Leah’s Notes from Pakistan

These are posted with the newest item on top:

Sep. 29

Today’s press conference with Imran Khan was very exciting…besides the fact that he is very charismatic…, there was a ton of press–television and print.  Ann Wright did an exceptional job stating our position and responding to the reporters questions about safety concerns and the anti-Islam video.  She was mobbed afterwards for more interviews.  We are all feeling very optimistic about the march, which now looks like it will not be opposed by the government.  We are told that they are expecting the crowd at the march to reach 100,000 people as we are joined all along the route by supporters in the towns and villages enroute.

Today we also drove by the government center which contains the American embassy–it is all cordoned off by the placement of big shipping containers which were put there last week when Islamabad had the worst of the violent protests.  I understand that there were several thousand protesting in Karachi today, but I read that on Huffington Post–it wasn’t on the Pakistani news, which seemed to be focused on the cricket match with India (Pakistan lost badly).

Tomorrow Ann Wright will be speaking before a very prominent think tank, which we are told provide direct advisory services to the Foreign Minister.  We have several other panel discussions planned as well, including one at the National Defense University, and one with a group of law students.

It has been surprising to me to learn that though there is significant anti-American sentiment here (presumably because of the drones), some of the more “progressive” NGO and human rights organizations are not taking much of a stand against them.  Some remain uncommitted one way or the other, and some have bought into the propaganda (which Americans are quite used to) that says that because of the advanced technology of the combat drones, they can target only the “bad guys,” and that we have to do something to deal with them.

I am also surprised to learn that the Pakistani media does not consider the killing of civilians by drones to be front page news–deaths caused by drones are usually deemed to be those of “militants” out of hand, just as they are in the U.S.

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Sep. 29

Hello fellow delegates,

I have been in Pakistan for two days now, and I thought I would just send you a few personal observations that I have from the short time I have been here.

This is my first trip to Pakistan, although my husband was stationed here in the mid-90’s. In fact, when he saw the address of Belle Cottage, he said he knew exactly where it was. The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was the smell of wood smoke…not really strong, or unpleasant, but I certainly noticed it. Also, since I had just come in from Dubai, the two airports are about as different as you can get.

We were met at the airport by an employee of the hotel and drove us very skillfully in moderate traffic to the hotel. The landscape and architecture reminds me of Tunis, but the traffic seems better–not as much honking, though lane dividers do seem more decorative than functional.

We have had several meetings and LOTS of tea–we have been very warmly received by everyone we have spoken with, and Shahzad has kept us very busy going from meetings and interviews. He is a fount of information, and he and the 3 women on the Foundation for Fundamental Rights are doing some amazing work. He has explained some of the difficulties they have had which has been very eye-opening for me.

First of all, it is very difficult to get good information about the victims. In the rural regions where the strikes happen, often there exists no evidence of the victim as far as documentation–no birth certificate, family photo, or identification. The only phone service available by which to report the attack is by landline which is operated by military generators, and the military is often uncooperative in assisting. Just like in the U.S., even when the civilian deaths are reported, Shahzad tells us that they are not news. Although the vast majority of people here oppose drones (according to the new Stanford study), deaths caused by drones are routinely reported to be those of “militants.” This may be done deliberately to keep the public from being outraged–there does seem to be a good bit of the same propaganda going on…that drones are very precise and only kill the bad guys.

The protests that you heard about seem to have completely died down. We haven’t seen any signs of anti-American sentiment, and I am sure that everyone who is already here feels quite safe. We do stay in groups and are always with our hosts, though, and it may be that once we leave Islamabad, there will be a big difference.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone–connecting with some old friends, and meeting some new ones–on this great, righteous delegation!

One Response to Leah’s Notes from Pakistan

  1. Pingback: Veterans For Peace Travel to Drone War in Pakistan | Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter

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