Ask the Pakistani Guy..

Hi, I’m Shakwave and I’m a Pakistani. I have decided to start this thread based on requests by a couple of people (and the fact that I’m an attention whore :)). If you have any questions that you want to ask regarding life in Pakistan, shoot away.

What do Americans need to understand about Kashmir?

Is anything going on in Pakistan right now that isn’t terrifying?

Does Musharref enjoy any popular support at all?

What’s the deal with pink rice?

Can you give us any context for that “Jaan Pehechan Ho” video from Ghost World/Gumnaam? Are they making fun of the Batman TV show or something?

Is Pakistan under Sharia Law? How Islamic is the legal system (that is, is it illegal to depict the Prophet, is it illegal for women to go out alone, etc.)? How much real political opposition to the people in power is there?

How much of a problem is opium?

How much do you fear terrorism?

What do you think is the general opinion of the West in your country? In your local area?

Thanks a lot for giving us this insight into your world. Things like this are invaluable when everything begins to go pear-shaped (again).

Are you living in Pakistan now? Do you see Pakistan getting its act together and being a normal, functioning place with minimal corruption?

What is your day-to-day life like? Does any of the political unrest actually have an impact on your daily activities?

Thanks for starting this thread!


Hi ShakWave. I travelled around Pakistan a few years ago and I had a great time. People were very friendly and helpful, and I never felt unsafe or threatened in any way. On the contrary, I feel that the Pakistanis are among the friendliest people I have ever met anywhere in the world. How would my travel experience differ if I was to do it today? - Would I feel safe? - Would I have to take special precautions?
I have a feeling that most problems stem from the NWFP - is that true?
And where in Pakistan do you live?

I used to work with a guy from Pakistan. The back of his head was very flat, and he said it was traditional to strap a board to the back of a baby’s head, to make it flat. Is there any truth to this?

Whoa, thats a whole lot of questions, better get started.

Krokodil, here
What do Americans need to understand about Kashmir?
I was going to write a long an detailed answer to this one, bu I think Wikipedia has done justice to the Kashmir issue with both India and Pakistan’s points of view here
Is anything going on in Pakistan right now that isn’t terrifying?*
Pakistan is in a very precarious position and almost all the things going on are pretty terrifying. We’re being beaten by almost every side in cricket nowadays too. So, no positive things in the country to report at all :(.

Does Musharref enjoy any popular support at all?
Musharraf was hugely popular when he first came on the scene. Everyone I knew was extremely frustrated with the same old people coming into power and siphoning off millions of the country’s money. But over the years, Musharraf’s hard line policies and his affirmative action against certain groups of people (die-hard Islamists, namely) and their violent retaliation has made people frustrated and consequently Musharraf’s popularity graph has been going downhill steadily. He still has pockets of support in the population, however that number is far less than what it was 2 or 3 years ago.

What’s the deal with pink rice?
Huh? Thats the first time I’ve heard anything about rice being pink.

Can you give us any context for that “Jaan Pehechan Ho” video from Ghost World/Gumnaam? Are they making fun of the Batman TV show or something?
Thats an Indian movie, not a Pakistani one, seems like a cabaret act in a restaurant and the masks seem to be totally unrelated to the Batman show. This type of song / dance is actually quite typical in Indian movies from the '60s.

What is the most noticable fallout from Bhutto’s death?


Is Pakistan under Sharia Law? How Islamic is the legal system (that is, is it illegal to depict the Prophet, is it illegal for women to go out alone, etc.)? How much real political opposition to the people in power is there?
I am not an expert on Pakistani Law but as far as I know, the Pakistan Penal Code is heavily based on Indian Law which was in operation in Pre-Partition India, sprinkled with some ‘Islamic’ laws. Pakistani incorporates some part of Islamic law, most of it consisting of the very controversial Hudood Ordinance (Hudood meaning limits) and the blasphemy laws. The Hudood Ordinance mostly concerns with sex and rape related laws (as far as I know) and all human rights activists have been protesting for ages to get this Ordinance purged from the law books. The use, or rather misuse of this law, has been the source of much abuse towards women in the country. I, for one, am completely for the removal of this piece of legislation as soon as possible. There are no sentences for cutting of the arm or beheading or anything like the Saudi Shariah Law sentences.
At this point in time, there is a wave of anti-Musharrafism in the country, especially since the death of Benazir Bhutto. All the major parties are very active nowadays, knowing that this is the best time to fan the flames of dissent against the current government.

How much of a problem is opium?
Opium is a huge problem in the country. Even though I do not personally know anyone who has done heroin, I understand that Pakistan is one of the biggest producers in the world and has a very high number of heroin consumers. The problem arose during the '80s when Afghan refugees flooded Pakistan with drugs and ammunition.

How much do you fear terrorism?
I think all Pakistanis especially Karachiites have become used to random acts of terrorism. It is usual to see people resume going to offices moments after a bomb blast. That may be because people in Pakistan tend to be very fatalistic and the line “Its in God’s hand” tends to be quoted quite frequently. I think people are becoming used to it (not a good thing at all) since its getting common in other cities as well.

What do you think is the general opinion of the West in your country? In your local area?
In my opinion, people in the West who dont know much about Pakistan tend to think of Pakistan as an extremely backward country and all Pakistanis as terrorists. I bet if you were to ask people in the West about where Pakistan is, most of them would probably tend to place it somewhere smack in the middle of the Arabian desert. The foreign country manager of the company that I work in once said (possibly exaggerating a bit) that, before coming here, he thought the sales guys would probably go out on sales calls on camels. Some of the people I’ve met abroad were very surprised that I knew about Western rock music like Led Zeppelin, The Doors etc and relatively obscure British comedies like Only Fools and Horses, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em etc. Oh, and I absolutely floored them with with my Elvis impersonation on karaoke :slight_smile:

In your opinion:

What is the basis of Musharraf’s support amongst the military? Has he been able to get and keep their loyalty through leadership and actual job performance, or is he buying them off, or is it something else?

Does a hardline Islamist faction exist in the higher ranks of the military and how is it that they continue to support the general despite his open war on the militants?

Are the battles against the militants for real or is there a feeling of “wink-wink, we have to do this because the Americans are watching”?

Thanks for starting this thread.

Desert Nomad
I’m currently living in Pakistan, although I am awaiting for my Australian work permit for my two year expat assignment in Sydney.
I would love to see Pakistan as a progressive, prosperous and modern country, but realistically speaking it would require a very strong and determined ruler to make that happen. Most people think that Pakistan’s biggest problem is the Al Qaeda or the various extremist Islamic Jihadists (I think I just invented a new tongue twister there), but I think that the biggest enemies of the State are the politically strong feudal lords, who completely dominate rural Pakistan and consider themselves a law unto themselves. It is rumored that Liaquat Ali Khan (the first Prime Minister of Pakistan) was assassinated because he was planning to strip the feudal landlords of their titles and influence over the serf-like peasants working on their lands. All rulers in Pakistan (especially the ‘democratically’ chosen leaders) have been part of the ruling elite and thus would never want to institute land reforms that would threaten their own private land holdings. That is why most people were in favor of Pervez Musharraf when he first seized power in a bloodless coup, he being of a middle class background. Most of the people do not believe he is corrupt, but he has been accused of being power hungry and despotic.

RE: your username.

TransFan, yes?

What is your opinion of the Security Service? From the outside, it appears that it is Taliban friendly and out of the control of Musharref.

Is it illegal to attend a Christian church service in Pakistan? Does the government prosecute the murderers of Christians?

As an American, awhile back I posted something and used the phrase, “…a Paki guy I knew in Berlin…”

Well, I was immediately slammed by every Brit on the board for using the phrase and told in no uncertain terms that in Britain “Paki” is a slur akin to using the word nigger in the USA. That was the first I ever heard that, but then again it is not like there are masses of Pakistanis living in Las Vegas - so what do I know about such racial slurs.

First of all, I heartily apologize if that is the case, but I swear - the guy I knew in Berlin referred to all his friends and family from Pakistan as “Packis” and I just assumed that was the phrase. Is this just a slur in Britain or is this word something I should best eradicate from my vocabulary immediately?

First of all, apologies for not posting during the past few days. The Australian work permit that I was referring to in the earlier postings has materialized and the last few days have been crazy. I have been meeting family, wrapping up work in the office, shopping and have been pretty much tied up so didn’t have time to respond to the questions.

GardenTraveller Like I said before, Pakistanis, especially Karachiites have become used to random violence. I go to work in the day, chill out at home during the evening and go with with friends some nights, especially on weekends. There have been numerous times that there has been a bomb explosion in the day and I have gone out with friends to restaurants near the explosion site. We’ve become immune to the violence. But, of course, no one would venture out on the roads if there’s rioting going on in the streets and people will never go to some high risk areas in Karachi, especially after dark.

Panurge, we Pakistanis are generally a very friendly people, as I have been told countless times by foreigners who have been to Pakistan. Which areas in Pakistan did you travel to? I live in the southern city of Karachi, which is the largest city in Pakistan. Most of the foreigners who come here often go to the mountainous Northern Areas of Pakistan, where the people are very friendly and welcoming and the area has been popular among mountaineers and trekkers for a long time. Your trip might be safe as long as you do not go to some specific areas like Baluchistan / NWFP (where there is a lot of violence going on due to the military operation against radical Islamists). Make sure you go with a reputed tour operator, they have locals among their staff who have a lot of background information about the area. NWFP (especially the FATA area) is very sensitive area nowadays with regards to safety and security. FATA (the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas) are controlled by Pakistan, but follow their jirga (village elders) system in which the laws are the collective decisions of the village elders. There is a lot of lawlessness and anarchy in that area, its something like a Wild West, with a lot of honour killings, gunfights, and generally low levels of education. Its no help that many of the FATA tribes are engaged in making guns and ammunition. These tribes are mostly Afghan (and Al Qaeda) sympathizers, and are extremely anti-Musharraf and anti-American due to their action against the militants in the Pakistan - Afghanistan border areas.

I see from your profile that you are from Denmark. I have been to Denmark four times and I absolutely loved all the places I went to. Just wanted to say that if I were to be given the responsibility of making over Pakistan’s socio-political system, I would use Denmark as a model. You have a lovely country with a very just and fair system of social equality.

Panache45, that is correct. In some of the rural areas, a flattish head is thought to be more desirable than a round one. Many rural people put soft cardboards under the heads of their babies so that the shape of the head becomes flatter than the usual. Unfortunately, my mother was inclined was agree with this belief, which resulted in me earning the nickname Blockhead during my university years. :frowning:

Thanks for the info. I pretty much figured that the Afghan-Pakistan border region would be the trouble area these days. Unfortunately I never made it to Peshawar or the mountains when I was there since those areas were snowed in and only accessible by plane (winter 2003-2004). We arrived from Iran and went through Baluchistan to Quetta and from there we went to Sindh. Travelling without a guidebook, we just made up our itinerary as we went along. We never made it all the way to Karachi, unfortunately - I think the southernmost point was Sehwan Sharif somewhere on the Indus. From there we travelled through Mohenjo-Daro & Multan to Pindi where we spent Id. Good times. We ended up getting stuck in Pindi for awhile because the Indian embassy wouldn’t issue visas for almost 3 weeks - and they only did it reluctantly when I recited some Sanskrit verse at the embassy to prove that I came for studying and not for dope-smoking :rolleyes: Finally we went to Lahore and via the Waga border (crazy place) to Amritsar. All in all we were in Pakistan for 7 weeks, and I can only say I wish it had been more. The country is no.1 on my “visit again” list.

And yeah - Pakistan could probably learn something from Denmark on a socio-political level, but on the other hand we (and so many other peoples in the world) certainly lack a lot in the friendliness department compared to Pakistanis.