28 July 2005

Leaving Pakistan

The saying going around here in Pakistan is that Islamabad is 30 kilometers out of Pakistan. I think this sentence gives a clear picture of how different is Islamabad than the rest of the country.

Still to this day the tribal system prevails. It is obvious in the west of Pakistan close to the Afghani borders, the tribal areas are living totally independent. They make their own rules, and have their own army. They are only part of Pakistan politically and that is it. Years ago when the British army was in Pakistan, they could not step a foot into these areas, even the Pakistani army today can not enter them. Last Monday I read an article in a local newspaper where a head of a tribe in the Waziristan tribal area was threatening to pull out his support to the Pakistani army due to the fact that some homes over there were searched without his permission. This morning in another article in the newspaper it stated that in the North Waziristan tribal area there were as many as 40 attacks on various posts of the Pakistani army last Monday. "The purpose of the attacks was not to kill anybody but just to remind the Pakistani army what happened to them last year when they tried to conduct operations in South Waziristan," commented a tribal source from Waziristan. The Pashtun tribes that dominate Waziristan cherish their independence from the central government, which cause severe embarrassment for the government of Pakistan in the global war against terror.

By the way there are around 20 million unlicensed weapon in Pakistan at least each family in the tribal area has at least 2 pieces.

Tuesday we went to have lunch at the Islamabad club. It is the posh club of Islamabad. It is nice very gree n and has different courts and fields. You are not allowed to enter the restaurant if you are not formally dressed, of course a jeans is a big no. But you can enter wearing the Shalwar Qamiz which is the national dress it is what the majority wears out here, a long shirt down to the knees and trousers the size of a small marquee. 2 months ago Sistal (an Egyptian) the program manger based and living in Islamabad for a year now was stopped from entering the restaurant in the club because he was wearing a jeans. He got really upset and went in an argumentative conversation with the guy at the door. Sistal went on telling the guy how can I not enter the restaurant when other wearing pajamas can??!!! Thank God I was not there at the time I don't know what I would have said or done. Luckily since started to work in Alcatel it is a suit everyday or worse case scenario a shirt and a tie. Some people are NOT culturally sensitive, I hate that.

There allot of Afghanis in Pakistan they have all emigrated during the Russian invasion allot of them never went back. Wednesday night we went to an Afghani restaurant called Kabul we had Afghani Tikka & Afghani Kabab (Kabab is similar to Egyptian kofta minced meat on a skewer while Tikka is similar to Egyptian Kabab chunks of cheap meat on a skewer), we had Brinjal Frai which is oil fried eggplants with a white cheesy sauce it is really nice, and we also had Mutton Karahi which is pieces of meat in a spicy hot brownish sauce, Afghani nan (bread) really really good has some herbs in it. Of course all this is accompanied with yogurt to ease up the pain. In general the food was good huge quantities cost is really cheap it was around 93 EGP around

Pakistani trucks/buses/rickshaws are fantastic! They have these incredibly outlandish patterns, designs, metal bits all over them. It seems every driver takes pride in decorating his bus, so they are all simply covered in ornaments, designs, gold tassels and paintings. I almost died out laughing reading stickers like "Welcome to my Bus - We go to Goodbay" , "Never Dead Mother" and "In The Name Of God Please No Smoking". Everyone that visits Egypt says that the driving is bad hahaha come to Pakistan even Egyptians are scared to drive in Pakistan, and each one got himself a driver. I went out from Islamabad to a place called Pindi oh the traffic is crazy, our driver raced with the ambulance and insisted not to let it pass.

I am now in Dubai for a 9 hour transit. Going out of Pakistan was hell, as if you are going out of heaven. First of all there is a guy at the airport door before you even step in a foot in the airport
checking passports and tickets, then you have to pass by customs were they manually search all your luggage, then you pass through a metal detector that beeps at every single passenger without exception so of course you are body search, you put your luggage through an x-ray
machine then your luggage is sealed with a plastic strap. Then you check in your luggage then you pass through passport control, they take a digital photograph and you have to fill an exit card, then you pass by another check point where they check your passport and boarding card, then you pass through another metal detector that beeps as well then you are body searched, your carry on has to pass through another x-ray machine, you have to have an airline tag on your carry on if you don't you have to go back all the way to check in to get the tag. If you are lucky to have the tag then your tag is punched with a whole. Then you have to see a lady that stamps the tag on your carry on as well as your boarding pass. Then your passport & boarding pass is checked in at the gate of the plane. Next you take the stairs to go the lower level of the airport to catch the bus by the door your passport & boarding is checked. By the stairs in front of the plane your boarding is checked again, then finally after you climb the stairs to the plane your boarding pass is checked for the zillion time.

Thank God you are in the plane you arrive to Dubai your passport is checked in once and you are in the country!!!!! My colleague says there must be something wrong they only checked our passport once, we have to go back and make sure they don't need to search us.

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