After the blog about travelling on a third world passport I got a lot of interesting feedback from people who try exploring the world on passports from Iran, Pakistan, and African countries. One of the most discouraging stories came from my good friend whom I met in Islamabad. It is bad enough to have a green passport with the 71 power rank that makes you the most unwelcome person in neighboring India (despite the fact that Indian and Pakistani Punjabis are of the same ethnicity, the historical enmity between the countries since post-colonial partition makes the visa process and independent travel almost impossible, although still better than Iran-Israel relationship). But if you are also a woman who is just trying to travel the world, play music, dance and meet new people, you are guaranteed to be humiliated by almost every visa center on the planet. Although according to the ranking, Pakistanis still have a visa-free access to 46 countries (I wonder which ones), when they do need a visa, they face with the same issue as outsiders travelling to Pakistan: you need to apply from your own country. This, for my friend, was a total nightmare, because after getting married and moving to Europe, she still had to travel on her Pakistani passport for the first year.
When she and her husband decided to go on a trip around the world, multiple consulates simply refused to take her documents and insisted that she should go to Pakistan and apply from there, the Vietnamese consulate asked to pay $300 to just consider her application, Taiwan declared that they do not let in any Pakistanis unless they come for a conference or on a business visa, and the Korean consulate, after a series of emails, admitted that: ‘We are sure you are a nice person but let us be clear: we will reject your application just because of your nationality’.
Another friend of mine, from Islamabad, would be glad to work freelance and travel the world, but getting out of the country for him as a traveller, not worker, is as difficult as getting a job on ISS.
Anyway, considering that few people actually know what is in Pakistan – except Osama Bin Laden’s last resort, black market for illegal arms, a lot of Afghan refugees, and terrorist cells, I feel that this photo essay can convince you that Pakistan, in fact, is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. I travelled there in 2012, and I did have to get my visa long time in advance, back in my home country (there is no way around it), and I never got to visit the southern parts of the country, but Karakoram highway, that connects Islamabad with Kashgar, in China, is hands down the most beautiful mountain road I have ever seen.
Another my story about a hidden valley in Pakistan and Wakhi people can be found here: Milking goats in the hidden valley