Khuda Hafiz Pakistan

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January 11th 2008
Published: January 15th 2008
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On the evening of the bomb blast, I meet Gaber and his Pakistani friend Aamir for dinner. Gaber is anxious and upset about the bomb. He wants to go back to Germany, but his work contract necessitates that he stays until February. Aamir, who looks like Ali Baba less the turban, is angry. Very angry. All this terrorism is so bad for his country, he says, for Pakistan's image, the tourism that is virtually non-existent now, the foreign investors. Gaber tries to make a joke. Aamir shakes his head. He looks at me and says, emotion darkening his voice, 'This is the pain of my heart. Really. It's the pain of my heart.' He continues, 'What do you do if you have to live with this day in, day out? It becomes normal.' I can see the frustration on his face. It's desperate for Pakistan, and the future is uncertain. 'We're seen as a nation of terrorists'.

While Gaber voices his unease about remaining in the country, I stress how grateful I am to have experienced Pakistan during this time. Strange as this may sound, I had the opportunity to witness what life is like for the people there - I got a small taste of the reality and the sadness of living in such an unstable nation. And I also was overwhelmed by the country's beauty and wildness. It's almost like I've developed a deep love for a country and its people by seeing their troubles as well as their beauty. Pakistan may not be the land of discos, beaches and parties - but it's another aspect of human life and it's good to experience what the situation is like first hand, when it's not tainted with media sensationalism. Pakistan has taught me a lot - shukriyah. Thank you.

I leave with mixed feelings on the morning of the 11th January. Partially I'm glad to get away from the uncertainty, but I'm also quite sad at leaving. I cross the Wagha border between Pakistan and India by foot, flanked by not just one, but two porters (and feeling like an Indian memsahib!) because I have acquired so many shalwar kameez and other stuff since I left England that not only do I have a huge backpack that I can't lift now, no- there's also another ginormous bag which is even bigger than the backpack. Well, I reason, support the local economy I suppose.....

The border is near-deserted, and most of the staff is off to pray as it's Friday. One official who stamps my passport wants to know where I have been in Pakistan. 'Oh... Lahore, Chitral, Islamabad, Peshawar...', I enthuse. 'Peshawar?', he asks sharply, and looks at me through squinted eyes. 'Did you see many people taking.... drugs there? Smoking hashish?' 'No, not really', I say. 'No?' He sounds incredulous. 'Many people take drugs there.' He tells me an elaborate story of a foreigner who liked to smoke hashish and tried to smuggle two kilograms of it through this border. 'He's still in prison now', he says darkly, index finger raised. 'That's stupid', I say. 'Yes', he replies, 'and you are an intelligent lady.' He ushers me away.


18th January 2008

How are you getting on in India? Seeing your interest in Kali, you must blog us a posting from Khurja, Uttar Pradesh if you can manage the journey (about an eight-hour drive from Delhi). She has been causing something of a stir there in recent times. Or if you’re stuck somewhere like Lahore again (fed up), and want some distraction, come and join me in Afghanistan at

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