World Bulletin / News Desk
I always wonder and would like to see Pakistan, one of the most important parts of the region called Islamic geography. My Pakistani friends, which are many, have always piqued my curiosity about Pakistan. In the past few months, I have received an exciting invitation that will satisfy my curiosity, and within the scope of this invitation I traveled to Pakistan for about a week in order to attend a fairly unique youth conference in the middle of September.
My travel to Pakistan would not be a usual visit because we had to stay in one of the vast hills of the Himalayas, north of Pakistan, for the youth program I attended. The program had a very original concept, it was a wild nature based program.
Therefore, my experience during the trip did not led to a typical travel essay. In fact, it did not permit me for any kind of travel essay… I have not much to write about Islamabad, in which I spent only a few hours, or night-time visit to Faysal Mosque, one of the symbols of the city, or passing through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad-Kashmir, and through Abbottabad in which Osama Bin Laden had been located and killed. However, I am convinced that it is worth writing about my experience as a single Turk and almost one foreinger among abour 100 Pakistani young and successful university students coming from all over Pakistan, from the capital city, Karachi, Lahore, Azad-Kashmir, Balochistan, and having different socio-economic and political backgrounds. At the very least, I would like to share my humble opinions and observations with those who wonder. To keep a record…
Pakistan: Country of Mountains and Valleys
Because of the concept of the program I participated in I could not spend a lot of time in the cities of Pakistan; however, I had the opportunity to discover the nature otherwise I could not have. I enjoyed the vast green of the Pakistan Himalayas, the northern starting point of the Himalayas, called the roof of the world, the fast-flowing rivers, and unique landscape.
In addition, our 7-hour road trip from Islamabad to the campsite enables us to come across various kind of Pakistani landscapes and natural beauties. I had the opportunity to see countless Pakistani villages as well as the provinces of Pakistan with different social fabrics during our routine to cross the mountains and the valleys with our old model minibus. I was amazed that the Pakistani villages were established in the same order just like a replica, even in the most mountainous regions.
In short, Pakistan is a country that offers many beauties with its nature and geography and where you can see authentic villages in which delicious fruits dancing on the stalls, despite all the topographical difficulties in rural areas. If you come by, taking a tour between the hills in the north of Pakistan will be an interesting experience. If the road falls, it will be an interesting experience to take a tour between the hills in the north of Pakistan. Fancy automobiles, trucks, and minibuses would also enrich your trip.
Under this headline, if I have to write as much as I could see the cities, I just have to make a few sentences. I would like to note in the first sentence that the new capital city Islamabad is built in a well-organized and clean way. In this city it was preferred horizontal architecture instead of long buildings; therefore, it is a exemplary city for us and for many cities in the Middle East. It offers the “feeling of space” that we lost in Istanbul, and therefore the refreshment and peace to its residents. When I came out of the airport, I was amazed by not seeing a chaotic atmosphere like in Cairo or in many Arab cities and also I felt sorry about my ignorance about Pakistan.
The second sentence in this regard would be that you should visit the Faisal Mosque absolutely. This mosque, which we can make an emotional affection due to its Turkish architect, is one of the decent examples of modern mosque architecture.
I guess it could not be imagined that I would stayed for a week with 100 highly-educated Pakistanis and not observing their ideas about Pakistani politics…
First of all, I realized that I underestimated Pakistan in another issue and unfairly categorized it with other Middle Eastern countries: participation in politics. In other words, belief in democracy and elections. In spite of the political history, full of coups and other external problems, Pakistan is not a country where the political institution and the civil-state interaction have gone bankrupt. I have observed that the political environment is a living and productive field and the people see themselves as a subject and have various expectations from the institution of politics.
There were two things supporting my argument: First, the comments of the young people and their positioning themselves in relation to politics. Second, the elections that will determine the period after President Nawaz Sharif, who had to resign after the incident of Panama Documents and dynamism of the debates on the election process ranging from the population level to the television screen.
I was also interested in one or two other specific issues. First of all, in Pakistan there is high tolerance to the ethnic differences among the young population, although it is a country in which there is strong ethnic discrimination and in some parts of it, such as Balochistan, considerable amout of people support the separatist movement. It is not always the case that confronting parties can tolerate each other that much and have continuous dialogue in the same environment.
It was interesting to observe that despite the deep political distinctions between them, Balochis and other young people maintain a close dialogue. Again in some activies during the program, there were some accusations about the Penjab region exploiting the resources of the country unfairly; however, the young people from the Penjab region did not show an exaggerated response to these accusations and the peaceful atmosphere did not interrupted with serious political conflicts.
Another issue is the Kashmir issue, which comes to our agenda from time to time. One of constant state policies of Pakistan, which is one of the integral parts of the Kashmir issue, is to maintain its influence over Kashmir and to protect Kashmir Muslims from the oppression of India. But among the Pakistani young people in the program, there were those who opposed this policy and some thought it is ineffective; which surprised me. However, it is important to remember that almost all of these young people have higher socio-economic status.
I can clearly say that Pakistani young people have a great potential. In the country the young population is very high and these young people have a great energy ready to be used fort he future of their country. Although it is still much more lower than the developed countries, the number of educated people and the quality of Pakistani universities are increasing. China's “One Belt One Way” project of China made enormous contribution to the infrastructure, industry, and trade of the country and in parallel there will be new business opportunities, couraging the young population. In short, for Pakistan, the overall trend is rising.
The young people in the project I participated in were able to create an excellent organization and they showed that in a Muslim country young people can make a serious investment in themselves. These are encouraging and hope-inspiring aspects of the program.
Again, by looking at the participant profiles in the program, I can say that they take a stand against sectarianism, honor killings, problems with multiculturalism, culture of lynching because of the blasphemy; and it is a symbol of a pursuit.
I was very pleased to see that all the world and his wife in Pakistan were great lovers of Turkey. They feel a sincere fraternity to our country. Thus, it can be said that I enjoyed the interest emerged due to my nationality.
In addition to love of Turkey, I also saw that Recep Tayyip Erdogan was very much liked. I can easily say that the Pakistanis showed much more interest to Erdogan than the Arab nations.
Turkish television serials were also very famous. Many people talked to me about the Turkish serials they had watched when they saw me for the first time.
Turkey is also one of the tourism destinations that the Pakistanis dream of. They are aware of the natural beauties of not only Istanbul but also another Anatolian cities. It would not be non-realistic to expect that if sufficient financial opportunities arose, Pakistanis would come to Turkey as the Arabs come. As the number of universities with an international student profile increased in Turkey, an increase occurred in the number of Pakistani students who came to Turkey, and the families of these students also started to visit Turkey.
The long and short of it, I have had an interesting and enjoyable week among Pakistani young people, who are very polite and show an interest in a guest coming from Turkey, and I have made many Pakistani friends. And it is the notes above that remained to me. Inshallah I can go back to Pakistan again, visit the cities, see the sights, and then I can write a true travel essay.
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