Pakistan had had an incredibly tough decade with terrorism, sectarian violence, no electricity, limited gas and petrol meaning industry and business has shut down, unprecedented inflation and high crime.
In the last few years we have had to contend with my mum’s younger brother (one of my favourite people and a very sweet man) being kidnapped for money and not being returned for many weeks until we had paid up a significant amount of money (you can read about it here, here, here and here). This is something that had been happening across the country making it unsafe for people to travel to Pakistan from abroad.
We've also been affected by the sectarian violence in Karachi with family members trying to move to other cities then moving back to Karachi again as they have networks and employment there. Karachi is also dealing with gangs supported by local sectarian groups demanding taxes from shopkeepers and business owners. Another of my mum’s brothers was targeted because he owns a curtain factory. He refused to pay up and had people come to his factory to smash his equipment. They caused significant damage and then only left when he paid up part of what they were demanding which is all that he could demand.
When Little Lady was ten months old (ten years ago now), we visited Pakistan and found that the living standards had become pretty good. There was an emerging middle class which meant that unlike before we could easily find the same brand nappies, baby milk and baby food we used in London along with pretty much anything else we needed. We felt safe travelling around Lahore and during the six hour journey to our village in Jhelum.
My grandparents village in Pakistan
We returned five years later with all three of our children and found a different situation (some memories captured here and here). You could only get electricity a few hours a day otherwise you could sit in the dark and hot and wait for it to come back. That meant you couldn't run the fans, refrigerate stuff or even go shopping in the evening when the heat decreases as the shop lights are all off.
That seemed pretty bad, but since then things have gotten so much worse. Petrol prices going through the roof and still massive queues every time a fuel station opens, gas shortages. There are food shortages meaning one week you can’t find flour and the next you can’t get sugar (although the bird flu scare meant that the poorest people could suddenly afford chicken at one point because no one else would touch it). Inflation is so bad that even if you can find food it costs so much that it wipes out everything you have earned to purchase the basics. Then there are the safety issues, there is the Pakistani version of the Taliban blowing up everything in sight without rhyme or reason with no masjid, shrine or public place exempt.
When people used to say Pakistan is a failed state or that it is too dangerous to go there, I used to think “what do they know?” But the country is now at a point that it seems foolhardy to want to take your children there.
But I am still hopeful. Allah (SWT) tests us and then he sends us ease insh’Allah. I am hoping that the election of Nawaz Sharif (and his brother Shabaz) forms a turning point for the country. I hope he manages to calm the Taliban and get some control over the violence and gangs in Karachi. I pray he gets the electricity running and inflation under control.
Pakistan was created with the noblest of intentions – a homeland for the Muslims of South Asia to call their own. The Constitution defines the national purpose as: “To strive for a democratic order based on the principles of Quran and Sunnah.”
I pray it is time for the dream of Pakistan to move towards fruition insh’Allah and that this stunningly beautiful place and its gorgeous people finally get the opportunity to prosper and create the country that Pakistan should be insh’Allah.
You can read Kook's wonderful post on the Pakistan elections here.
Deosai in Pakistan (image source)
Mingora in Pakistan (image source)
Badshai masjid in one of my favourite places - Lahore (image source)
Bustling Karachi (image source)