A prominent British-Pakistani writer has said that Pakistan is in terminal decline and his “heart sinks'' even at the thought of visiting it.

Hanif Kureishi, whose outspoken views have often angered members of his own community, said: “It isn't a place to go to. When I think of going there my heart sinks really.''

Speaking at an event, where he was given the second Asia House Award for Literature, he said the accounts of life in Pakistan that came to him through his relations and friends read like horror stories. “Nobody is safe. There are more and more beards in the country. You can tell the state of a country by the number of beards.''

Asked whether he believed that things might improve, Mr Kureishi replied that much though he would like to say something nice, he could not summon any sense of optimism. “No, I'm not optimistic,'' he said.

Speaking about his relationship with Pakistan, Mr Kureishi — the son of an Indian-born father and an English mother — suggested that it was a story of disappointment and despair.

“My father and his family moved to Pakistan after Partition. They were very excited to run a brand new country, specially minted for Muslims, like a brand new shop. But soon it turned into a horror story,'' he said. His father then moved to Britain.

Mr. Kureishi said despite the fact that his father had been attracted by the idea of a Muslim homeland he was not a religious man.

“Religion in my family was seen as something reactionary,'' he said.