“A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.”

–Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan was once a liberal country, free from all extremist thoughts and opinions, before the advent of the Hudood Ordinance under the military dictatorship of Zia-Ul-Haq. There was a time when the elites could indulge in activities like gambling in casinos, drinking in bars and women could wear any type of clothing without having to fear judgement from the masses. Government owned enterprises, like PIA, were known globally to have the widest selection of alcoholic beverages during the 1960-70s. The openness towards western cultures also allowed the economy to flourish and bring back great revenue.

Pakistan was even on the route of the famous hippie trail that extended all the way from Turkey, through Afghanistan and Pakistan and finally ending in Nepal in India. Cities like Peshawar provided cheap facilities to backpacking westerners along with the freedom to smoke cannabis without any consequences. It was in Karachi where, Paul McCartney from The Beatles, received a more than warm welcome by hundreds of men and women who were anxious to meet him and express their appreciation for his talent. Nightclubs were largely successful due to tipsy eager crowds enjoying jazz music and dancing the night away.

It is not to say that religion was a distant concept during those times but the level of tolerance and acceptance for modern traditions was at its peak. Mutual respect for each other’s opinions was reflected greatly in the past and it wasn’t until extremist laws were passed that fanaticism was inculcated into the mindsets of the people making them the intolerant and rash population of today. Perhaps Pakistan could have prospered to being the social and economic hub, a future that was envisioned before radicalism spread institutionally.