We arrived home on Monday. Unbelievable jet lag, because I’m old. I kept dreaming I was in Pakistan, that I lost my scarf, that I was late for a meeting. It took three days to feel normal. I can’t believe the trip is over, and I am so happy I went.
Over our ten days in Pakistan, the security situation in the country deteriorated. In the week or two before our trip, there was a bombing at a market in Islamabad. The second day we were there, the terrorist attack on the Karachi airport took place, carried out by the Pakistani Taliban. Things became more tense as the week went on, from America resuming drone attacks after a long hiatus, to the military taking over the security in Islamabad the day after we left for Lahore. The day we flew out of Lahore, the Pakistani Taliban released the following statement:
“We warn all foreign investors, airlines and multinational corporations that they should immediately suspend their ongoing matters with Pakistan and prepare to leave Pakistan, otherwise they will be responsible for their own loss.”
Despite what was happening in the country, I never felt truly unsafe. There was significant security at the hotels where we stayed, and multiple checkpoints throughout the city. There were moments of tension, and the understanding that something could happen at any time, but, in order to experience the country, I had to adjust to the tension and the checkpoints. The Pakistani people have adjusted too, and they go about their lives. We had several alumni in Karachi, and at least one of them was on the first plane out to our conference the day after the attack. It’s wonderful to see how resilient they are, but it’s not right to have to adjust to things like this.
During our time in Pakistan we had the opportunity to have discussions with several government officials about terrorism. One of the officials we talked to discussed our government’s support in the 80’s for the Afghan freedom fighters, which was the group that eventually morphed into the Afghan Taliban. He discussed how the Pakistani Taliban has used the drone attacks in their territory as a reason for their own attacks in and out of the country. He also talked about the limited resources the Pakistani government has to deal terrorism within its borders.
In another meeting, an official talked about 9/11, and what a devastating event that was to the U.S. Then he said that there had been 50 9/11’s in Pakistan since our 9/11, and the bombing and attacks continue every week.
This trip clarified to me how small the world is, and that the decisions our governments make ripple out and affect all of us. The people of Pakistan want the same things we want. They want to feel safe, to provide for their families, to educate their children. They want terrorism to end, and so do we. They want no more bombs in their cities, and we want that too.
There is so much to reflect on after this trip. I’d like to thank our alumni for their generosity and kindness. I’d also like to thank all the Pakistanis we interacted with over the course of our trip. The people of Pakistan welcomed us with warmth and curiosity. It was an incredible experience.