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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 15:09 GMT
One day in Pakistan: Views and news

Karachi residents

Six residents of Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, have been spending the day with the BBC. They are answering e-mails sent from around the world about their lives and their country.

Pakistan has been passing through months of turmoil, including a recent state of emergency imposed by President Musharraf and spreading Islamist militancy. National and provincial elections are due in January.

1848: 'Engine for growth'

It sometimes seems that there are (at least) two Pakistans: one which you inhabit and another more rural one that is a long way, both geographically and culturally, from the prosperous south. Do you worry that this may lead to some kind of fragmentation? John Inglis, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom

Moin Ali

In a country like Pakistan where there are diverse sub-cultures, there will always be different views.

The south cannot slow down its economic growth because the north is lagging behind.

Many people from the north move to the south to share economic benefits. So it is necessary that at least some part of the country should act as an engine for growth.

'National will'

You say that Pakistan has always been in a state of emergency.
Pakistani soldiers on patrol in Mingora region in the north-west - 13/12/2007
The army has been battling militants in the north-west

What can hold Pakistan together when it has hugely diverse, warring interest groups and half its geographic area is beyond the control of the government? David Kemp, Carlisle, England, UK

Moin Ali: Pakistan has faced these problems for a long time and the people have developed capabilities to deal with the situation.

The present situation is tough but the nation has the will and the skills to get over it.

'Shared values'

Do you agree with the thinking in India that Pakistan is unlikely to fall into extremist control because its moderate core is large, resilient and flexible enough to overwhelm extremism? NG Krishnan, Bangalore, India

Moin Ali: I absolutely agree. A majority of Pakistanis are moderate and flexible. And believe it or not, common Pakistanis tend to relate to India more favourably than to any other country because of our shared values and culture.

Bridging the gap

You have highlighted the gap between the haves and the have-nots. How to bridge this gap? Farhan Khan, Toronto, Canada

Moin Ali: The only way to bridge this gap is to focus on the growth of the industrial and agricultural sectors. Growth in service sectors such as banking, real estate and the stock market, as has happened here, does not benefit the common man.

1730: Different lives

Why are the women participants from the village wearing veils and those from the city are without veils? Conrad Gebhart, Oregon, USA

Unaiza Maniar: This just shows that women in the city live a life that is way too different than that of the women in rural areas. If women in the village fail to cover their head, they will be seen as "too liberal" and disapproved of.

1600: 'Glorified soap opera'

What are your views on the current political crisis in Pakistan and what do your fellow students want to see in the future Pakistani government? Karanvir Mehra, Chandigarh, India

Unaiza Maniar
Unaiza Maniar: Quite frankly, I don't care much about politics.

To me, it's a glorified soap opera. It is however difficult to ignore the consequences of political actions.

As far as I'm concerned, our leaders need to gain some clarity if we ever hope to first stabilise and then grow as a nation.

Sharia law

Do you fear the rise to power of the Islamist parties, and the use of Sharia law to enforce controls of women's rights? Andy Kelly, Thornton-Cleveleys, UK

Unaiza Maniar: I would have to reply in the affirmative. But I must clarify that religion is being used as a tool for hypocrites to get away with murder.

1530: Poverty trap

Why do you consider education and poverty as the most serious problems of your country? How can these problems be tackled? Fernando Levy, Monterrey, Mexico

Tasleem Hafeez: Poverty can be both mental and economic. Economically, more than 30% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line. They cannot afford the basic necessities of life. This leads to psychological handicaps. Such people can easily fall into the extremists' trap. Raising people's awareness is a basic task, and only the government has the resources to do it.

1425: Sexual politics

How is homosexuality perceived in Pakistan? Paul Cuff, London, UK

Asim Butt
Asim Butt: Pakistanis are generally tolerant of homosexuality but don't like to bring sexual politics into public.

Men and women engage in homosexual acts without necessarily identifying themselves as "gay".

However, western ideas of about sexuality do shape the identity and cultural practices of a growing middle-class "gay" community.

Artistic space

When you create a work of art that you are personally proud of and want to share with the rest of the community, is there a venue for you to exhibit in freedom? Guido Serbée, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada

Asim Butt: There are plenty of gallery spaces, with new ones opening every so often.

1351: Nuclear safety

With the perpetual political instability in your country and the more recent militant-related lawlessness, the question of the nuclear material being under the control of responsible authorities has been a concern. Do you think the military rule is the only safe option? Totara, Auckland, New Zealand

Saima Baig
Saima Baig: I don't think any authority is going to be irresponsible with nuclear technology.

But I do feel that at the moment it would be better to have it under President Musharraf.

Trade prospects

When do you think Pakistan will be able to move up to a level where international businesses can feel comfortable in dealing with Pakistan as a serious business partner, as they do with India, China, Korea, the Philippines etc? Tim Awan, Islington, London

Saima Baig: I think it is a misconception that other countries are "easy". They have their own problems. I do understand your concern, and I feel that with the way things are progressing economically, as soon as the elections are over, things would get much better.

1245: Education

Do you believe that the government of Pakistan should provide free public education to all children? I know that the only educational opportunity for many poor Pakistani boys are the fundamentalist madrassas.

Would you also like to see some of the billions of dollars in US aid to Pakistan diverted to public education instead of supporting the military? David Ruben, Indianapolis, Indiana, US

Tasleem Hafeez

I agree with you that it is the responsibility of the government to provide universal education.

We can fight our problems better when there are more educated people around.

But David, all madrassas are not fundamentalist. As for US support for the military, we need to strike a balance between our need for education and defence.

Equal opportunities?

What are the opportunities for girls and young women from the lower classes to get good education and flourish as professionals? Nicola Campbell, Victoria, BC, Canada

Tasleem Hafeez: Lower class women and women from more remote areas of Pakistan have fewer opportunities for education and professional growth. But the government is working in this area and we hope for the better. Besides, it is not as if lower class women have no opportunities at all. Many of them have migrated to urban areas, study at the universities and even get foreign scholarships.

Wealth gap

As an economist, where do you see avenues for improving the lives of the middle and lower class people because despite tremendous economic growth, only a fraction of the population has benefited, and the gap between rich and poor is surely at an all-time high? Ahmed Jamil, Chicago, US

Saima Baig: The gap between the rich and poor is the result of 60 years of corruption. A decade of economic progress is not going to reduce it. If we continue on the path that Mr Musharraf has put us on, we will get there.

Media restrictions

You said the media in Pakistan needs to be more balanced. Is the mainstream media in Pakistan favouring your current president too much? Is the Pakistan People's Party being inadequately presented? Marc Larocque, Taunton, Mass, US

People in Karachi watch President Pervez Musharraf on TV - file photo
President Musharraf has placed some restrictions on the media
Saima Baig: In my opinion, the media got carried away and had to end up being censored.

When I said it had to be more balanced, I meant that it portrayed the country as if it was on the brink of collapse, which was not the case.

It should also show the progress made during the last decade.

Freedom of worship

Christians in Pakistan suffer much discrimination and even persecution. Converts from the Muslim faith face death threats. Given your wish to support the disadvantaged, would you be willing to try to change the law to protect religious minorities? Pam Farmer, UK

Tasleem Hafeez: According to our religion, Christians are also our brothers and sisters. They can worship here freely and the government supports them.

1215: Corruption and politics

Why do so many Pakistanis support the return to civilian government when those under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were very corrupt and held back meaningful economic development? Tim Gibbs, Vancouver, Canada

Mohammad Umar
Mohammad Umar: The leaders you call corrupt have been imported by the very military junta under US patronage.

Please don't forget that Mr Musharraf's policies have caused militancy to go out of control, and corruption is rampant in the country.

It may be a way to help reverse these trends.

1215: Nuclear option

Do you think Pakistan should renounce the nuclear option? Roland Evans, Dublin Ireland

Mohammad Umar: Pakistani nukes are a deterrent against possible Indian attack. Pakistan should renounce its nukes if others also do so.

1150: 'Democratic institutions'

Pakistani riot police disperse protesters trying to reach home of the former chief justice who is under house arrest - 17/12/2007
President Musharraf lifted the state of emergency on 15 December
Pakistan is often portrayed in the media as a dangerous and backward country in permanent turmoil that supplies the world with dedicated and hard-working immigrants, but little more.

What does Pakistan have to offer to the world to dispel this limited vision? Gabino Carballo, Barcelona, Spain

Mohammad Umar: Pakistan will become more dangerous if it remains in military control. If given a chance to build democratic institutions, we could become a very talented and educated nation.

1150: Economic recovery?

Military dictators are not popular anywhere. Yet I guess that Pervez Musharraf is popular with sizeable sections of the Pakistani population for the kind of economic recovery he has brought about in the country since he seized power. Is that a fair comment and is his popularity then justified? Jabli Izvesti, Kalimpong, India

Mohammad Umar: Mr Musharraf is currently the most unpopular leader who is seen to have got himself elected through a hostage parliament and by suppressing the judiciary. The common man has been the biggest loser under his economic policies.

1100: 'Plain hypocrisy'

Do you think Pakistan's youth should do more to tackle extremism? Do you think the West should do more? Do you agree that Pakistan is the largest exporter of terrorists in the world? Gurdip, Coventry, England

Unaiza Maniar: Pakistani youth should definitely do more to tackle this issue because it is in violation of the tenets of Islam.
Unaiza Maniar
As for the West, it seems quite ambivalent in tackling such issues. That is plain hypocrisy.

Is it not so that one country's freedom fighter is another country's terrorist?

Allegations against Pakistan being the breeding ground for terrorists are atrocious and untrue.

1100: 'Brainwashed'

If the present system of Pakistan is, as you say, rotting and stagnant, what should be the role of youth? More than 65% of the Pakistani population consists of young people. What part have they played in stabilising the political situation? Asif Iqbal, Abu Dhabi, UAE/Manchester, UK

Unaiza Maniar: The youth is more empowered today than in the past, owing to private TV channels. Sadly, voicing their opinions have led to more friction. Only a small percentage of the youth are literate. Others are brainwashed by politicians and led into internal conflict. Therefore, political stability for now is a far cry.

1027: Adversity and art

How do you develop your talents in a country that doesn't offer opportunities to become famous or at least earn a decent salary? Don't you feel frustrated? Geovanna Martinez, Lima, Peru

Asim Butt

Asim Butt: Pakistan offers plenty of chances to earn both a reputation as well as money making art. Pakistani art is in the ascendant in Western art capitals.

There are several reputable art schools and artists' collectives that train and expose artists to contemporary art practices around the world.

Besides, adversities one faces in developing one's talents and delivering its fruit to the public at large is precisely what gives my art its sting.

1015: Dictator v civilian rule

Saima Baig

Q: Pakistan has made more economic progress under dictatorial rule than it ever has under civilian rule notably that of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. What are your thoughts on this? Neeraj, Boston, USA

Saima Baig: Terrorism is a huge problem, but this country is entrenched in corruption.

Because of corruption we have other social issues, which have led to terrorism.

If we get rid of corruption, I am pretty sure we'll get rid of other problems as well.

1009: Homosexuality taboo

Do you think western culture, for example TV shows with sexual content, have a bad influence on your generation of Pakistanis? And how do they view homosexuality? Jo, London, UK

Unaiza Maniar:

Unaiza Maniar
"Moderation should be key"

I think such TV shows are making the present generation of Pakistanis a bit too 'out there'. Moderation should always be key to deciding what needs to be told, and how.

As for homosexuality, it is considered taboo among the majority of Pakistanis.

However, this does not in any way mean that we are a close-minded people.

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