Media Star In Pakistan Returns To Native Britain
In 2005, a 26-year-old Englishman, a journalist name George Fulton became one of Pakistan's biggest TV stars.
Mr. GEORGE FULTON (Journalist): I am from the U.K., yes I am. I've got three months to become a Pakistantica(ph).
BLOCK: His reality TV show was called "George Ka Pakistan," "George's Pakistan," a white man's journey toward becoming a Pakistani. George Fulton interviewed politicians, clerics, models and pop stars. He milked a buffalo, struggled with Pakistani clothing, stumbled through his Urdu but found a way into people's homes and hearts.
Mr. FULTON: Forget buying new bullets from a regular shop, there's nothing quite like making your own. This is absolutely fascinating.
BLOCK: Eventually, George Fulton became a Pakistani citizen. He married a Pakistani woman and became a pillar of its media industry. But last week, after almost a decade in Pakistan, George Fulton decided he was through with what he calls a dysfunctional relationship with that country.
He left for good, fleeing what he calls an extremist cancer that has taken over Pakistan. He's moved back home to England and he joins me now from Liverpool.
George Fulton, sounds like it must be a little bit bittersweet for you to be back in England. This was a country you loved and ultimately had real problems with.
Mr. FULTON: Oh, undoubtedly. It has been a difficult transition but it was a decision that I ultimately had to make for not only myself but for my family.
BLOCK: How do you explain that your show, "George Ka Pakistan," got to be so popular, that it was - so captured the imagination?
Mr. FULTON: I mean remember it came out in a sort of post 9/11, post-Daniel Pearl world, and obviously Pakistan had been vilified. And here was this white guy, this gora, throwing his hands up, saying I don't anything about the country - teach me. There was no sort of haughtiness or arrogance, I think on my part. I think there's an element of humility, I hope. And also, I was...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. FULTON: We did some very silly things, which appealed. I mean, whilst the underlying themes of the show were very serious. You know, it's always quite fun to see a fish out of water or an Englishman, you know, doing stupid things; so whether it be me riding a donkey cart or wrestling with some naked men in Lahore, that makes quite fun television.
BLOCK: Who wouldn't want to see that?
Mr. FULTON: Who wouldn't want to see that?
BLOCK: So after this happy time and this great success in integrating yourself into Pakistani life, why this decision now after nine there, to leave, to go back home to England?
Mr. FULTON: The decision to leave is quite simple. It's a decision to do with my safety and my family's safety. It has become increasingly difficult for liberals, progressives to voice an opinion openly without fear of reprisals.
In the last three months, we've seen the assassination of both a governor of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, and last week we saw the assassination of a federal minister. And all they were doing was looking to amend elements to a law. And if you're operating within the media in Pakistan, as I was, it was becoming increasingly difficult to operate freely.
I mean, I took myself off, voluntarily off air. I felt that it was becoming increasingly dangerous to have such a high profile in Pakistan, as a white man. And you suddenly find yourself having to self-censor yourself, and that's very difficult for someone like myself.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. FULTON: So...
BLOCK: A bit outspoken.
Mr. FULTON: Absolutely. And I suddenly realized that this was a society I could no longer function fully in.
BLOCK: Does the decision to leave feel like a defeat for you, and for your wife who's Pakistani? She's still in Pakistan but will be joining you with your son.
Mr. FULTON: Oh, absolutely. I feel I've given up and that's very hard to admit. And I also feel like a coward. I feel like I'm one of the lucky ones - I can leave. Many can't. But of for the last two years, it was becoming suffocating. It was becoming intolerable.
BLOCK: Are there people now in Pakistan who are telling you that you're slandering their country? You came and you lived there for a while, and you met your wife and now you're saying these terrible things - terribly hurtful things.
Mr. FULTON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I get charges of Orientalism thrown at me. I get charges of racism thrown at me. And I can understand, to a certain extent, why that is. But having said, I'm not going to stop saying some rather uncomfortable truths in order to placate these people.
BLOCK: I know this is a hopelessly huge question and topic. But do you see a way for things to get better for this extremist cancer that you've written about, to be defeated?
Mr. FULTON: I'd like to say yes. But I think I'd have to say no, and I'll tell you why. Because I don't think there is the political leadership in the country to tackle it. You'll notice that after Salman Taseer's assassination and last week, after Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination, there was a very muted response from the political establishment.
They would rather appease the extremists than tackle the problem. And that's why I would argue that this is no longer a political problem or an economic problem, this is now a cultural problem. And political elites, both military and civilian, seem to be rolling over and ceding and appeasing these extremist groups; many of which have been funded - and are still probably funded - by the military.
BLOCK: Well, George Fulton, thanks for talking to us. Welcome back to England, and thanks again.
Mr. FULTON: Thank you.
BLOCK: I've been talking with George Fulton. He's a journalist, a former reality TV star in Pakistan. Last week, he left Pakistan after living there for nine years.
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