Inspiration Pakistan: We Are A Good People

Posted on November 21, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Pakistanis Abroad, Society
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Adil Najam

In days like these when so much of the news is so very despressing, good news feels even better than it does in good times.

I remember how good I felt when I first read (and wrote) about Rahim Khan Khilgi about a year ago. I felt exactly the same way today when I got an email alerting me to a blogpost in The Consumerist about an unnamed “Conscientious Customer” from Pakistan.

The post in The Consumerist comes from someone called Patrick and is described as an “above and beyond” story. Let us hear what Patrick has to say.

He begins with setting up the context:

The software company I work for put out a version available for download early 2007. It was a success, however for the first two months there was a small problem. As soon as you purchased it, you were able to download it BEFORE your credit card was validated. This led to the company getting burned until it was fixed.

Back in 2007 we had a customer who tried to pay for the download in Pakistan, and then paid for it with a debit card. It was the only card payment he had, and it was rejected. He had no other forms of payment, and we had to write it off as a loss while he got to enjoy using his software for free. Whatever, it was our web engineers’ mistake that caused it.

In October 2008 a letter came in the mail with a check from a customer for the Download version. Obviously this raised some questions as we could not process a download order paid by check. I opened up the file with the name on it, and lo and behold, there was the guy from Pakistan who we had written off the charge for.

I called him up, and it turns out that he just moved to the US and one of the first things he did when he had gotten a checking account was to send a check to us for the full amount of the software that we had written off over a year and a half prior.

Honesty, and memory like that is hard to find these days. I wonder if coming from another country and culture had anything to do with it.

Some of the comments on the post are even more interesting to the Pakistani reader. My favorite comment, however, was:

Neither honesty nor dishonesty know any borders.

Given the nature of the web, one hopes this is not some kind of hoax or smart-alec plant. But even if it were, it highlights a more important point: What this customer had done was the “right” thing, but not a particularly “good” thing. Why, then, does it surprise us so? Maybe, because a part of being ‘good’ is to to that which is ‘right’ – even, and especially, when we could have gotten away by doing that which was not right!

More importantly, why is my Pakistani pride awakened by the story?

These stories have the impact they have partly because they are being told by outside voices rather than by ourselves (defensively). More than that, they have impact because we know that these stories are not exceptions, they reflect the goodness – or, at least, the aspiration for goodness – in all of us. That despite the stereotypes that we have of ourselves, despite the fact that there are many amongst us who do bad things (as there are in all societies), we are a good people (indeed, I believe all people are good people).

We are, indeed, a good people. Let us, then, be defined – and define ourselves – not by those amongst us who do bad things (indeed, there are many who do). Let us aspire to emulate, instead, those who rise to the goodness within them. Life, I think, is defined by the struggle to find that goodness that lies in all of us. May all of us succeed in this struggle!

28 Comments on “Inspiration Pakistan: We Are A Good People”

  1. Viqar Minai says:
    November 21st, 2008 12:21 am

    The danger lies in complacency; that we may pat ourselves
    on the back and go home, for we are already such good people.

    The truth is that there are some exceptionally good, selfless, and noble people among Pakistanis, regardless of what the world would have us believe. How could anyone ever doubt it?

    It is equally true that we CAN BE good people in much much larger numbers. With sincere intent and hard work, and a past to inspire, there is every reason for hope and optimism.

    haft kishwar jis se hoN tasKHeer bay taeGH-o-tafang
    tu agar samjhay to teray pas voh saamaaN bhi hae

  2. coldrain says:
    November 21st, 2008 12:25 am

    Great post Adil bhai.

    I think you have highlighted a significant issue with Pakistanis today. We have gotten so carried away with being critical of things in Pakistan( conditions, people, institutions) that we have lost all faith in the ability of our nation to achieve any good.

    This is a self fulfilling prophecy, and a very dangerous one to follow. The day that we stop believing that positive change can take place, we surrender to mediocrity and oppression. No matter the conditions, we should have more self belief.

  3. Raza says:
    November 21st, 2008 12:31 am

    Wow! Kudos to that guy really.

  4. A Fine Balance says:
    November 21st, 2008 4:06 am

    What is good and evil?
    How do you define good and evil?

    Lets see. Conventional definition says anything that serves the interests of mankind is good. For example, helping people is good, being nice (honest/kind/helpful etc) to people is good.

    A man pays back money honestly with the expectation that people will be good to him too. Live and let live because humans don’t like dying and pain. Structure your society to be kind TO HUMANS because it is more comfortable for all of us that way! And the biggest selfish goof of them all: Do good to other humans so that YOU may get Jannah for yourself!!!! They will also get Jannah if they do good to you! Anyone see the joke?

    Guys notice that all these selfish definitions of good and evil has been made by selfish men. LOL what a surprise. One can cut down trees and kill warm blooded animals to eat them and afflict great amount of pain on them, but ah.. that is not evil. Plants and Animals have not invented the definition of good and evil, humans have.

    If you look at the big picture, these selfish human definitions of good and evil are meaningless. You might have heard: one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter: that is the definition of good/evil taken one step lower in the scale of selfishness. Think as a Balouchi, or think as a Pakistani, or think as a South Asian, or think as a human. The narrower or wider you make your outlook, you find the definitions of good and evil change. If you broaden your outlook to think about this universe, words like good/evil lose their meaning.

    Why is killing a man any more evil than killing a hen or a goat? The lack of fundamental thought about life and universe in today’s society can be ascertained by the fact that most will laugh at this question. Why is killing a man evil? Just because ‘evil’ is a man made definition? Just because man wallows in this sense of self-importance that some supreme entity God made him in it;s image?

    A comet struck earth a billion years ago and the entire species of dinosaurs that roamed this earth at that time was wiped out, that act was neither good nor evil. This has happend more than once on earth. Evolution moves on. Same may happen to homo-sapiens, nobody will care. A new life/species will arise on earth in a few million years, they will also most likely wallow in self-importance like us.

    Bottomline: There is no good or evil. Man wants to survive, he invents these definitions of good/evil to facilitate HIS OWN survival. Thats it.

  5. -Farid says:
    November 21st, 2008 4:30 am

    Good post indeed.

    There’s tons of good people in Pakistan. And I’m surprised that anyone can even doubt it – though I admit to myself getting hypercritical on our society in the current conditions.

    We just have an over-representation of the bad people in places of authority.

    Like attracts like they say, and that seems to be the case in our politics. The bad people tend to get to office over and over again as they associate with the bad people already there. The good people silently go about their lives and never make the press.

    I am reminded of the time I used to take the railcar from Islamabad to Lahore in the UET days. We had a short stop at Lalamusa where one would get down for a quick cup of tea (it used to cost Rs.1 !). What always struck me was that as soon as the train started moving, almost everyone still drinking the tea would reach in for the money and desperately try to pay. All they had to do was to put the cup down and run onto the moving train without paying – and the tea-wala wouldn’t have been able to do anything in heck about it. But no, people would invariably try to pay the tea-wala even if they had to leave an unfinished cup of tea behind.

    It’s a tale I’ve repeated to many a friends since than. It convinced me that the majority of the people around me are honest and fair. And though times are hard right now and we’re drowning in corruption I’ve never doubted that the majority of the 170 Million people in this country are peaceful, honest, honorable, and just want to get on with their lives.

  6. S Usmani says:
    November 21st, 2008 8:53 am

    good story. there are plenty more just like it, i have an optimistic outlook on Pakistan and her people, one of her sons just came to Harvard to collect his medal, so yes, from common examples of good civic behavior (although, i would like to see more of it permeate through the paki masses) to instances of exceptional heroism…there is enough reason to believe that we have it in ourselves to overcome our flaws and promote honesty and integrity.

    This nation has spawned people like Edhi, and countless more whose names i forget now, from whom we should take a cue..

    my belief is reinforced that we are a good people in the main, perhaps because i can register some subtle differences among cultures having lived in so many various countries.

  7. Mersia says:
    November 21st, 2008 10:28 am

    Great post… made me smile and reaffirm my pride as a Pakistani!

  8. Aamir Ali says:
    November 21st, 2008 11:41 am

    The fact is that Pakistanis are extremely untrustworthy when it comes to money. My personal experience in life has also validated this fact for me. That is why, for this fellow to come to US and then pay his bill is extremely rare and admirable. Kudos to him and his parents only.

    I would not be a fool to trust a fellow Pakistani when it comes to money. I would advise the readers of this blog to be the same way.

  9. Riaz Haq says:
    November 21st, 2008 1:22 pm

    Good post. It’s important to highlight these instances to make us less cynical and more hopeful about our country of origin.
    I have heard similar stories about Pakistani taxi drivers in the US who have returned cash and other valuables to their customers after finding them left in their cabs.

  10. Durrani says:
    November 21st, 2008 4:23 pm


    We can all fall onto the trap of becoming too negativ. So this is a good removder that no matter what our leaders do most ordinary Pakistanis are decent hardworking people.

  11. USMAN says:
    November 21st, 2008 8:49 pm

    Thank you for such a heartwarming post.

    You are right, the fact that the story comes from a non-Pakistani source makes it even more good. We all know that most Pakistanis are good, no matter what some Pakistan-hating outsiders (like Aamir Ali) might think.

    It is good to keep reminding ourselves of that truth.

  12. Ali Dada says:
    November 21st, 2008 9:07 pm

    May Allah SWT bless you Adil bhai. Really, the most heartwarming story of this century for me.


  13. ShahidnUSA says:
    November 21st, 2008 9:24 pm

    The company I buy minutes to call pakistan is based in bombay. When it comes to credit card transactions I trust Indians than pakistanis. I rather pay more than not have a peace of mind.
    I have a solution, make qualified pakistani women incharge of every govt. institution. I know it would be a very bitter pill to swellow for men.
    Pakistani women are less dishonest than pakistani men.
    Another generalisation from me for the good of the country.

  14. Kiran says:
    November 21st, 2008 9:35 pm

    Moving piece.

    As you say, all people are good and we have to constantly bring out our good side. Sometimes I feel that we ourselves are harsher on us than the rest of the world is. So good to read this.

  15. yaseench says:
    November 22nd, 2008 1:37 am

    it snice story .you are doing great job adil.

  16. Moeen says:
    November 22nd, 2008 2:02 am

    Nice story Adil but you know what was my 1st thought when I read it?….Why nice people always leave Pakistan!!!…hahahaha…just a thought….

  17. Moeen says:
    November 22nd, 2008 2:05 am

    The guy came to the US….had he lived in a country like Pakistan, where prices go up every day, I’m sure he would have never done this!!

  18. ADNAN says:
    November 22nd, 2008 9:37 am

    Why dont you highlight that he is honest because he is Muslim? Are YOU ashamed of being muslim? Muslims are supposed to be honest so this is no surprise!!!!

  19. Qureshi says:
    November 22nd, 2008 10:15 am


    Are you serious, man!

    First, we don’t know if he is a Muslim. You realize not all Pakistanis are Muslims (or do you not consider them Pakistanis if they are not!)

    Second, there are plenty of bad and some really bad Muslims out there. So you don’t have a point.

    Third, and most importantly, good people are everywhere and in all religions and even in those who believe in no religion.

    Please don’t show your ignorance and insult other Muslims by this crazy talk.

  20. Ali Dada says:
    November 22nd, 2008 2:34 pm

    @Moeen: hahahaha, he tried to pay the money first when he was in Pakistan, didn’t he? hehehhehehe…how about Edhi…hahahahahha…he is not moving…hahahahha

    @Adnan: Couple of months ago, there was an old, poor, non muslim German who had only 1 grown son (his son was mentally unfit) and he despartely needed money as he was out of job. One day he found an envelope stuffed with Euros and expensive jewellery…you know what he did? He returned his findings to the local police station…good and bad people are everywhere.

  21. HUSSAIN says:
    November 25th, 2008 12:48 pm

    I agree that we are more hard on ourselves than anyone else is hard on us.

    Yes, we need to point out the things that are wrong but we also need to point out all that is good. This is why this website is so important and doing such important job.

  22. Jamal says:
    November 25th, 2008 9:46 pm

    What a wonderful post. Reading this made my day. Thank you.

  23. Yaqub Ali says:
    November 26th, 2008 1:33 am

    I read the stories about the Musharraf-iomposed and Zardari-approved chief justice Dogar and his corruption to get his daughter into a medical college and then I read this story.

    Just reminds me of how good the ordinary Pakistanis are and how corrupt our leaders are!

  24. FAUZIA says:
    November 26th, 2008 10:24 pm

    The ordinary people of Pakistan are always a source of hope and inspiration. Thank you for highlighting their stories that so much of the main media forgets.

  25. Tahira says:
    November 27th, 2008 2:30 pm

    In these dark days I am glad that you are writing about the good acts by ordinary Pakistanis. This should not make us forget the bad acts by some powerful Pakistanis like Justice Dogar.

  26. Haroon says:
    November 28th, 2008 7:03 am

    This site is doing a great service by highlighting both the good and bad things in Pakistan and always reminding us that despite the bad things, we are a good people and can be better. Thank you Mr. Adil Najam.

  27. Usman says:
    November 28th, 2008 12:29 pm

    Very uplifting post. Tahnks

  28. Watan Aziz says:
    November 21st, 2010 10:16 am

    We are, indeed, a good people. Let us, then, be defined – and define ourselves – not by those amongst us who do bad things (indeed, there are many who do). Let us aspire to emulate, instead, those who rise to the goodness within them. Life, I think, is defined by the struggle to find that goodness that lies in all of us. May all of us succeed in this struggle!

    Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus dittos.

    No nation has an exclusive on goodness and no nation has a monopoly on badness.

    Pakistanis are good people. Pakistanis are decent people. Pakistanis are hardworking people. Pakistanis are honest people.

    Pakistanis are middle of the road people.

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