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Published: February 23rd 2008
February 24, Islamabad
It’s after the elections and after the results have been published. Only 30 to 40 % took part and scores of women were prevented from voting, although that is their constitutional right.
It seems that in other parts of the country not everything went as peacefully as it did here, but even with that as a consideration it all went a lot less problematic than expected. Of course, in a country like this trouble lurks always around the corner because democracy is a word that has a foreign ring to it, like in South Africa. There the opposition is expected to retreat in it’s corner and not to interfere with the goings on in the country. They have lost and should stay away from government, commissions and all such things where the winning party has taken control, and is keen to exercise that.
It is said that the President here, Musharaf, has the army behind him, an ominous sign. No such thing as serving the country and the government of the day. It means peace is as stable as a the tower of Pizza.
Back to Nepal.
From newspaper articles is saw I learned the country is
impoverished. That explains the many poor people I saw in Kathmandu, the garbage, filth and lack of facilities. There is a clique of people who rule the country with the exclusion of almost 50% of the population living in the Terai, the
planes bordering India in the South. This is farming country on which the rest of the kingdom depends. In the past it has been a troublesome situation which has been generally ignored by the government. That is changing now with a far more militant approach from the farmers, who are vowing to topple the government in the elections to take place in April.
Resuming my journey after the day of forced rest, I found that I was still about 80 km short of Nepalgunt. Yet another busy, filthy town and yet, there were some changes. Generally speaking I enjoyed the flat country here in the South, with filtered sunlight through misty clouds washing over bright green fields, rice paddies with, thanks to the colorful dresses worn by the women, bright spots of color on washing lines, in the fields and on hedges.
The road is straight like a pencil, narrow but with very little traffic. Diesel fuel is
available here although not freely at every fuel station, the atmosphere is gentle and welcoming and the far-away mountains in the misty veils are a reminder you are still in one of the most mountainous countries in the world.
I stay over at one of those stations with a large yard behind it where a number of busses are parked. A bit of sight seeing by some locals follows, but I have a peaceful night’s sleep.
The border post at Mahendranagar is efficient, but here the tar ends. A gravel road, winding in a mysterious way, takes me to the Indian border control post. Here the paperwork takes a lot longer to be sorted out, but eventually I’m permitted to go on.
A very confusing situation presents itself with a narrow bridge to be crossed, but locked off by a metal gate. Toll must be paid in an office way back. I have no money in my pocket. Indian rupees are in the camper but I’m in no mood to get them out. Eventually the gate is unlocked and I have to make a choice out of a number of gravel roads leading in various directions.
Depending on my infallible
GPS again I choose one and eventually it proves to be the right one.
Indian traffic is as chaotic as ever. In Dehradun I find a parking area in town which proves to belong to the local (and only) cinema. (985 seats, I learn later!). When I ask for permission to stay here, I’m invited to come to the property of the owner where I meet his wife and two daughters. I stay in the yard and, sharing a few glasses of (Indian) whisky (42% is about the only thing they have in common) we have a discussion about various subjects. I may have said something wrong because, when trying to find someone to thank for their hospitality the next morning, there is no-one to be found.
About 80 km before Amritsar I find a friendly fuel station with shop and pump attendants walking around with large wads of money in their hands. Later I ask the proprietor if he ever had a robbery here, but the answer is negative. No robberies, but he is prepared. When I get into his office later to see if we can access the internet I discover 2 shotguns and 3 automatic rifles of
which 2 AK47’s, all with full magazines. An arsenal.
Later that day I cross into Pakistan, stay over at an all-night McDonalds with nightclub right next to it. It doesn’t matter because I know I’ll be at Islamabad campsite later and I’ll get as much sleep as I want.
I’m here all by myself after Walter and his wife left for India, but yesterday a Spanish camper arrived with an explanation for the absence of other campers: the European countries all refuse to give a letter of introduction, needed to get a visa for Pakistan, because of the perceived dangerous situation here.
As I said before: don’t they realize its more likely to get killed in a road accident in India than by a bomb in Pakistan?
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