Alistair Caldicott

Batting for Pakistan

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17 - Pakistan: A Dangerous Country?

The night before I left Pakistan, England contrived to lose yet another cricket game. I never thought that cricket would ever drown me with its excesses, but this was dangerously close to happening.

So, marking time in my hotel room, I decided to catch up on some television news. There had been some incident or other involving someone from my own country who had been backpacking in Australia. Sky News, in their usual understated tone, were running a feature on, "The Dangers of Backpacking - Is Travel For Our Children and Young People Safe?"
I had to chuckle to myself. How ridiculous. As part of their news coverage, they were interviewing a self-styled 'Travel Safety and Security Expert'. I must remember to consult him next time I go somewhere.

Early morning in Islamabad airport, I discovered that I would have to fill out a special e-ticket paper form in order to obtain my paperless electronic ticket. And, defying logic in true Pakistan style, there was an even longer queue for checking in with e-tickets than with conventional ones. People seemed to be going round in circles. I was sorely tempted to insert my own piece of paperwork into the suggestions box. The crazy normalities of life in Pakistan. Plenty of energy, but little dynamism.

Security was heavy. There were armed soldiers everywhere. One soldier looked totally perplexed that I had an entry stamp overland from Afghanistan in my passport. I got marched off in the direction of the Facilitation Desk, which sounded ominous, for a few questions. To some extent, it distracted them from searching my luggage overly thoroughly. And, with considerable irony, I was on the receiving end of an interrogation / lecture telling me how wrong I was to visit Pakistan as a tourist.

'Did I know how dangerous it was?'
'Why would I possibly want to come here to Pakistan as a tourist?'

But then this was an important lesson which could be applied to many countries. Don't judge a people by its government, or even the behaviour of the people representing the government.

Talked or thought about in the wrong way, especially from far away, Pakistan can seem like a very dangerous country. The reality, I can vouch, was very different. It summed things up. You're told not to visit Pakistan, but it can be a really positive thing to do so. I could not even begin to explain the modest delights that his own country, a fascinating land mass of great diversity and many assets, chief among them its people, had just served up to me.

There are some debates you cannot win.

"Yes", I replied with a smile. "Pakistan very dangerous country. That is why I must leave soon".

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