On my flight to Karachi I sat next to a young man returning to the city for his brother’s wedding.
He was a Karachi native who had attended design school in Ireland and now worked in a men’s clothing shop in Cork.
We shared a can of Heineken I had purchased in the airport in Abu Dhabi and talked about his home city. I wondered why he’d left and was he worried about returning.
“The only people who worry about me being in Karachi are my boyfriend and my mother.” His boyfriend was in Cork. His mother was in Karachi.
I asked if he would ever return to live in Pakistan.
“No,” he said stretching the word out into a laugh. “There’s no place for me there. I could never live there.”
The word “live” went beyond just breathing, eating, drinking. It had more of the essence of being.
He could not be who he is in Pakistan. He had given up on Pakistan.
During our short visit I met a handful of young people who had given up on Pakistan. I can understand why.
The one constant on my map of Pakistan is a very long road ahead. Making Pakistan the nation it deserves to be will be a struggle.
It made me realize my map of Pakistan is useless.
Maps at best show three things. Where you are, where you are going and how to get there.
These things are all up to Pakistanis, not me.
The rest of the world can contribute. At times we will help. At times we will hinder. But Pakistanis must decide.
Pakistanis will map their own future.
OPB photographer and web editor Michael Clapp recently returned from a two-week trip to Pakistan with six other American journalists as part of an exchange program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists. This is the final of five travelogues he will be writing about the trip for OPBNews.org.
Pakistan: Mapping The Unknown - OPB News Series