It’s well documented how foreign media views and stereotypes Pakistan. For the youth, paranoia has been created which has changed perceptions of Pakistan. There have been various initiatives to challenge and change these stigmas.
Till now, nobody had heard of 24-year old Moin Khan but suddenly with the viral impact of Facebook and his website, his popularity has seen a sudden rise as he started a 28,000 mile solo motorcycle journey from San Francisco, California to his hometown Lahore.
For several years, Khan had lived in Bay area, California, going to school at San Francisco State University where he studied International Business while also doing various part-time jobs. The news he would hear about his home country was rarely positive and was quite often depressing. From here, Khan developed the idea to do something positive for his country and help change the perception of Pakistan.
“You never really hear any good news about Pakistan,” remarks Khan who is currently spending the night in Vancouver. “I wondered how I could play a part in improving the image of Pakistanis and I thought this great adventure gave me the opportunity to break stereotypes and tell people that Pakistan isn’t really all that bad.”
For this reason, the trip back to his hometown has been largely unplanned. He will be on the road for four to five months, attempting to interact with people and, hopefully, promote Pakistan. “I have no idea where I’ll be staying during the nights, I have some camping gear but no idea where the campgrounds are,” says Khan. “I am attempting to do this old-school style without the use of global positioning system (GPS) because this will give me a chance to talk to strangers for directions.”
The idea may seem far-fetched but Khan does have a rough understanding of the countries he will pass in traveling across the globe. According to his website and Facebook page, Khan plans on riding through Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. He then plans on cruising through Turkey, Iran, thus entering Pakistan and then heading home to Lahore.
The bike he is using for the trip is a Honda CBR 600 F4i sport bike, which has been custom fitted with a touring rack but few have tried to go such long distances across so many countries.
According to his cousin, Ali Khan, an IT professional in the US, the response to the initiative thus far has been unique and Moin’s Facebook page has gained over a thousand followers in the last couple of days. He added that there was no confirmed date of when he would be arriving in Pakistan but there was already talk of people receiving him when he entered the country.
“He had thought of the idea around three years ago and he has always said that whatever small role one can play by speaking to one person at a time, is a form of making a difference,” said Ali. “The interesting thing is that a lot of this is uncoordinated, for instance when he was in Portland a guy from his online bikers forum gave him a place to stay for the night but in other cases its largely hotels or sleeping bags.”
In the end, Khan comes across surely as a modern-day adventurer or thrill-seeker who has, as his website specifies, ‘a different agenda’. For him, the journey will help decrease the hole in people’s knowledge about Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2011.