Judy Bello, reports from the 2012 Pakistan delegation
Photos of Fragments of Hellfire Missiles
Contemplating Islamabad in Abu Dhabi
It is 8pm, about noon in New York, and I am sitting in the Abu Dhabi airport on my way to Islamabad. So far, the long flight has been quite tolerable. I had planned some constructive activities, but I needed to just sit and relax. It has been quite a whirlwind of preparation with last minute visas and intensive fundraising to bring a group 30 or more activists and media people to Pakistan to draw attention to the plight of the civilian victims of CIA drone strikes in North Western Pakistan. I am alone because I will be joining the ‘early group’, a handful of people who will lay the groundwork for the rest of the delegation.
The world is so full of interesting possibilities it is difficult to focus. In NY, I visited the International Action Center, and World Workers Party offices. I picked up 3 books, including one on Che Guevara, written in Spanish, the language I studied in high school. Surprisingly, I found I could read it, so I decided to take it along. Now in the Abu Dhabi airport I have magazines in Arabic and English. The graphics will be great for collages. I enjoy experiencing the feel of different languages, though I am far from competent in them. The great world is one, but how does one swallow it all.
Arriving in Islamabad
Always a dollar short and a day late, I arrived at Islamabad airport with no small bills for tipping. I over tipped the guy who followed me from check-in and waited for my bag with me, then skipped the one who ran up and pulled it to the car, and told the guy at the hotel, wait until tomorrow. Benazir Bhutto International airport in Islamabad is old and run down compared to Khomeini International outside Tehran, Queen Alia International in Amman, or even the airport in Suleimaniya. You exit the plane on the tarmac and are bussed to the terminal. The building is run down, worn and small, smaller perhaps than the Rochester International Airport, which is barely international.
There were long immigration lines, but I was immediately directed by the friendly gentleman who had sat next to me on the plane to an entry aisle under a sign that read “Unaccompanied Women and Children”. Since I was the only one (out of at least a couple of hundred people on the plane) I quickly passed through. It seemed to take forever for my bag to show up, and then there was a dense mob of people on the other side of a rope waving, holding signs, all waiting for someone. It was intimidating, especially since I didn’t even know the address of my hotel to fill out the entry form. However, I soon focused in on a young gentleman holding up a sign with my name on it.
Two young men were there with my name on a card, one in jeans and a t-shirt, the other in traditional white shirt and pants. I don’t think they spoke much English, but they did make me comfortable in the car before going off to look for another delegate who they expected to be on my flight. With all the talk at home about head cover being optional, I wouldn’t have guessed that at the airport. All the women I saw were wearing traditional garb, mostly colorful salwar chemise with a matching shawl over their head and shoulders, bright and colorful, but conservative.