BY INDIRA PRAHST
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
CONSUL General of Pakistan, Dr. Muhammad Tariq, hosted an event titled “Incredible Pakistan” at the University of British Columbia’s Robson Street Campus last week with over 200 people of diverse backgrounds attending the event.
At the entrance, there were tables with a raft of books and pamphlets such as “Discover Pakistan,” “World Heritage Sites of Pakistan,” “Enchanting Lakes of Pakistan,” “Pakistan Handcrafts,” “Thatta”, “Peshawar,” “Lahore” and more.
Dr. Tariq welcomed the guests and provided an excellent summary of Pakistan and issues the public would want to know about. He said Pakistanis are “fun loving people” and the negative images people have of Pakistan are coming “from the prism of a few individuals.” He said Pakistan is “safe.” He said there is no doubt that Pakistan had “testing times,” however, they were able to handle it. He said “the urban centre is brimming with life” with increased economic investment and there is improved security since the bombing in 2013. They have seen a substantial increase in tourism and currently the government has eased visa requirements for 24 countries – including Canada – for 30-day visits, he said.
Peter Langar, a world renowned international travel photographer who has been to over 175 countries and is with SFU’s travel program, gave a presentation on Pakistan which he said was one of the top destinations he has visited. He started with a silent photography presentation with cultural music of Pakistan playing in the background. His images were truly stunning especially in how they captured the soul of the people of Pakistan. There were breathtaking images of mountains. His photos of the Pakistani cuisine, handcrafts, and historical sites were a treat for the eye. Many people in the audience were amazed to see art on wheels: “trucks are a rolling piece of art” in Pakistan, said Langar.
The slideshow was followed by a talk on Pakistan about the sites he had visited and the tours being offered currently for Canadians. He broke the negative stereotypes of the news media about Pakistan at the outset of the talk, saying “they have to sell their news” and what seems to sell is horror news.
Langar said Pakistan was a multicultural society with many languages. It had four major UNESCO sites. The audience learned about Thatta, the medieval capital of Sindh whose Makli Necropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rare collection of relics from the Indus Valley Civilization and the Gandhara period. He spoke of the famous archaeological site of Mohenjo-daro. He spoke of Multan, Sukkur, Bahawalpur and Peshawar, among other places.
Many people in the audience were also interested in Lahore and its images of Badshahi Mosque and Shalimar Gardens had them spellbound.
The Sikhs in the audience were captivated by what Langar described as the beautiful, majestic samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (the leader of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century) and stories of Guru Nanak Dev ji and Guru Arjan Dev.
From my four visits to Pakistan, I can attest that the Sikh gurdwaras there are sublime, and emit an aura of calm and
a sense of being untouched by modernity, especially seeing the frescos depicting Sikh history, the trees and groves that Guru Nanak enjoyed in his last years at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak in Nankanna Sahib, and the breathtaking, serene space at Gurdwara Panja Sahib. In the last five years, several Sikhs from the Lower Mainland have travelled to these Sikh historical sites. They told me that when they returned to Canada, they began preparing for their next trip back to Pakistan.