A country allegedly and perpetually on the edge of chaos. A nation shrouded in darkness, thanks largely to power cuts, toxic religion, feudal politics, a corporate military and the ever present threat of violence. A state teetering on economic collapse, political fragmentation and imminent breakdown. Is there anything to love about Pakistan? We think there is.
4.2 | Pakistan?
Kiratpur: a city hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from Islamabad. A small, modest city – from what I hear – in the Bijnur district of UP, India, where people gladly drink goat’s milk and eat only khaalis ghee and paneer.
When I visited Bahwalnagar in May 1975, I found little had changed. A new generation of goll guppa-wallas, chaat-wallas and paan-wallas had taken over the stalls in Railway Bazaar. It was still the direct route from the Railway Station to our house in the centre of the town, where we lived and I grew up. I had left the city at the age of nine, when my parents migrated to London. And I expected no one would know me. Indeed, they did not know me. But they recognised me: I was the returning grandson of Hakim Sahib.
As a boy in Karachi I was taken regularly, in the company of my sisters, to see films that starred Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds.
We make a steady climb through mountainous terrain. I thought to myself, once this stretch of immaculate highway carries us over the top we’ll be there. When we topped the crest, the road ran on through mile after lush green mile. These are peach orchards, I am told. No, they can’t be! Ridiculous! No one ever mentioned peaches! I am on the road to the North West Frontier. On so many levels nothing is as expected. Not a single vista corresponds to the landscapes of my imagination. There is not even an inkling of the devastation I have come to see. Nowhere can I detect visible wreckage or any intimation that just a year before an immense disaster had overtaken the land.
Babies and young children are traded all over the world, but in Pakistan child trafficking is believed to be of epidemic proportions. The demand is from a spectrum of society, from leaders of professional begging syndicates, an industry of Bill Sykes in need of their Oliver Twists; to wealthy couples who want to avoid the lengthy process of a formal adoption.