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Himalaya

Day 28: Lahore to Amritsar

Michael Palin - HimalayaOn the front page of the newspaper there is a photograph of a man on a ladder painting black stripes over an advert that shows an unveiled woman holding an apple drink. He is described as a member of the Shabab-I-Milli Islamist Activist group. Lower down the page are pictures of two sisters, their faces disfigured by acid thrown by the husband of one of them. 'Acid attacks,' notes the report, 'are among the worst of the huge numbers of crimes against women committed in Pakistan.'

There could hardly be two more graphic reminders of the problems that loom ahead for the country as it tries to reconcile progress with deeply entrenched tradition.

As I pack for the last time before crossing the border to India, I have to say that Pakistan has been a revelation. Simplistic post 9/11 propaganda sought to equate it with terrorism, as if you could equate a population greater than that of France and Germany combined with any single thought or idea. I have found Pakistan to be infinitely more complex and diverse than I had been prepared for. Wilder and more beautiful too. Never once did I feel threatened. Give or take a few cold beers, I leave it with regret.

The Indian border is only 18 miles (30 km) from Lahore, an accident of politics that brought terrible suffering to the city when Pakistan was created in 1947. The exact details of where the frontier would run were not revealed by the British until a few hours before independence was declared. When it became clear that one of India's oldest and most prestigious cities was to become part of Pakistan an hysterical panic broke out. As half a million Hindus and Sikhs fled east and even more Muslims fled west, reprisals on both sides were swift and bloody.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 28: Lahore to Amritsar
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Lahore
  • Book page no: 60

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