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Peter Oborne, the lonely iconoclast at the staid and tedious Daily Telegraph, posted an article the other day that has since been shared over 22,000 times.
The title of this article is a question – ‘Are we wrong about Pakistan?’, and the answer Oborne supplies thereafter is a resounding ‘Yes’.
Reporting back from a visit to Lahore, the veteran hack said the following –
“I had been dispatched to write a report reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens… Since my first night in a Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts of the lawless north….the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating (the country).”
Needless to say, traditional Telegraph readers were less than impressed by all this. I can appreciate the sentiment.
What Mr Oborne appears to be confusing is the notion of a country that welcomes tourist income, and one which is a pleasure to live in.
There is no sane Westerner alive who would relocate to Pakistan, especially after having become accustomed to European society. None at all. And indeed, emigration rates (excepting Pakistanis themselves) reflect this. When these are compared against immigration rates, the case could hardly be more starkly presented.
There are over 4,000,000 Pakistanis living in Europe and America as of 2013, whilst the number of non-Pakistani origin Westerners upping sticks for the Indus Valley can be counted on your fingers.
Let’s not pretend we don’t know the reason for this. Despite Pakistan’s natural beauty (which I don’t doubt for a second), the country is one of the most corrupt and unfree on the planet. Even those smiling and civilized folk who showed Mr Oborne to his gin cabinet will no doubt derive from tyrannical extended families who themselves are mere cogs in a gruesome machine of tribal repression extending across the country.
True, Pakistan may be hospitable to white, wealthy journalists, but perhaps next time Mr Oborne should try visiting disguised as a Shia Muslim. Perhaps the welcome in that case would have a more foreboding and funereal character.
When discussing Pakistan, there are some in the CounterJihad tendency who claim partition – the separation of what has become ‘Pakistan’ from India – as a disaster. I disagree.
India, let’s not forget, is a nascent regional superpower and without the cessation of Pakistan, there would have likely emerged a Muslim majority there some time this century. This would have imposed serious geopolitical consequences on the South-Asia/Greater Middle East locale.
There are reasons to be grateful for Pakistan therefore, but in the greater scheme of things, its critics, Mr Oborne, are far from wrong.