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The reality of Pakistan through Brandon Stanton’s lens

Published: August 1, 2015

It’s about time people start seeing Pakistan through Brandon’s lens. PHOTO: HUMANS OF NEW YORK FAECBOOK PAGE

While Pakistani fans of Brandon Stanton were posting warm and welcoming comments on the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, the power of pre-conceived notions and assumptions about Pakistan was evident in the contrasting rude and dismissive comments. Some of them called Pakistan “that wretched country” and threatened to give up on being fans of Brandon if he visited Pakistan.

Photo: Screenshot

And so it has been. Pakistan, a beautiful country, inhabited by a vibrant nation, is often seen globally as a monolithic entity in which only extremists and bigots live, and where only bad things happen. It is seen as not just the land of the 2005 earthquake, the 2010 floods and the 2015 heat wave, but the land where these natural disasters could not be handled and too many precious lives were lost. It is seen as the land of the patriarchal man who throws acid at the woman who rejects him, and the country where schools are bombed. This is how Pakistan is seen by many who have a simplistic and, unfortunately, a binary world view. They have seen that side of Pakistan that makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Pakistanis, thus, find themselves in a situation where people of the world are not willing to visit it, and they cannot really be blamed. Who would want to plunge into danger knowingly? If at all they do, there are very typical places they will visit, amid caution, fear and high security. They will experience the beautiful but sterile (parts of the) federal capital, Islamabad, and take selfies at the Mughal and colonial architectural sites in Lahore. They will give a talk at a university campus, eat at Cuckoo’s Den, and rush back home at the earliest. In doing so, very few visitors of non-Pakistani origin really get a flavour of what the real Pakistan is. Karachiites, in particular, have even forgotten what a non-Pakistani taking a walk on the streets of Karachi looks like.

In such a situation, while as Pakistanis we are grateful that brave and unprejudiced visitors like Brandon and the players of the Zimbabwe cricket team took the risk and cared enough to see what Pakistan actually is, a part of us is saddened. Our excitement and hash tags like #cricketcomeshome or #HONYcomestoPakistan express how starved we are for such cultural interactions. We wish that it was just a given that people from all over the world would visit Pakistan for its natural beauty, its cultural diversity, and as one of the most interesting places in the world.

About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, Communications practitioner, teacher, media trainer | Literature | Gender Parity | Peace | Islam | Very Desi | Chaai, not coffee.

3 responses »

  1. All Pakistanis should be grateful to Humans of New York for showing the world the other side of the coin! Majority of us living in this beautiful country are peace loving citizens, but sadly we are painted as extremists and religious zealots because of the dastardly acts of a handful of hard hearted terrorists!

  2. Pray pardon this off-topic comment but I did not know where else to leave a note for you regarding the trees of Karachi. I hope you will research and write about the need to establish a specialist academic research unit such as the Department of Urban Forestry at Cornell, the Land Grant University of New York. Please come and visit for an in-depth look at what Cornell does.

    Urban forestry is a specialized subject in itself and grows to be a necessity, not luxury, as these modern megalopolises become human jungles, bereft of all heart and almost all green, open spaces.

    So many more trees could be added to your list, taking into account their contribution to a wide array of species other than humans, their resistance of soil compaction and low soil oxygen content and so many other factors that were beyond the scope of your introductory article. Individuals, mosques, and other institutions like restaurants and showrooms of prominent brands should be encouraged to adopt a particular stretch of road or tree, claim moral ownership, place their names on that tree, and maintain it for the good of the society. This might prevent vandalism to some extent and allow for upkeep to a better standard, and engender civic pride.

    Adopt-a-tree is a campaign that you and your newspaper could initiate. It has no political, religious or ethnic overtones, and is a pure public good.


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