Susan Hyland

Susan Hyland

Political Counsellor, British High Commission, Pakistan

Part of UK in Pakistan

24th May 2012 Islamabad, Pakistan

“We don’t have mango trees…”

At bhallan village

On Saturday I was invited to the little village of Bhallah in the Punjab for the opening of a new road.  I had never heard of Bhallah before, but it’s a village with lots of links to the UK.

Councillor Mohammad Bhatti, MBE, comes from Bhallah.  He moved to the UK in his 20s.  He married, set up his own business, and later served as Mayor of Chesham.  He is now a Buckinghamshire County Councillor.

Counsellor Rabia Bhatti is his daughter. She was elected last year in Chesham, becoming one of the youngest counsellors in the UK. Soon afterwards she was invited to meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani, to honour her achievements. And this and the public service of other notables from Bhallah led to the new road being build.

As a diplomat, I see many links between the UK and Pakistan, but this was the first time I had visited British Pakistanis in their home village. I also spend far too much time in Islamabad, so it was good to have a glimpse of rural life. Of course I didn’t see the real difficulties that poor people face in the countryside, just the well-known Pakistani warmth and hospitality. But I’m glad that the new road should help to bring new economic opportunities.

One young boy asked me about the differences. Drinking tea, and looking out over green fields, cows, fruit trees and distant hills in the late afternoon sun, I could almost have been in rural England. “We don’t have mango trees,” I said.

A few days earlier, I was in Karachi, Pakistan’s megalopolis and economic powerhouse of 20 million people.

It’s a real city, with all the energy and diversity as well as the problems of a big port. In Karachi, too, there are visible links to the UK, and optimism about the future.

Outside Debenhams
Outside Debenhams

UK businesses are seizing the opportunity to sell in Pakistan’s growing market. Debenhams will be Pakistan’s first International department store when it opens in the Dolmen Mall in Clifton in a month or two.  But it’s not the only familiar shop in the mall. Walking around, I spotted Next, the Body Shop, Crabtree and Evelyn, Mothercare and Monsoon, as well as some of the most glamorous names in Pakistani fashion and textiles. Butlers from Ireland have a stylish café, with chocolates and coffee.

I bought a dress by a well-known Pakistani designer, Deepak Perwani.  I wore it in Islamabad for a banquet for the Turkish Prime Minister.  But it will be perfect for a summer night in London too. I’m hoping that some entrepreneurs will bring contemporary Pakistani fashion to the UK.

I also insisted on seeing the sea, and my wonderful police escort took me for a walk on the beach.

At Jinnah’s tomb

Karachi also offered an opportunity to reflect on Pakistan’s history.  I visited Jinnah’s tomb and the Mohatta Palace where Fatima Jinnah lived.  And I also met people from civil society, the media and politics who give me optimism about Pakistan’s future.

4 comments on ““We don’t have mango trees…”

  1. Respected Madam
    it is indeed a good omen that you are visiting our rural areas and distressed people.May you be helpful for them and bring happiness and joy for them. Amin

  2. My Dear , Britain did not divide us in 1947
    if The Britain does not join us in 1947 then today, we are under Indian Control . and if the British were not present in this region In 1857, today we are all controlled by Russia or India . Now just think of the Great Britain ? who saved us from slavery and domination of Hindus & Russia, So long Live Great Britain

  3. Sir , your diplomatic activities in Pakistan are very good .
    But the spirit of Sir James Abbott Is dying to get your attention,
    Please save it

    Thank You

Comments are closed.

About Susan Hyland

I have been Political Counsellor at the British High Commission in Islamabad since December 2011. Before coming to Pakistan, I was Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department at the…

I have been Political Counsellor at the British High Commission in Islamabad since December 2011. Before coming to Pakistan, I was Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, and before that I served in Moscow, Paris, New York and Oslo. I enjoy European literature, theatre and art, and am looking forward to discovering Urdu and Pakistani writings and culture. I’ll be blogging about similarities and differences between Pakistan and the UK and specifically about things that illuminate the differences and each other’s perspectives.

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