Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pakistani-American to Fellow Overseas Pakistanis: Go Back and Visit

Guest Post by Rashid Ahmad

You should go back and visit. You would be surprised!

Pakistan in your mind may be frozen in time, but real Pakistan has moved on. Everything has changed.

Pakistani Capital Islamabad

You will find both familiarity and alienness there. It would appear to you like a dream. Or perhaps like being on Star Trek Holodeck, where things are familiar but there are new actors on the deck, and you are bit of a stranger.

First thing that would hit you would be the increase in population. Too many people every where, compared to the time you left Pakistan. Some areas that were farms and free spaces when you were there would now be occupied by new housing developments.

The physical appearances would have changed. There would not be any complete transformation to prosperity, but new buildings replacing the old ones, and new motorways, would change the physical reality.

You would find distances have shrunk. The places that seemed far away because you walked to them or went on bicycle, would appear to be so near because now you would travel by car.

Something would sting your heart a bit. Your home where you grew up, would now belong to someone else. When you were growing there, everybody knew it as your father's home, your home, but now if you were to ask directions to your home in your own Mohalla, they will refer to it as some strange family's home! It is your home only in your childhood memories.

You would meet someone, with white beard, bald head, missing teeth, and perhaps walking with a cane, who be introduced to you as your classmate. You would be blown away by the ravages of time, and be grateful for your own health.

A middle aged woman with young children would come to visit you. And she will turn out to be the daughter of a cousin or a friend, who was just an infant at the time you left Pakistan.

Almost anybody you meet would be younger than you!

And finally, as you relive the memories of your childhood, you may find a reason to visit again and again.

Author Rashid Ahmad is a Pakistani-American civil engineer with a Master's degree from UC Davis. Ahmad came to the United States in 1970 and has since been living in Sacramento-Davis area in California. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Diaspora in America

Pakistan's Modern Infrastructure

Rising College Enrollment Rate in Pakistan

Pakistan Population Bomb

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

The Rise of Gated Communities in Pakistan

Rising Standards of Living in Pakistan


Mustaq said...

Echo lot of what Rashid says. The less connected middle class people many live on remittances and the well connected park their money in business or property outside the country. My observation strictly

Riaz Haq said...

Meet Pakistan’s Modern Middle Class

Products of the state education system of the 1980s — a time when General Zia gave religious clergy free rein and curbed political parties — most members of the new middle class are familiar with the discourses of Islamic groups. While many are sympathetic to Islamist parties’ call for social justice, and some have had affiliations with such groups, few are lasting members. Support for an Islamist party is often issue-based and transient, and in most cases, does not translate into votes.


Yet twinned with the desire for consumption is anxiety about such exhibition and how to sustain it. Most homes possess microwaves and mixer-grinders, but their owners use them sparingly and store them in their original packaging. They buy sofas to match what they see in soap operas and advertisements, but protect them with plain sheets that are removed only on special occasions.

Families on the poorer end of the new middle class visit malls and shopping spaces for recreational experiences. They rarely make purchases from such places and prefer to look for the same or similar goods in cheaper bazaars and wholesale markets. Their ability to find more economical deals becomes a way to distinguish themselves from the presumed decadent and self-indulgent upper classes.

Members of the new middle class covet government employment, which still remains a mark of status, but such work does not provide sufficient income to sustain their idealized level of middle-class consumption. Many in this group augment their state income through investment in real estate.

Many families in new middle-class circles have acquired their current status through money made by a relative in a semiskilled job in the Gulf countries or North America. The most significant waves of semiskilled labor migration from Pakistan over the past half-century have been for industrial work in Britain in the 1960s, construction labor in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in the 1970s and 1980s and, since the 1980s, taxi driving, construction and restaurant employment in the United States. Pakistan received $20 billion in remittances in 2016, according to the World Bank.

The visible religiosity of the new middle class is often identified as the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia. However, it is not Wahhabi Islam but the globalized Islam practiced by Muslims in the West that better explains contemporary religious trends. Made familiar with Muslim practices abroad through relatives living abroad and returning migrants, many members of the new middle class have started incorporating them in their own lives.

For instance, Quran schools and religious study circles, where the Quran is studied with translation and interpretation, were introduced in Lahore in the early 2000s by returnees from the United States. Similarly, many women have replaced dupattas and chadors — the traditional ways of showing modesty in public — with head scarves and cloaks similar to those worn by relatives in the West, Saudi Arabia or the Gulf.

It is not so much the desire to be closer to the heartland of Islam that prompts these changes, but the desire to display a modern Muslim identity, a shift commensurate with their economic progress.

Denied the status of modernity in the local class hierarchy, these groups look for it through a familiarity with a global Muslim community. Just as the old middle class gains its modern status through a narrative that is used to explain Pakistan to the outside world, so the new middle class attempts to use its own connections to the West to assert its modernity.

Syed said...

Family and friends attack you because you are from US and is somehow responsible for Trump. Everyone wants something from you because they assume you are rich and corruption is everywhere. Even if you wear local clothes they know you are a foreigner.

Riaz Haq said...

#Tourism thrives in #Pakistan as number of foreign tourists triples and domestic tourism up 30% since 2013. #travel

As security improves, annual tourist arrivals to Pakistan has more than tripled since 2013 to 1.75 million last year, while domestic travelers rose 30 percent to 38.3 million, according to the state-owned Pakistan Tourism Development Corp. Over the same period, foreign tourist arrivals in the country’s larger neighbor, India, jumped from 6.97 million in 2013 to 8.8 million in 2016, government figures show.

The World Travel and Tourism Council puts the total contribution of tourism to Pakistan’s economy at $19.4 billion last year or 6.9 percent of gross domestic product. In a decade, the WTTC expects that to rise to $36.1 billion.

Still, security challenges remain. While casualties from attacks fell 43 percent last year, major cities, such as Lahore, are occasionally hit by bombings.

Jonny Bealby, the managing director of Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel Ltd., a London-based operator that has run trips to Pakistan for two decades, said his tours to the South Asian nation are up 60 percent from last year.

Along with security, Bealby said the main improvement in Pakistan has been infrastructure. “The roads have improved immeasurably reducing journey times.’’


Annual tourist arrivals have more than tripled since 2013

Military campaign has boosted safety, infrastructure improved

After a bone-jarring mountain journey, Alan Cameron surveys the snow-capped peaks of Pakistan’s north near the Saiful Maluk lake. “It’s beautiful -- well worth the effort,” said the 34-year-old Canadian holidaying in a country better known for terrorism than tourism.

Taking a break from his job as an analyst at Jefferies in London, Cameron’s vacation last month underscores the rekindling of Pakistan’s tourism industry after a sustained military security crack-down, with annual arrivals more than tripling since 2013.

Keen to shed the image that it’s unsafe for visitors, Pakistan has begun a nascent tourism drive and this summer placed adverts across the sides of London’s iconic red buses. Road infrastructure has also been boosted across key holiday regions.

Since the 2014 massacre of more than 100 children at a military school, the army has neutered some insurgent groups and political militias. Tourists are now returning to areas such as the Swat Valley, a northern region known as the Switzerland of Pakistan that was controlled by the Taliban between 2007 and 2009 and where Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012.