Image versus reality

Pakistan is today perhaps the country with the most negative image in the world. The print and electronic media seem to be intoxicated with projecting Pakistan as terrorist hub, haven of Islamic fundamentalism, hotbed of violence, zone of lawlessness...

But for millions of people living in Pakistan, daily life - is like daily life for people anywhere else in the world: work and leisure, energy and fatigue, young and old, home and workplace, joys and sorrows, hope and frustration, laughter and tears... Amidst the blitzkrieg of negative portrayal of Pakistan, the basic humanity of the people of Pakistan seems to have been completely ejected! And that must be saddening and enervating for the people of Pakistan. As much was expressed by Begum Nawazish Ali, the host of a very popular tv programmes in Pakistan, in the television programme on Discovery, Don't Tell My Mother, in its recent feature on Pakistan.

Hence one looks, like Diogenes, for the intrepid journalists, writers and photographers, who venture off the beaten track, and bring us stories, images and portraits that convey and affirm the essential humanity of the people of Pakistan.

But that is something The Big Picture, with its collection of 40 images from Pakistan taken from AP, AFP and Reuters clearly fails to do. The introduction, the images, and most of all, the captions are all hell-bent on ramming the stereotype down our tired throats. Sad, considering the potential for an empathic, humane portrayal shown in pictures like those below from that collection. (The captions are reproduced.)

Muslim devotees light oil lamps at the shrine
of Muslim saint Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore, February
14, 2009. Thousands of devotees from all over the
country were expected to attend the three-day festival
to mark the anniversary of the death of the saint.
(REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

A Pakistani vendor waits for customers as he holds
heart-shaped balloons on a street in Islamabad on
February 14, 2009. Valentine's Day has gained
popularity in Muslim-dominated Pakistan recently.
(Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghan refugee children play in the Kochi
refugee camp on the outskirts of Karachi February 12,
2009. (REUTERS/Athar Hussain)

A Pakistani barber cuts the hair of a boy in a barber
shop on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday,
Jan. 31, 2009. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

That the ordinary, everyday life of ordinary people, in places considered to be outside the zone of normalcy, can be conveyed by photography (and caption), and thus bring people together rather than distance them - is well proven by Behrouz Mehri, in this picture reproduced in No Caption Needed.

An Iranian man skewers chicken for grilling as he
picnics with his family

1 comment:

Trueman said...

Thanx for this nice post, especially at a time when this country is passing thru crisis after crisis, but the spirit of the people shall daunt these crises as it has done through centuries. As a country may undergo political changes but the spirit remains and this very spirit always persists.
The people of Pakistan have always been spirited and so shall they remain. We believe in the resilience of this country, this nation and its people who carry the legacy of centuries old civilizations. With our good friends in India who think so good of us, we feel very proud of being Pakistani and being an active member of the SAARC. We feel that this time will pass as always today’s present is tomorrow’s past but noble feelings of humanity always live and so shall the spirit of Pakistan and the spirit of friendship between the people of India and Pakistan, irrespective of the politicians who have their own agenda to fulfill.

Nayyar Hashmey