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The Pakistanis

In some ways you’d swear they were Indians. Pakistanis have the same predilection for endless discussion over glasses of tea, solving the world’s problems from a roadside café.

Yet at the same time it’s very different. Whereas in India you have to fight for every rupee, here there’s a stronger moral code and a greater sense of duty. People will often walk up to you and ask if they can help you with any problem you might be having in their country.

Or instead of trying to overcharge you, the man selling the bowls of chickpeas and rice refuses payment because you are a guest in his country.

The character of the people varies greatly depending on the area. The wild mountain regions are the home of warriors and smugglers where men are men and women are none of your business.

Then in the South the pen is mightier than the rifle and an intellectual mind is prized. Likely as not someone will sit down beside you in a cafe and casually ask:

“So, what is the current state of existentialism in Europe?”

Either way though, it’s a country of men. From Baluchistan up through the Pathan province to the Punjab you can go months without speaking to a single woman. In these areas they are hugely protective of their women and a stranger would never be allowed to stay in the same house. Instead they build barns and cabins outside where guests can safely stay without upsetting the status quo.

The only hope for a free thinking Pakistani is to head south where people are more secular and open minded. It can be a very lonely place for a Pakistani who thinks for himself. Religious and cultural values hold sway in most of the country and it can be dangerous for the locals to say what they really think.