and-a-half years and cost 36 billion rupees (Dh1.2 billion).
At the brief inaugural ceremony, Sharif said that it was his earnest desire to begin the work on the motorway project.
In the first phase, the Karachi-to-Hyderabad section would be completed within two-and-half years and then work would begin on the Hyderabad-to-Sukkur section of the grand road.

The length of the road will be more than 1,100 kilometres once complete.
The prime minister said that the government was trying to shore up the resources for the next phases of the eight-lane motorway so that faster communication means could help the country enter the next development phase.
He also mentioned the work on the other roads, which were being constructed in the Hazara division of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Sharif said that work on Khunjerab-to-Gwadar road was being carried out and it would be part of the Pakistan-China corridor.
He vowed to set up a network of motorways all over the country so that all the provinces could be interconnected, with a faster means of travelling between them.
The construction of M9 has been awarded to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for the next 25 years on built-operate-transfer basis.
According to the contract agreement, the existing four-lane Karachi-Hyderabad Super Highway would be converted into six-lane 9M meeting international standards.
The project is being on public-private partnership basis and this would be the second-largest project in the country to be built on such basis.
FWO would pay 143 billion rupees to the state-run National Highway Authority (NHA) and another share of 109 billion rupees as tax to the government of Pakistan.

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/pakistan/karachi-lahore-motorway-foundation-stone-laid-1.1470433

Riaz Haq said...

Karachi: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for the Karachi-Lahore Motorway (M9) that would connect this southern port city with the northern parts of the country.
The first phase of the mega project is expected to be completed in two-and-a-half years and cost 36 billion rupees (Dh1.2 billion).
At the brief inaugural ceremony, Sharif said that it was his earnest desire to begin the work on the motorway project.
In the first phase, the Karachi-to-Hyderabad section would be completed within two-and-half years and then work would begin on the Hyderabad-to-Sukkur section of the grand road.

The length of the road will be more than 1,100 kilometres once complete.
The prime minister said that the government was trying to shore up the resources for the next phases of the eight-lane motorway so that faster communication means could help the country enter the next development phase.
He also mentioned the work on the other roads, which were being constructed in the Hazara division of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Sharif said that work on Khunjerab-to-Gwadar road was being carried out and it would be part of the Pakistan-China corridor.
He vowed to set up a network of motorways all over the country so that all the provinces could be interconnected, with a faster means of travelling between them.
The construction of M9 has been awarded to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for the next 25 years on built-operate-transfer basis.
According to the contract agreement, the existing four-lane Karachi-Hyderabad Super Highway would be converted into six-lane 9M meeting international standards.
The project is being on public-private partnership basis and this would be the second-largest project in the country to be built on such basis.
FWO would pay 143 billion rupees to the state-run National Highway Authority (NHA) and another share of 109 billion rupees as tax to the government of Pakistan.

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/pakistan/karachi-lahore-motorway-foundation-stone-laid-1.1470433