Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Why are we so stupid?

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In a Special Report on horticulture in The News on Sunday a couple of years ago, the Head of the Botany Department of Punjab University said something very clever and apt. She said the national infatuation with imported species of flora was an indication of our deep seated inferiority complex that leads to a desire for all that is foreign.


Unsurprisingly, over the past four decades this good land has been blighted with all sorts of imported rubbish. From the eucalyptus invasion of the 1960s abetted by incompetent and corrupt officers of the forest departments to PIA cabin and flight crews who introduced araucaria in the 1980s, we have done everything wrong.

And then there was the semi-educated idiot called Mustafa Kamal who, masquerading as the mayor of Karachi brought the plague of conocarpus to our shores. Aside: in a hurry to get nowhere, among other things this moron built the Baloch Colony flyover. In a recent visit I saw it being dismantled because it was the only flyover in the entire world, so said a friend, that needed a traffic signal to kill its very purpose. Hence so much for this idiot’s brains.

Aside: in Makran where large scale conocarpus plantations have taken place in the past few years, locals call the tree Mustafa Kamal. May the idiot rot in hell for evermore!

Witnessing all the ways this sorry country has been officially raped and raped repeatedly, common citizens have developed blighted ‘wisdom’. Recently a letter appeared in a leading English language paper indicative of how faulty our notions are. The writer began rather cleverly berating the government’s initiative to disease road medians in Islamabad with palm trees. (Only a few days before, the same paper had carried a picture of this idiotic activity.)

The correspondent rightly pointed out that the experiment with palm trees had earlier been carried out and failed. The trees had died in Islamabad winters. He voiced his dissatisfaction with imported varieties. All very good, but then the man slid into the stupidity we are collectively famous for. He suggested the government should plant only pine trees and silver oak – which I have no problem with. But then the man also suggests alstonia (he spells it astonia) and, wait for it, araucaria!

As if alstonia and araucaria are indigenous species! This was the same as some politician back in 1998 telling us lesser mortals that eucalyptus is native to the subcontinent and therefore be encouraged.

I wonder what it would have taken for this man to also consider local varieties that would do well in Islamabad. What is wrong with the beautiful phulai (Acacia modesta) and a number of broad-leaf varieties that do well in Potohar?

However, nothing good will ever happen in this sorry land. Right now we are romancing the curse called conocarpus – because it grows fast. So if it is not palm trees that provide no shade in this hot country, it will be conocarpus with its rich green canopy.

It matters little that conocarpus exudes more allergens than the one-time favourite paper mulberry (imported from China). Not only will it give everyone asthma to die with, it will, as an exceedingly thirsty tree, suck out all the subsoil water.

Since we continue to plant the equally thirsty eucalyptus now coupled with conocarpus, I have become convinced of two things about persons in positions of power. One, they are all in the pay of India to lead us as quickly as possible to complete water scarcity. Hence eucalyptus and conocarpus. Secondly, since they all have chauffeur-driven air conditioned cars and climate controlled offices, they wish all commoners to inhale only air poisoned by conocarpus and none of us should have any shade during the hot summers.


Never expect good sense to reach the grey matter of people in power. Be prepared for stupidity appearing in the letters column of a paper to catch their eye.

Good night, Pakistan.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days