Pakistan in Gentler Times

25 May




In 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy, came on a goodwill visit to Pakistan. Her trip was widely documented and photographed. Circulating on the internet is a video of her visit. Watching it, makes me nostalgic for gentler times in Pakistan. And not just gentler times but times when bombs and beards weren’t the defining hallmarks of our nation. 

I was wondering what would a Michelle Obama visit to Pakistan look like? Well its highly unlikely to happen because of our vitriolic hate for the United States of America, propogated by the media and clergy that has put all of us in a frenzy of fiery hate against the US for all that ails our country, regardless of whether they had a hand in causing it or not. 

But forget Michelle, no other first lady is likely to visit either. Actually no one is likely to visit! With the security situation in Pakistan, especially the targeting of Westerners we have deprived our country of a valuable source of income but also good publicity! With our borders closed to visitors and the airwaves open to the “breaking news” images of terrorists and angry young people, Pakistan is not on the list of popular tourist destinations. 

But if some brave first lady were to venture into Pakistan, her trip would look remarkable different. In this video of Jackie Kennedy’s visit, there are large crowds lining the roads and waving to her. There would be no crowds, thronging the roadside. They would be barricaded miles away. 

Jacqueline Kennedy with Lee Radziwill on a camel ride, Karachi, March 25, 1962

Jackie and her sister Lee, dazzle the gathered crowds with their smiles and “trendy merican dress.” There is no covering of the head or of the arms and legs. Both sisters appear in fashionable form fitting dresses with bare arms and lega. And there is no furore. The crowds seem unnmoved by the western dress and rather charmed and enamored. Clearly, there was a time when we were not obsessed with women’s dress and were more tolerant and accepting of what foreigners chose to wear. I doubt it would be the case anymore. If some foreign dignitary wore such clothes today, I imagine, there would be  loud proclamations of collective istaghfirullahs, a program by amir liaqat declaring them “Wajib-ul-qatl” and some protests by the Jamaat-e-Islami women’s wing demanding a ban on foreign dignitaries.

But the saddest was the realization that no other female foreign dignirtary will be visitng the “kyber pass region” anytime soon and walking about freely. And not for a long time, will this region be rightfully recognized for its rich cutlure, its dancers, poets and story tellers. 


2 Responses to “Pakistan in Gentler Times”

  1. Hassan May 26, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Just saw pictures of that visit at 1969 (Islamabadi restaurant) and was reflecting on the same.

    There many similarities between the first couple then and now. The situation is so different though.

    Unrelated: Same theme on Seham’s website.


  2. Khan May 27, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    It was a different world [& Kennedy was probably the best president they had] but you must realize the role the U.S Govt played as a whole towards the end of the 1960’s till now [which you fail to point out]

    It is a horrific example of hypocrisy be it the 65 Pk-Indo war of the Afgan War. I cannot go into the details here

    Obviously today the First couple would not be very welcome. Certainly not in the Frontier where their drones come along weekly visits killing innocent women & children while claiming they have killed terrorists!

    I beg to differ with you in your obsessive anti-Jamaat rhetoric which appears almost everywhere. Jamaats aren’t formed out of the blue, they are partly formed due to people who have resentment. [& No i am not a Jamaat member, i’m trying to look at both sides of the coin]

    In Ayub’s era Pakistan was generally flourishing. From what elders say; there weren’t many reasons for resentment. Buses sat passengers according to seats available. Bicycles had to have lights by law. People knew what a line was and cleanliness was respected. Horse carriages [tongas] were required by law to have a cloth hanging below the horses to make sure the animal secretion did not fall on the road!! Its hard to believe all this now.

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