Some time ago, I was engaged in a small discussion with a Lebanese man while sitting in Makkah waiting for prayers. Upon telling him I was a Pakistani, he proclaimed,

‘Oh! You mean Indian! Their women wear sarees and nose pins and your women do the same. Both of you speak Urdu, share the same music and have similar cultural dances. It’s the same thing’. An Arab, Moroccan and an American Muslim sitting nearby whole-heartedly agreed.

No… it’s not the same thing – the only same thing here is a severe case of historical deprivation!

The Real Pakistani is not an Indian, not in 2011. Sure, the majority of us might love Indians with all our hearts please don’t get me wrong. Have you ever seen the rush at the first showing of any Bollywood movie in Karachi cinemas? We appreciate their talent! But calling Barrack Obama Bill Clinton is a grave error. So is calling a Pakistani an Indian; or for that matter stereotyping Pakistanis with any untrue myths about them.

So the following is my compilation of 5 absolutely untrue myths about Pakistanis that I’m sick and tired of hearing!:

  1. Time-Tales: Or ‘time-talers’ – which we aren’t. We do stick to commitments and we do respect timelines. Have you ever seen us celebrate 14th August on the 15th? You must have heard about the way we plan our weddings months ahead of the actual date. Jewelry, dresses, shoes… even the tiniest little details of our women’s make-up are taken care of weeks earlier.
  2. Non-fluency: The myth about us not being able to speak English is untrue, despite the fact that the vast majority of us don’t know it from birth! Our mother tongue is Urdu after all. Most of our youth – from the metros to other key cities of Pakistan – speak English fairly well. And that gives them an added bonus of knowing two languages. By the way, who decided that speaking English is synonymous with being educated anyway? Lots of our PHDs and engineers have studied in Urdu-medium backgrounds, speak very little English, but are absolutely brilliant at their work. So, the next time Shahid Afridi chooses to give the closing speech of his match in Urdu, it doesn’t mean he isn’t fluent in language – he is fluent in the one he should be fluent in!
  3. Conformists: Our women are believed to be conservative and our men puppets. Neither seems capable of taking revolutionary moves. Observe again. Some elements within our country have left no opportunity to destroy lives and futures. But the average Pakistani takes a deep breath and faces life courageously every day. In less than 3 months in 2011, SMEDA reports 1000 plus new online businesses in the country. We are not conformists. We are taking charge of changing our individual futures, if not that of the whole country. Had we been conformists we wouldn’t have been alive – nearly half of the country being in darkness, without safe drinking water, in the 21st century, is a enough to kill anyone. But we are surviving.
  4. Cheats: Most of us have valid driving licenses when we don’t even know where the official license office is located! We don’t know our emergency police number, because we don’t trust them. We will look for shortcuts where possible – at work and in life. But we are not cheats. No more than any other nation anyway. Things like these happen in all countries. Mugging, theft, ‘references’, bribery and corruption are everywhere. How come we get blamed for all the wrong happening in the world?
  5. We are all the Same: It’s true that a country’s leaders reflect the nation’s mindset. This is untrue and highly unfair in our case though. An average Pakistani doesn’t care who rules the government. A real Pakistani is a true patriot who loves his country and will go to any lengths to save it. He/she is an honest hardworking citizen who wants security and happiness for all his/her fellow men. Deep in his/her heart they fear God, and are a good friend who sticks to their commitments. Just because a few rotten eggs spoil our scenery, it certainly doesn’t speak for our national character. The real Pakistani is very different to what the media portrays.

We are not responsible for all the corruption in the world. We don’t want Afghanistan to be bombed and neither do we want the Iraqis to die. We want peace and happiness in our lives as much as you want it. We are not extremists and not all of us will always break our promises. But you’ll only know this if you have the courage to go beyond the myths and seek out the true Pakistani.