Beyond the Headlines – Pakistan Zindabad

“It seems that violence is the only lens through which ordinary people in Pakistan are viewed in the media. Even if it’s a story about a Pakistani rock band, it will be set in the context of a violent society. There’s nothing false about the perspective. Pakistan has a problem with violence. Violence is used to silence journalists, and judges, and moderate religious scholars. And it seems to be getting worse. Every time I see somebody on television speaking out in anger against extremism or corruption—I’ll say a prayer for them. And every time one of those people is murdered, those of us who aspire to be like them grow a little more afraid.

So it’s not that the reports of violence are false. But they are only a small part of the truth. There’s so much other life being lived here.

But there’s only so much space in international newspapers. And there’s so much news in the world. So only the most jarring stories make the cut.”* 


When I was growing up and we would return to the United States for year-long furloughs, not many had heard of Pakistan. At the time Pakistan was a relatively new country, having recently gained independence from British controlled India to be a separate Muslim state.

Fast forward to today and it is rare to have a day go by without some news of Pakistan – and it’s rarely good news. While Malala Yousafzai made headlines for her courage in the face of persecution and terror, most headlines speak to danger and despair.

I belong to a peculiar tribe of people. Like any tribe we don’t all like each other and we don’t all get along. But certain things set us apart. We all grew up in Pakistan. We all fight against the stereotypes that dominate the news of Pakistan in the west. And it’s safe to say that most of us love Pakistan. We love what it gave us, we love what we became because of it, we love that it continues to struggle and shows an uncommon resilience despite terrorist and drone attacks, corrupt politics, and floods. We love the people and the place. 

Today, August 14, is Pakistan’s Independence Day and with it comes a desire to show readers something beyond the headlines of newspapers.

Because Pakistan is far more than what you see on television or read online or in print. Pakistan is pristine, untouched beaches and some of the tallest mountains in the world; it is many ethnic groups and a resilient people; it is ancient ruins of the Indus Valley (one of the oldest known civilizations) and hospitality to strangers.

So today I hope for Pakistan, I pray for Pakistan, for peace, truth, and rest. And along with those prayers I offer you glimpses of this beautiful country.

Pakistan Zindabad! Long Live Pakistan!

Blogger’s Note: These beautiful, National Geographic quality pictures were taken by Dan Mitchell, son of one of my high school friends, Jon Mitchell. Many thanks to him for permission to publish them on Communicating Across Boundaries.

Watching mountain goats A lot of stories in this face Beautiful people Father and son Gulmit Gulmit, Northern Areas Making naan Northern Pakistan Northern Pakistan - Alexander the Great lives on! Over 30 people on this car Rakaposhi Reflection Signs in Chinese and Urdu Vegetable stall view from Eagles nest Hotel

Purchase Passages Through Pakistan here – all proceeds go toward refugees in the Middle East.

36 thoughts on “Beyond the Headlines – Pakistan Zindabad

  1. wonderful Mam, i live in Pakistan and believe me no fear,i live in Peshawar and you know about the APSAC blast well the school lies on the same road as my school , terrorism does not means that a country is really bad ,Paris is still beautiful although it is not called a terrorist country after the blasts , i request every one to visit Pakistan to explore it .and yah i basically belong to chitral a place in northern areas if you know.and well yes the article was mesmerizing :)

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  2. I’ve just finished reading ‘I dared to call him Father’ by Bilquis Sheikh, and was so enthralled with the writer’s remarkable conversion journey, her closeness to God and her friendship with Ken and Marie Old and David and Synnove Mitchell. Although sad to note that Bilquis is long gone, I turned to the internet to find out if her devoted friends were still alive so I can learn more.

    So I’m glad I found this site where the descendants of these great missionaries speak and continue their work in different ways. How wonderful. And thanks Tim for the link to your father’s book which speaks more about Bilquis.

    And although it went against the grain of celebrating Pakistan that this post intended, as a second-generation British-Nigerian, I thoroughly agree with Marie’s sentiments that certain countries, although wonderful in the past, can change to be mostly dangerous and painful to be part of today. I’ve also bore witness to many atrocities of Nigeria that seems unfairly highlighted in the news, but it’s often worse in reality too. We can celebrate the memories and original intentions of the country’s independence, but the truth of its current brutalities should also not be glossed over.

    All in all this post was a wonderful find for me in so many ways.

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  3. The pictures you have posted are wonderful indeed … but it seems to me that with all it’s God-given beauty and splendor, the people of Pakistan, whose ancestors had struggled to bring it into existence, have left no stone unturned into running this country into the ground. It’s funny to celebrate “Independence day” for a country steeped in apartheid, civil unrest, lawlessness, persecution and flagrant inhumanity. You write that it “continues to struggle”. One could justifiably say it continues to go to the depths of depravity and degradation …In additions to many of the other over-simplifications of its problems in your article (“drone attacks, floods”) it saddens me that you say that it is misrepresented in “the West” or in “the media”. It is not. Life there is very, very difficult for millions. They suffer and they perish. And if you speak of what Pakistan gave someone … just ask the young 7 YEAR OLD girl burned alive in her home (along with her sister and grandmother) in Gujranwala while a mob cheered as she struggled do draw her last breath.

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    1. Maria – thank you for reading the article. I think my first question is: have you ever been to Pakistan? You say “the people of Pakistan” who, exactly do you mean? All the people? Because a vast number I would say don’t want their country run into the ground. If you mean corrupt politicians and misguided religious zealots I agree with you. I don’t know the story you speak of but it is a heinous, evil act and it is rightly condemned. I don’t think it helps to paint broad negative strokes of this country. There are Pakistanis who work tirelessly for justice and do what they can. This post is in honor of the many that do care for the country and are not willing to dismiss it as forever damned.

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      1. Hi Marilyn. First of all, I apologize if my words caused offense. They were merely an expression of my own views, without the intent of offending someone else’s sensibilities. To that end, you have asked a very valid question, and one that would unequivocally explain my own analysis of the situation. Yes, I have been to Pakistan, many many times – we visited each summer during holidays when I was young, and then I went four times every two years as an adult. As a youngster, and a teenager, I was the most patriotic person you could meet. Completely taken with and in love with all things Pakistani. However, I can truly say without a doubt that I found each subsequent visit was more difficult than the last. Walk down any street there, and you will NOT get home without being leered at, groped or hearing catcalls by idle men sitting on every street, in every corner. (Where are the industrious, hardworking people trying to make their nation better?) Walk into any bazaar/shop and you will find prices quoted to you will be considerably higher than you know they should be, because every merchant there has a “foreigner-detector”, and they are only too eager to rip you off. (Where is the famed “hospitality”?) In any large city, you will be hard pressed to NOT see young beggar children on the street, who had been purposely deformed so they would generate more money. (Where is the much-touted resilience?) Turn on the t.v. and you will see so much cultural influence of the West and the Indian/Hindu culture, that it seems that the people of this country have are completely bereft of their own individual identity – whether on a religious or on a cultural basis. It is laughable that this country was founded on the basis of having a separate state for Muslims.

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      2. Hi Maria – no offense – truly. I’m glad you came back around. I see many of the same things you do, but we have come to different conclusions. I think most in the outside world would agree with you and certainly you make some valid points. Yet just last night I picked up a Pakistani young woman from the airport. She is here for a one year education program at Harvard – and though she probably sees much of what you see, her response is not hate or despair, but rather action http://www.edu4pak.org/
        I respectfully disagree with your premise that she is going to the ‘depths of depravity and degradation’. Any country has it’s underbelly. Like any other country, the people of Pakistan are a blend of individuals. Those individuals make choices. Similar to the country I currently live in, not every individual makes choices that contribute to the greater good of the community – in fact, in any given community you can see those who sit back and watch it go to the ground. I don believe, and have met many many Pakistanis who choose courage and generosity and kindness. They choose resilience. They choose hospitality and joy. For instance – the women, children, and men displaced because of floods 3 years ago. As I worked with them, there was a desire to rebuild, to learn how to dress their children’s wounds, to be healthy against all odds. No one would say Pakistan is paradise. Not even Pakistanis would claim that. But I am saying Pakistan deserves advocates around the globe who do not deny the contradictions at work but who choose to pray for her in her struggles, accept her complexities and cheer on her good. So my sense is we will have to agree to disagree on Pakistan.

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      3. There are corrupt politicians and religious zealots in abundance, no doubt, but more than that, there are apathetic masses who sit idly by and with their silence, condone the inhumanity. I am sure that there are people who work for justice and do what they can. However, in the ex-patriot community I have hardly come across anyone willing to give up the luxuries and freedoms they enjoy in the West to actually go back and work toward the betterment of their homeland. One such person did, a couple of months ago – a cardiologist from the States went back to volunteer at a hospital for three weeks as a way of giving back to his country. The second day he was there, as he was leaving a graveyard where he’d gone to pay his respects to his deceased parents, he was brutally gunned down in front of his wife and infant son. THAT was the fate of someone who was only guilty of caring for his country. My intent here again is not to foster negativity, but to focus on reality, and to take off the rose-colored glasses I once had on in regards to this country. These glasses came off in May 2010. It is a month I remember vividly, because it is when I welcomed my much longed and prayed for daughter into this world. As I held her in my arms and turned on the t.v. I watched as a few religious zealots charged into a mosque full of men, who had hurt NO ONE, they were simply worshiping, and a mass massacre ensued. The police stood by and didn’t lift a finger to help them, nor did hundreds of onlookers. It was then that I decided that MY precious daughter would NEVER step foot on Pakistani soil.

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  4. Thanks, Marilyn. Your words are so true — and the pictures so beautiful. It makes my heart ache. Pakistan — the land of my birth! — Zindabad!

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  5. Thank you, Marilyn, for giving us a more human picture of Pakistan. Because of the media and politics, we have been given a scued (?) view of a people who have a very varied history, faith, and philosophy of life. Just as they have been given of us in return. I wish I could journey there and see it for myself but it very unsafe for one such as I. Just as I’ve been warned not to return to Kenya for similar reasons. I look forward to the day when all nations will bow to our Lord and we will be one. Zindabad…Uhruhu!

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    1. Love your final sentiment here. It is a warped view – I would also add that I rely on people on the ground to tell me whether a place is dangerous. Right now I know people who go back and forth to Pakistan all the time as Americans. They are cautious but not fearful. So I would say that depending who you go with you could be completely safe!

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  6. I remember our celebrations at Bach on August 14th. Thank you for stirring up my memories of a beautiful time in my life. I enjoyed the pictures so much. i was in Pakistan when Dan’s grandparents, Dave and Synnove Mitchell were there. Appreciate them so much.Thank you Marilyn.

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  7. Yes, Independence Day, one can hope for so many things for Pakistan, I still consider it home, I think about how my Mom and Dad experiences were so intertwined with this day, Mom in The Punjab working with Norval and Dorothy Christy as a medical team , inoculating and giving medical care to the stream of refugees into the New country of Pakistan, and Dad a British Army office in Waziristan , watching as the Union Jack is lowered for the last time and the flag of Pakistan is raised of the fort, saluting his counterpart and handing over his office , so much has happend since those days, Mom and Dad are gone, but I, we all who called this country home wish it well and Zindabad indeed.

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    1. Thank you Tim, for this reminder of the infant stage of Pakistan’s beginning when people like your parents and the Christys worked tirelessly to alleviate pain and suffering during the upheaval. We all pray that one day Pakistan will become all it was envisioned to be.

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    2. I love this. Tell more. I didn’t know that about your parents although I did about the Christys. Did your folks meet there? Did either of them write their story? I would love to read it. Thanks Tim. I fixed dal last night in honor of Pakistan :)

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      1. Ah, nothing like dal and chapattis washed down with a cup of chai, yes Dad wrote some books, biographical as well as his long running fairy stories, they were both there at an amazing time in history, Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre is a excellent read on those times . You can see what Dad wrote on this site:
        http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/search.php?search=Kenneth%20G.%20Old&s=0&l=8&t=13
        And today is India’s independence day so to all our Indian friends, congratulations and India Zindabad as well !

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  8. I still consider Shikarpur one of my “home towns” having lived 12 wonderful years there. Bettie and I left in 1973 when we moved to Hyderabad, another ancient city with a storied history. HAPPY 66TH BIRTHDAY PAKISTAN! (This is from Hu.).

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    1. Yes! And when I was in “your” house for church 3 years ago I had so many amazing memories of your home and how you welcomed so many into your home. Thank you.

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  9. Thank you Marilyn. The news that has come out of Pakistan in the last several years often makes me shake my head… And makes my heart hurt… Though I found the story of Malala to be hope-lifting. Anyway, Pakistan Zindabad, and excellent pictures from Mr. Mitchell. Thanks again.

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    1. Thanks Jeremy and I agree with the head shaking and heart hurting. It’s hard to reconcile these amazing pictures and many of the wonderful memories I have with the dominant voice of the media. Though I know that there is much truth to news reports, it’s trying to get my head around that and beyond. On another note – I appreciated the recent comments you left on the discussion on the MCS page on faith. Really agree with you on much of what you said, particularly the integrity of the kid who listens to music and plays games vs. the one who learns what people want and is skilled at giving it to them. But I digress!

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    1. This family is so interesting. I think you’d have a lot in common with them – he’s in development work too and some of the other pictures he sent me are unbelievable!

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