Journey through Pakistan launched
KARACHI: “Pakistan has eight out of 10 of the tallest peaks of the world. Four mountain ranges converge here. We have un-spoilt beaches, deserts, plains, rivers with the biggest one, the Indus, passing through the entire country,” said seasoned journalist Asif Noorani at the launch of travelogue Journey through Pakistan, a coffee table book published by the Oxford University Press, here on Tuesday.
“We have historical sites such as Moenjodaro and Taxila, too. A Japanese visitor to Moenjodaro commented that we are sitting on a goldmine and that we haven’t been able to exploit. Unfortunately, we have been exploited ourselves,” the author said.
“Pakistan has so much to offer. It is not just a place for terrorist attacks.”
The book was initially written in 1982 but it has been revised and updated by the author. “For instance, you could buy a pistol from Peshawar’s Bara Bazaar for Rs150 in 1982. Now when I contacted our newspaper correspondent in Peshawar to know about the current situation regarding the matter, he informed me that now you can only buy a few bullets with that amount. Similarly, you don’t find transistor radios here now as radio has been included in mobile phones,” he explained.
Moving slightly away from his book and his extensive travels and personal experiences in Pakistan, Mr Noorani said he had also travelled to India and toured the country extensively. “I was about to go there last month when I decided to think again after the exchange of an unfortunate incident at the LoC where some men masquerading as Pakistani soldiers killed five Indian soldiers which created more bad blood between both nations,” he said. “But a couple of journalists advised me that I don’t cancel my trip since it was after all planned to strengthen our cultural bonds and harness peace. Backing away from that would have meant accepting defeat. So I went,” said Mr Noorani.
“We don’t even realise the cultural similarities that bond us together. The driver who dropped me at the airport here had nine children, the one who picked me from there had seven. I reached my place of birth Mumbai to find nothing had changed there,” he said.
“I remember in 1969 when Pakistan and India were losing their superiority on hockey to Europe, we formed a combined team of Pakistani and Indian players. When that team played in India, the captain was a Pakistani player and when it played here the captain was Indian,” Mr Noorani said.
“I asked the Indian captain why our players clashed with their players and vice versa when playing against each other. Why they didn’t behave the same way when playing against European sides and the player had a very good explanation for it. He said players of both Pakistan and India understood the curses and abuses hurled by their opponents at them while they could keep on cursing ancestors and generations of European players and they wouldn’t know what we are saying,” Mr Noorani narrated.
He also pointed out that the English only had one word for expressing love — ‘Love’ — “but we have ‘mohabbat’, ‘prem’, ‘chahat’, ‘ishq’, etc.,” he said. “Marrying off our daughters, both Pakistan and Indian parents bless them with ‘sada suhagan raho’. You don’t find the Arabs saying that to their daughters on their wedding day,” he said.
“When I was giving my talk in India, I faced jam-packed halls. Everyone was interested in listening to what I had to say. Of course there are exceptions, too. Like someone asked me where Dawood Ibrahim lived and I replied that I only had links with artists, writers and poets and Dawood Ibrahim wasn’t one of them,” he said.