Hera Malik

There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan” (Quaid-e-Azam, 1947). As we all know, the greatest and most inspirational leader of Pakistan never lost faith in our beloved nation, so what has happened now? As a Pakistani living overseas, it is very common for me to be questioned based on my identity. It is common for stereotypes to come my way. And it is even more common for people to believe what they see on their television sets about our beloved nation, unfortunately depicted as a terror- filled hub of murderers. As a Pakistani, by heart and soul, I want to fight back. I want to answer every single question that attacks my identity. I want to show people there is a side of Pakistan they’re unaware about. What they see on television or through social media is just a very small unfortunate part that merely defines the beauty and essence of our land. The unfortunate part does not represent the entire part.

“It’s too unsafe” or “it’s too dangerous” are common words and phrases a Pakistani living abroad gets to hear about their own home. I admit, it is not a very nice feeling. I feel devastated within. However, why don’t we look at the brighter side? We have a lot to flaunt, a lot to feel proud about! May it be Pakistanis living abroad or within Pakistan, we are a beacon of hope for the future of Pakistan. May it be beauty of Hunza valley, or the incredible Badshahi mosque in Lahore, why aren’t these representations replaced by the negative stereotypes surrounding the aura of our nation? We are one of the world’s greatest nuclear powers, with a range of beautiful mountainous regions, lakes and valleys. However, if you may wonder about the tourism rate, it has gone significantly down. Why? Is Pakistan any different to countries worldwide? The answers lies within perceptions. Yes, perceptions. It is how you perceive something to be that shapes your attitudes and behaviour. Whenever I visit Lahore, I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel the need of appointing a security guard for myself whenever I go out. Yes, I live here freely, happily, under the secure circle of my family and friends.

Living outside Pakistan all of my life has definitely taught me a lot and I’ve grown up to become an independent individual that takes pride in making her own choices. Freedom for me; is the freedom of mind. It is the ability to differentiate between reality and perceptions. As I mentioned earlier, perceptions are shaped according to your own viewpoints and judgments. However, reality is harder to reveal and understand. It takes an open mind to understand what’s behind or beyond what is being shown to us. The world needs to realize that Pakistan is just as normal as any other nation. Yes, we have our problems, we have bombings and killings going on. But that’s just a phase. A gruesome phrase, the world needs to understand, not exaggerate.

“These are terrorist mangoes”, I overheard a foreign lady with a frown on her face, mumbling to herself, while doing her grocery shopping. How could someone be this ignorant and judgmental about what they see on media, by taking it out on a fruit? This is just one of the few examples of the stereotypes that surround Pakistan. What about when you travel? Why are we treated differently based on the colour of our passport. Yes, I am a green passport holder, how would that affect me in any way? Unfortunately it does. Why are we punished because of a bunch of people that cause chaos within the country? Isn’t it as devastating and difficult for Pakistanis themselves to see a bunch of ignorant people attempting to destroy their country? Don’t we know what’s going on in our country for the world to constantly remind us? As a traveller, and a student of Mass Communication, I take pride in being a Pakistani wherever I go. Unfortunately I’ve never had the chance to live in Pakistan for a period longer than 3 months, but whatever I see is just beautiful. It’s waiting to be unleashed. It’s waiting for its appreciation.

It is also a great feeling to meet people all around the world that want to know more about Pakistan, its people and wonderful places. When negativity comes your way, positivity is always around too! It is easy to make quick judgments, no matter what it is. It’s natural. However, to hold your beliefs against something you’re unaware of is a sign of close mindedness. Pakistan is a beautiful nation that is cherished by millions of people worldwide. However, the amount of negativity surrounding it is quite high as well. To eliminate this sort of negativity and stereotypes about our beloved nation, we should make the world realise that our country is more than just a poor nation or a terrorist attack. It is a nuclear power, the pride of Quaid-e-Azam and the love of Pakistanis worldwide.

Freedom for me, is the freedom of mind. Freedom for me, is the hidden beauty of my land. And Freedom for me, is being a Pakistani, by heart and soul.