8 Myths About Pakistan Debunked - Yasmin Al-Najar
Updated: Oct 7
Myths vs reality of travelling in Pakistan
Pakistan is a commonly misunderstood country, from its geographical location to its people and culture. If you have not visited Pakistan you will most likely think of the protests, strikes and war zone images that appear in the media. If you have visited Pakistan you will most likely think of the fresh summer breeze, breath-taking mountains and gardens and fragrances.
Rather than getting my information from films or news channels who relay information about Pakistan through a colonialist lens, I decided to speak to people who have actually been to Pakistan.
Here are the top 6 common myths about Pakistan debunked.
1. It’s dangerous
This is at the top of the list because it is the biggest misconception heard.
Just like any country there are dangerous parts but as a whole Pakistan is perfectly fine. The past decade has seen conflict but in the last few years safety has increased enormously.
2. Pakistan doesn’t like foreigners
On the contrary, the government is keen to increase tourism and so it is working hard to ensure that places are safe and tourist friendly.
Plus anyone who has been to Pakistan will tell you that Pakistanis are one of the most hospitable people you will ever meet. A video of a tourist circulated quickly on social media when he showed that he couldn’t get rid of his money because Pakistani shop owners wouldn’t take any payment. Yes it really is like that. A common phrase you will hear when you try to pay for an item is “you are our guest”. The people open up their hearts and welcome you into their country as they would welcome a guest through the doors of their homes.
3. It’s a Third World Country
Literally this was the face one Pakistani girl pulled in my class after being asked if they have ‘normal’ toilets in Pakistan. There are both the toilets most of us are used to and the ones with the hole in the ground. And no they don’t only bathe outside like the old days. There are indoor bathrooms too.
Of course there are parts of Pakistan which are poor but that’s just like every other country. The movies show locals travelling by medieval transportation like a donkey or horse cart, traffic jams, slums, dusty paths and yellow skies. But people who have been to Pakistan say that the country is far from under-developed and has undergone technological and infrastructural advancement. Karachi is known to be rich with culture and Lahore is known as the country’s economic and political hub. Vegetation is abundant in the city, there are cars, modern shopping malls and prestigious hotels.
Pakistan appreciates both modernity and tradition and allows artistic vision to thrive in all categories of art; poetry, textile work, painting, calligraphy, mosaic craft, the acting industry. There are art and literary festivals all year round.
4. It’s just like India
A comment that is every Pakistanis pet peeve. Although Pakistan and India were once one country and therefore do share similarities, it does not mean that they are the same. There are not only political and economic differences but also differences relating to culture, the dominating language and religion, customs and traditions, food, business and dressing.
5. It’s a very strict Muslim country
Yes it is a Muslim country and alcohol is banned but Pakistan is not a very conservative country. And certainly not all women wear burqas like most people think. Just like all societies, Pakistan consists of both conservative and liberal groups. Women wear abayas, lehengas and sarees, kurtas, shalwar kameez as well as westernised clothing. Pakistanis also enjoy music and host the most vibrant, energetic and fun festivals and weddings I have ever seen.
6. There’s nothing to see or do
Seriously, who came up with this one?
Pakistan offers a lot more than what is on the news.
Whether you love exploring the bustling vibe of the city or the serenity of nature, Pakistan has something to suit everyone. Pakistan has a rich history dating back centuries. The lost city of Mohenjo-Daro belongs to one of the earliest civilizations in the world and draws in tourists from around the globe. Pakistan is also home to the wondrous Khewra Salt Mine which is the 2nd largest salt mine in the world. The 17th century Badshahi Mosque has become symbolic of Pakistan’s architectural poetry and a visit to the highest located mud volcano in the world, Hingol National Park, is well worth the travel.
You can go trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, trout fishing and bird watching or embark on an adventure on a mountain/desert jeep safari. There are also large shopping malls where you can shop till your heart’s content.
And of course when mentioning Pakistan we cannot forget Swat Valley, also known as the Switzerland of Pakistan because of its beautiful snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys.
I thought I would share these beautiful photographs of Pakistan people have sent me from their travels along with their travel testimonies. Enjoy!
“Pakistan is an absolutely beautiful country. I had the pleasure of travelling to the northern areas of Pakistan in summer 2018. I travelled with a tour company alongside my sister, it was just the two of us and the tour guides for 10 days. It was safe, safer than I had thought it would be. The locals treat you with utmost respect and hospitality. Pakistan is safe, it's not as the media portrays it, yes you have to be travel savvy and yes travelling with someone is better and safer and more fun to be honest as you’re sharing the gems of seeing Pakistan with someone. You do get stopped at the security points, but that was all fine, no trouble at all. The pictures of the mountains are from a place called Fairy Meadows really north of Pakistan. The big lake picture is of Deosai National Park. The northern areas are very clean and they have a strict no littering policy in the national parks which I was very impressed with”.- Natasha
“A huge myth is that there’s not much beauty in Pakistan and it’s quite a 3rd world country with no class or natural beauty. But that’s not the case, it has some really stunning sights especially in Kashmir, Mari, Lahore and it is beyond what the human eye can imagine!“- Roohi
“The one myth that evades the Pakistani diaspora is that there is nothing to do in Pakistan. I used to be like that as well but once you travel to places like Lahore and see its beauty and learn its history you will fall in love with Pakistan. You have one of the most beautiful architectural works of Badshai Masjid and on top the road you have famous restaurants like Haveli with amazing views of the mosque.”- Buk
Aisha loves the city and has shared two beautiful photographs with us. She also loves the village. “The vibe in the village was like next level you don’t feel any pressures. Everyone wakes up early has breakfast together and there was always someone visiting and kids everywhere. You just lived in the moment, didn’t look at your phone all the time, didn’t spend all your time on Netflix or even reading, you were just content being there, the open air and greenery, the views were amazing. I felt like at peace with myself and all my family around me. It was a very special time for me”.