A BRITON who held television viewers spellbound as he enthusiastically sampled every aspect of life in Pakistan, from dire poverty to the gun law of wild tribal areas, was given his reward yesterday — the promise of Pakistani citizenship.
In one of the more challenging reality shows, George Fulton, a burly 26-year-old journalist from Cheshire, was given three months to adapt to life in Pakistan as cameras filmed his every step. The show, George Ka Pakistan (George’s Pakistan), ran every Tuesday evening for 13 weeks and became the most popular show in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.
After the final episode, 65 per cent of viewers who voted agreed that they would accept him as a Pakistani and he was promptly promised citizenship by Shaukat Aziz, the Prime Minister. During the extended social experiment, cameras from GEO, a private television channel, followed Mr Fulton as he explored the country and strove to understand the complexities of Pakistani society and discover what it meant to be Pakistani. Apparently inspired, at least partly, by his love for a Pakistani girl, he became one of the most popular figures in the country as he tried to survive on a tiny budget and with very little assistance.
Mr Fulton first visited Pakistan on holiday in 1997 and again in 2002 as a BBC television producer. During his brief stays, he became fascinated with the country and decided to stay.
The adventure exposed him to various aspects of the country. He travelled to poverty stricken rural areas and bustling cities. He worked on farms, tilled the land and milked buffaloes. When he arrived in Darra Adam Khel, a lawless tribal area in northwestern Pakistan, he was greeted by hundreds of tribesmen firing Kalashnikovs. He worked there in a gun factory. “To carry a gun is considered there as a part of your manhood,” he said.
Mr Fulton learnt a bit of Urdu, Pakistan’s national language, but not enough to communicate fully with the people. “My greatest challenge was to overcome the language barrier,” he said. “It is a very difficult language to learn.”
He said that the experience had removed his many misconceptions about Pakistan. “People are very friendly and I didn’t face any hostility anywhere,” he said.
During a visit to a madrassa, an Islamic seminary, in the North West Frontier Province, he was told to his surprise that he was not required to be Muslim to become Pakistani.
Mr Fulton struck up lasting friendships with a barber and a taxi driver. He also received at least five marriage proposals, most by mail. He declined them all. Some of his friends said that he is already in love with a Pakistani girl.
An poll indicated that an overwhelming number of Pakistanis said that he had proved he could become a Pakistani. The result was announced by the Prime Minister after an hour-long meeting with Mr Fulton.
“You deserve to be a Pakistani,” Mr Aziz told him and promised to process his application for the citizenship. Mr Fulton plans to work for GEO, but keep his British citizenship as well.