PAKISTAN – The world’s best kept secret

I have been an extensive traveler, a true backpacker, having visited numerous countries on all continents. Pakistan had never figured in my calculus until I developed friendships with two Pakistanis; one gentleman from Lahore and the other from Karachi. These two shared a dormitory with me during my studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I found these individuals to be poles apart from the general depiction of Pakistanis that the media regularly portrays. What I had always gleaned from the media was that Pakistan was a country mired in terrorism and religious extremism, and was a highly unsafe place, especially for foreigners. Stories about how women were treated in the country were just as dismal. In stark contrast to these images, my Pakistani friends exuded warmth and wit; they were generous, well-meaning and easy to relate to. My curiosity about their country often led me to lengthy discussions with them. Their advice to me was that the only way to truly understand Pakistan was by paying it a visit. As my Lahore-based friend returned to Pakistan upon his graduation from NUS, I thought of grabbing a chance to visit the country. His response was very encouraging. My biggest problem, however, was my mother, who when learning of my plan, screamed and proclaimed me to be crazy. I cannot blame her, as her only knowledge about the country was through the media, which is solely interested in displays of violence and misogyny, thus missing 99.9 per cent of the Pakistan story.

However, as I had made up my mind to visit Pakistan, nothing was going to stop me. Since I desired to visit the Northern Areas as well, my friend from Lahore not only lined up a visit for me, he also took a break from his office to give me company. My journey from Singapore to Lahore (via Bangkok) felt strange, or rather unique, as I was the only foreigner on the flight. The gentleman sitting next to me was a doctor from Lahore. His amazement as to why I had chosen Pakistan as my holiday destination unhinged me for a moment. Later I understood that this was genuine curiosity rather than a voicing of concern regarding my security.

I was received at the airport by my friend. While driving to his home, I saw alleys of trees and greenery, clean streets and orderly traffic — quite unlike how I imagined Lahore to be. The next day, I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and went around the city: to the historic fort and the Badshahi Mosque. I was wearing the traditional shalwar kurtathat my friend’s father had kindly gifted to me. Contrary to my expectations, nobody on the street gave me strange ‘look-there’s-a-foreigner’ looks. The evening was spent sitting on the rooftop of a restaurant on food street, listening to live instrumental music against the backdrop of the splendidly-lit Badshahi mosque, presenting an awe-inspiring spectacle. The desi cuisine was delicious and the spices were toned down at my request. The decor and architecture of the street were indescribably beautiful. I visited shopping areas, busy malls, high-end restaurants and roadside dhabas. There was not a moment, which gave me the feeling that I was at a dangerous or a conservative place. People were open, cheerful and absolutely normal while they went about their daily lives.

The bus ride from Lahore to Islamabad on the motorway was an experience in itself. Passengers were offered complimentary high-speed WiFi internet, sandwiches, juices and headphones, should they want to listen to music or watch a film. While in Islamabad, a visit to a local coffee shop was an eye-opener. I could see petite girls, walking in re-assuredly, hanging out with their friends late into the night, giggling and chatting. My stereotypes as to how women in Pakistan lived were now gradually fading away; more so when I saw so many of them all alone and independent, trekking the woods of the Astor Valley.

The drive to the Northern Areas through Kaghan and Naran was a breath-taking experience. There were nearly 20 of us in the coaster, and we quickly got to know each other. The next couple of days at Chilas, Astor and Shigar were exciting, as we camped in the wilderness, drank from the gushing springs and dipped in the pristine lakes. This was something I could not have imagined before. I felt so fortunate to have a view of the mighty Indus and imposing snow-capped peaks at the same time. The drive through the Deosai plains was incredibly stunning with a tapestry of colourful flowers spread in the wilderness. The silence was a balm for the ears. We passed through several villages and went hiking. The locals always greeted us with smiles, while those who were far away in their stone-and-mud houses, just waved. Contrary to my experience in many countries, I did not see anyone begging for money or harassing tourists. My visit to the Nanga Parbat base camp created an unforgettable memory. It was August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. One could see Pakistani flags fluttering all around. I thought I had reached the real Pakistan, closer to nature and close to national passion.

While our visit ended on a happy note, one thing continued to bother me throughout the visit — the all too obvious ‘VIP culture’. In Astor, despite our booking at the PTDC rest house, we were asked to camp outside on the lawn for the night because some higher-up had landed with his guests, resulting in the cancellation of our booking. The dinner time was at eight but we were kept waiting until 11 as the ‘VIPs’ were still sitting around in the dining hall long after dinner, enjoying their cup of tea. Later, I found myself on the other, privileged side of ‘VIP culture’. On our way back, we were stopped at the Chilas check post and were asked to go via the KKH-Bisham route, which would have taken us six hours longer. The officials on duty were not allowing any vehicle to take the Naran-Kaghan route, which was far shorter. Now was the time for my friend to pull some strings. He called up his father, a retired senior government official. After a short wait, there was a wireless message at the post, which allowed our vehicle to travel via Kaghan saving us six long hours of travel time.

During my sleepover in Islamabad, there was also the unfortunate incident of the bomb blast in which the Punjab home minister tragically lost his life, signifying the challenges that the country still faces. I immediately got a panicky call from my mother. I had to calm her down and drew her attention instead to the bombings in Bangkok that had happened around the same time, and where I had previously studied for my A-levels.

While I took off from Lahore on my journey to Vienna and on wards to home, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of how incredible Pakistan was! What is needed is a better understanding of the country by the world. I would reiterate the advice given to me by my Pakistani friends. Don’t take my word for it, go visit Pakistan and see it for yourself.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th,  2015.

25 quotes of Albert Einstein

These 25 quotes take you inside Albert Einstein’s revolutionary mind get inspired.

4 SEP 2015

Over the years, Albert Einstein’s name has become synonymous with genius. In his lifetime, Einstein changed the world, describing the workings of reality better than anyone since Isaac Newton and revealing the capabilities of the atom bomb. In 1999, Time named him Person of the Century.

Here are 25 of Einstein’s most telling quotes; each will take you inside the mind of the legend.

  • On authority

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

[The Curious History of Relativity]

  • On scope

“Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind                that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at                once because of his huge dimension.”

[Smithsonian, February 1979]

  • On Politics

“I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity what so ever.”

[The Yale Book of Quotations]

  • On certainty

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

  • On humility

“As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.”

[Letter to Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, September 1932]

  • On relativity

“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute – and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”

[The Yale Book of Quotations]

  • On his growth

“It is true that my parents were worried because I began to speak fairly late, so that they even consulted a doctor. I can’t say how old I was – but surely not less than three.”

[Letter, 1954]

  • On common sense

“Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before you reach eighteen.”

[The Universe and Dr. Einstein]

  • On success

“If A is a success in life, then A equals X plus Y plus Z. Work is X; Y is play, and Z is keeping your mouth shut.”

[The Yale Book of Quotations]

  • On nationalism

“Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race.”

[Albert Einstein, the Human Side]

  • On mystery

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”

[The World As I See It, 1930]

  • On solitude

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude.”

[The World As I See It, 1930]

  • On presentation

“If I were to start taking care of my grooming, I would no longer be my own self.”

[Letter, December 1913]

  • On imagination

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

[Smithsonian, February 1979]

  • On motivation

“The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts – possessions, outward success, luxury – have always seemed to me contemptible.”

[The World As I See It, 1930]

  • On education

“The aim [of education] must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem.”

[Address, October 1936]

  • On ambition

“Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men and towards objective things.”

[Letter, July 1947]

  • On learning

“Most teachers waste their time by asking questions that are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning is to discover what the pupil does know or is capable of knowing.”

[Conversations with Albert Einstein, 1920]

  • On thinking

“I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express in words afterwards.”

[Productive Thinking, 1959]

  • On life

“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.”

[Smithsonian, February 1979]

  • On curiosity

“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”


  • On work ethic

“The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind … is akin to that of the religious worshipper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.”

[Speech, 1918]

  • On childhood

“The ordinary adult never gives a thought to space-time problems … I, on the contrary, developed so slowly that I did not begin to wonder about space and time until I was an adult. I then delved more deeply into the problem than any other adult or child would have done.”

[Letter, 1956]

  • On the role of science

“One thing I have learned in a long life: That all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

[Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel, 1972]

  • On the hustle

“The only way to escape the corruptible effect of praise is to go on working.”

[Smithsonian, February 1979]

The Holy Prophet PBUH by French writer, poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine

Alphonse de Lamartine was a French writer, poet and politician.  This is what he had to say about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his book “Histoire de la Turquie” (1854):

If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modem history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers, which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then-inhabited world; and more than that he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls….

His forbearance in victory, his ambition which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire, his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death-all these attest not to an imposture, but to a firm conviction, which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was two fold: the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words…

Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational beliefs, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?


Is the world media reporting a fair picture?

In the history of the world, who has KILLED the largest numbers of INNOCENT human beings?

1)Hitler“.  Who he was? A Christian. But media will label Christians as terrorists.

2)Joseph Stalin called as Uncle Joe“.  Killed 20 million human beings, including 14.5 million starved to death.

Was he a Muslim?

3)Mao Tse Tsung (China)”.  Killed 14 to 20 million human beings.
Was he a Muslim?

4)Benito Mussolini (Italy)”.  Killed 400,000 human beings.
Was he a Muslim?

5)Ashoka” in Kalinga Battle.  Killed 100,000 human beings.
Was he a Muslim?

6) Embargo put by George Bush in 1990, 1/2 million children killed in Iraq alone!!!

These people are never called terrorists by the media. Why?

Today the majority of non-Muslims are afraid by hearing the word “JIHAD”.

Jihad is an Arabic word which comes from root Arabic word “JAHADA” which means “TO STRIVE” or “TO STRUGGLE” against evil and for justice. It does not mean killing innocents.  Muslims stand against evil, not with evil.

You still think ISLAM is the problem?  Consider the evidence:

1. The First World War, 17 million dead (caused by non-Muslims).

2. The Second World War, 50-55 million dead (caused by non-Muslims).

3. Nagasaki atomic bombs 200,000 dead (caused by non-Muslims).

4. The War in Vietnam, over 5 million dead (caused by non-Muslims).

5. The War in Bosnia/Kosovo, over 500,000 dead (caused by non-Muslims).

6. The War in Iraq (so far) 12,000,000 deaths (caused by non-Muslims).

7. Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Burma, etc (caused by non-Muslims).

8. In Cambodia 1975-1979, almost 3 million deaths (caused by non-Muslims).