The Alive and Well in Pakistan project provides independent reporting from and about Pakistan, humanizing Pakistanis for a global audience and giving Pakistanis worldwide an honest, sympathetic portrayal of their situation in the contemporary world that goes beyond the headlines and cliches, in film, print and other media such as short videos, still photography, and audio.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hi from Pakistan!

We've been in Pakistan for twelve days, and not incidentally it's also been twelve days since I posted a blog entry. It's been a very full twelve days, and I look forward to telling you all about it in future blog entries, in slide shows, and in the new book.

I'm ambivalent about blogging while traveling anyway, because traveling has to take priority; particularly in this era of global virtual connectedness, direct in-person experience is crucially important. So I'll be sharing more substantial material with you on this blog beginning very soon after I return home to Seattle on April 11.

For today, I'll say: Pakistan is, as ever, a jumble of maddening contradictions. The provisional triumph of the lawyers' movement on March 15-16 is arguably (or potentially) historic and merits a lot more, and sustained, respectful attention in the West and elsewhere outside Pakistan. Urban Pakistanis, whether they consider themselves "liberal" or "religious" or both or neither, are very worried about the situations in Swat and Waziristan and, indeed, in the Punjab, which is Pakistan's heartland. Everyone I've talked to has ruefully confirmed the apparent wisdom of my decision not to visit Peshawar. And yet the rest of the story is that life goes on.

The conditions that have kept me from blogging might be interesting to relate. For a week, Pete and I were in Islamabad, where the place we were staying happened to be somewhere without wi-fi. Our only options there were either to buy a card to connect via dial-up, or (as Pete discovered late in the week by trial and error) by going up on the roof and standing in a certain corner where we could pick up a neighbor's unsecured network. On a nearby street we could use an acquaintance's ethernet cable, but only outside of office hours, and we lost that option when his service got cut off because he hadn't paid his bill. So, out of desperation, we discovered that the Pizza Hut at the Jinnah Super shopping area had an unsecured network, and I could use it when we happened to be there, either stealing the network while sitting on a little concrete wall outside, or by sitting in a booth (and buying some food we didn't really want) in a crowded Pizza Hut.

Here in Kharian, a town on the Grand Trunk Road between Islamabad and Lahore where we're visiting an innovative small hospital, the only place I can get online is actually a hospital room, where a nurse sits at a desk with an ethernet connection. I happen to be alone in the room as I write this, but only because I insisted I needed 20 minutes by myself, and people are waiting for me.

We're driving two hours towards Kashmir today and back in the evening; we've delayed our return to Lahore by a day because of a high security alert in the wake of an attack yesterday on a police academy in which a couple of dozen policemen were killed. "I think security disturb you, you guys," said our very nice young driver, Tahir, meaning the checkpoints on roads entering the city. "You foreigners." So we're going to Kashmir today instead.

The photo is of Tahir (at right) on the Grand Trunk Road between Kharian and Lahore.

More soon!