Posts Tagged ‘ Khyber Pass ’

Flood Relief: A US Helicopter Pilot’s Tale

By John Bockmann for The Express Tribune

I am an American helicopter pilot in Pakistan.  My colleagues and I came because Pakistan and its people are enduring the aftermath of a devastating flood.  We were ordered to be here, and we miss our homes, but most of us are glad to help because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

I did not know much about Pakistan before I arrived here.  I knew of the food.  I knew of monsoons and Mohenjo Daro, Karachi and the Khyber Pass, but I had no concept of what Pakistan looked, felt, or sounded like. I even thought many Pakistanis would want us to leave.

I had no idea what the people would be like in person.  I wondered if they would resemble the images I’d seen on TV – would they protest our presence in the streets?  Would they tolerate us?  Or would they simply ignore us and go about their business?

After a few weeks of packing and planning, we were ready to deploy.  Full of excitement and some anxiety, I kissed my wife, took one last picture and was gone. We flew on a cargo jet from Alaska to Islamabad and the flight took so long I hardly knew whether it was day or night when we finally arrived.  Shouldering my gear, I headed to the terminal, weaving among Pakistani military and civilians on the tarmac.  A US Marine captain guided my group inside where we filled out information cards and relaxed in the cool quietness, surveying our area; smooth stone floors, low-slung furniture, and ceiling fans spinning high above.  The captain was talking to a Pakistani man who had been helping us.  Before we left, the man shook my hand and looked me in the eyes. “Thank you for coming to my poor country,” he said quietly.

I wanted to convey the depth of my feelings toward him and his homeland, but all I said was, “You would probably do the same for us” as I walked away.

That was my first interaction with a Pakistani here.

The days since arriving have passed quickly.  Every day we take rice, flour, blankets, housing materials, cooking oil – anything – up and down the Swat and Indus River Valleys.  We also bring sick, injured, and displaced people to hospitals and hometowns.

My first mission took us up the Indus river valley, and I embarrassed myself by constantly exclaiming its beauty.  Below me was the Karakorum Highway – the old Silk Road into China – and the valley itself, with terraced farmland overshadowed by majestic, snow-capped mountains.

Along with the beauty, though, I see reminders of the flood, bridges that are broken or missing and roads and fields that have been washed away.  I am beginning to see widespread reconstruction now as well and feel hope for the people in these villages.  They will soon have another way to get help.

I realize that some who read this will question our intentions and some may even wish us ill.  I certainly did not imagine that cheering throngs would greet us at each village though – we are always welcomed.  I did not expect our goodwill to be taken at face value by all of Pakistan, but we have received immense support.

I have learned in my time here that Pakistani people are truly gracious.  Strangers have invited me for chai and conversation.  Almost anyone will shake my hand and ask my name, inquire about my health and how I am getting along.  Instead of a handshake at our first meeting, I have sometimes been embraced.  “Strangers shake hands,” my new friend Mahmood explained, “but brothers hug each other.”

This warms my heart.  My mission, our mission, is straightforward, noble, and good.  I am deeply grateful to those who support us here, for we need all the help we can get in order to help those in need.   I am honored to do this work. I feel at home here beyond anything I could have expected.

Ah, home!  I miss my home, my wife and family; each day I wonder when I will see them again. But we have a humanitarian mission to accomplish.  Since I must be away, I’m glad that I am here, doing work that’s needed and good.

When I do return home, I will bring with me hundreds of pictures, dozens of journal entries, six duffel bags, and several recipes for local dishes that I have enjoyed, but I will also bring innumerable memories that I will treasure for life — memories of Pakistan and its people.  They have surprised me with friendship.  I hope that through our work of compassion we may surprise them with friendship as well.

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Pakistan is Not America’s Enemy

 By Ryan Crocker for The Wall Street Journal

 The news from Pakistan is grim. NATO helicopters engage suspected militants inside Pakistan, killing three, only to discover they are Pakistani soldiers. The angry Pakistani government blocks NATO fuel shipments at the Khyber Pass, and militants attack the stalled trucks. An Obama administration report to Congress charges that the Pakistanis aren’t doing enough against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Press accounts quote unnamed officials asserting that elements in Pakistani intelligence are encouraging the Taliban to step up attacks on NATO forces. And Bob Woodward cites President Obama as saying “the cancer is in Pakistan.”

One could easily conclude that we are describing an enemy, not an ally. Many in Pakistan feel the same way. And yet the prospects for stabilizing Afghanistan, defeating al Qaeda and preventing further attacks on the United States are a direct function of that strained alliance. It is time for a collective deep breath.

Pakistan’s historical narrative focuses on how the U.S. worked with Pakistanis and Afghans to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s: We succeeded—and then we left. And on our way out, we slapped sanctions on Pakistan, ending all security and economic assistance because of the country’s nuclear program, which we had known about since 1974 when Pakistan’s prime minister announced it publicly. We left Pakistan alone to deal with a destabilizing civil war in Afghanistan, and when the Taliban emerged as a dominant force in the mid-1990s, Islamabad supported them as a means of ending the conflict.

Then came 9/11 and the U.S. was back. Pakistanis welcomed the renewed assistance. But a constant question I heard while serving as ambassador to Pakistan from 2004-2007 was “How long will you stay this time, and what mess will you leave us with when you go?” For a fragile state with innumerable problems, including a vicious internal insurgency, these are existential questions.

Never in Pakistan’s six decades of existence has the U.S. sustained a long-term, strategic commitment in the country. The Bush administration recognized this and enacted security and economic assistance programs designed to make a long-term difference in education, health care and governance. In 2006, I argued successfully for a five-year assistance package for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which are notable both for chronic underdevelopment and extremism. The Obama administration has built on this, and last year’s Kerry-Lugar bill provided $7.5 billion in assistance over five years. So we have the architecture in place to build a strategic relationship.

Still, short-term pressures risk undermining long-term strategy. When I was ambassador, voices in Congress, the media and even the administration were constantly calling for the U.S. to get tough on Pakistan, make Pakistanis do more, threaten them with consequences. Such exhortations were—and remain—generally counterproductive, as they fuel fears that the U.S. will again abandon Pakistan.

The U.S. can better work with Pakistan if we improve our understanding of history: Given its rivalry with India and its organic disunity, which dates back to its founding, Pakistan fears for its basic survival. The country has always had a difficult relationship with Afghanistan, not least because in the 19th century the British deliberately drew the Pakistani-Afghan border, the so-called Durand Line, in order to divide the Pashtun people. Today Pashtuns make up Afghanistan’s largest community, but there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan.

The Durand Line also set the groundwork for the tribal areas, which are legally distinct from the rest of Pakistan because the British could never exert direct control over them. No central authority ever has. Winston Churchill’s first published work, “The Story of the Malakand Field Force,” is about fierce tribesmen declaring jihad against a Western army. It could be a contemporary account.

So what does this mean in concrete terms?

First, the U.S. should appreciate Pakistan’s challenges and support its government in dealing with them. This summer’s devastating floods have disappeared from the U.S. media but will continue to wreak havoc in Pakistan for a long time to come. In 2005 and 2006, after an earthquake in Kashmir killed almost 80,000 Pakistanis, the U.S. organized the largest relief operation since the Berlin Airlift. The floods’ death toll is lower, but their long-term damage will be far greater. U.S. support should be commensurate.

Second, the U.S. should not carry out cross-border military actions, which I strongly resisted as ambassador. They are clearly counterproductive, and not just because we hit the wrong target. If NATO can carry out military actions in Pakistan from the west, Pakistanis wonder, what stops India from doing the same from the east? There are other options, including drone strikes, which the U.S. is now coordinating more closely with Pakistanis.

Third, with Pakistan’s government (as with Afghanistan’s), we must be private in our criticism and public in our support

Private talks should deepen regarding challenges like the insurgent Haqqani network in North Waziristan, and we need to listen at least as much as we lecture.Fourth, any talks between the U.S. or Afghanistan and the Taliban must be transparent to the Pakistanis. A nightmare for Islamabad is the prospect that the Americans and Afghans come to some accommodation with Taliban elements that would leave them hostile to Pakistan. If Pakistan is not part of the process, we will be working at cross-purposes and only the Taliban will benefit.

Pakistan’s arrest of Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar—at a time when he had begun reconciliation talks with Afghan authorities—underscored the risks of leaving Islamabad out of the loop. Going forward, the timing and nature of talks with the Taliban should be set by Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans working together.

None of this will be easy, but it is essential. A sustained U.S.-Pakistani partnership after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan could have produced a very different history than the one we wrestle with today. Writing a different future requires making long-term commitments—on both sides of the Durand Line.

Mr. Crocker, the dean of Texas A&M’s George Bush School of Government and Public Service, was U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007 and U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

The Pakistan America Peace Through Music Project

A Musical Journey to Peace, Freedom and Understanding
(A Collaboration of The Sonic Peace Makers and SHINE HUMANITY)

The following information in this article is taken from the Peace Through Music webpage on Global Giving at:  http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/peace-through-music/  

Peace Through Music (#5719)

Mention Pakistan today and what comes to the minds of most Americans is terrorism, poverty, and hopelessness. That’s all they see in the news. But Pakistan also has one of the world’s most diverse and rich cultures, equaled only by its spectacular natural beauty as home to part of Kashmir, the Khyber Pass and high mountain peaks like K2. Once upon a time in the not so distant past, Texan gun enthusiasts brought their prized antique revolvers to Peshawar’s gun smiths to make copies, actor Robert DeNiro posed for pictures with restaurant owners while vacationing in Chitral, and Mick Jagger tested his dance skills with Lahore’s most well-known Mujra dancers. And many of Pakistan’s greatest musicians and singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan regularly collaborated with their counterparts in Europe and America such as Peter Gabriel and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.

Two decades ago, we failed to uphold our principles and fulfill a moral obligation to help rebuild Afghanistan and assist Pakistan with the painful aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan war, which included millions of Afghan refugees who still reside in Pakistan. In stark contrast, we helped rebuild our enemies Germany and Japan after WWII, but inexplicably abandoned our friends after the war in Afghanistan, a key factor in allowing extremists to begin their destructive swarm across Afghanistan and Pakistan’s western frontier and become a grave threat to the security and stability of the entire world. But today, while the wounds are deep and the challenges are great, the forces of light and sonic harmony are again on the ascendance. Pakistan today is home not just to 11 music video channels and has one of the most innovative and vibrant music scenes anywhere in the world. A country that has produced some of the greatest sitar and tabla players is today home of some of the finest singers, guitar shredders and drummers. Music pioneers like Junoon, the godfathers of “Sufi Rock,” are joined by Qawwali rockers like Mekaal Hasan and Aaroh, indie projects like Peshawar’s Sajid and Zeeshan, and Heavy Metal innovators like Akash and Karavan. In recent years Atif Aslam has become the most successful Pop singer in all of South Asia with a growing following world-wide.

The Pakistan America Peace Through Music Project was inspired by the work of Greg Mortenson (author of the bestseller “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones Into Schools”) and is based, among other things, on world music pioneer Manu Dibango’s declaration that musicians are “all from the same tribe” regardless of their race, nationality or religion and John Coltrane’s belief in the power of music to spread peace and harmony. Building on the millennia-long tradition of musical and cultural exchange in Pakistan and South and Central Asia more broadly, we will bring a group of leading musicians from the U.S. to Pakistan led by guitarist/producer Lanny Cordola (House of Lords, Giuffria, The Beach Boys), drummer/producer Matt Sorum (Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), singer/guitarist Todd Shea and many others for a month long musical caravan throughout the country, creating and performing with some of Pakistan’s most well known, talented and innovative artists such as Atif Aslam, Shehzad Roy, Strings, Arieb Azhar, Abda Parveen, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Rustam Fateh Ali Khan, Beo Rana Zafar and celebrated record producer Rohail Hyatt (Vital Signs, Coke Studio). The inspiring poetry of Allama Iqbal and other revered poets will be prominently featured as an artistic and cultural base for the musical collaboration. Later on in the year, the Pakistani musicians will come to the U.S. for performances and events joined by their American comrades (including members of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.), which will also include time for more song writing and recording. Both the Pakistani and American “legs” of the gathering will be filmed for a documentary. The music and film will then be completed and released for sale on CDs & DVDs.

Goals
The project’s goals will be to bring Americans and Pakistanis closer together by erasing misconceptions and raising awareness of the diversity and beauty of Pakistan and its people, ultimately revealing the commonalities between Pakistani/Muslim and American cultures, to show Americans the Pakistan they never see in the mainstream media and to support Pakistan’s courageous artistic community, as well as raise funds and awareness to help establish and equip music schools and fund innovative health and education projects across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once the initial project has been released, the music will continue with a series of collaborations with musicians and artists from all over the world to bring people together and help people in need.

Help bring people from all over the world closer together through a musical journey designed to erase misconceptions and build bridges of Peace and understanding between Human Beings.
Go to http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/peace-through-music and donate to the project.

More Information About this Project
Project Needs and Beneficiaries
SHINE Humanity and The Sonic Peacemakers need your support to help raise the funding needed to produce, record, film and document musical collaborations between singers and musicians from all over the world to promote peace and support humanitarian aid projects.

Activities
Musical fusion and celebration of diverse cultures will erase misconceptions and raise funding which will lead to a lasting positive effect on vulnerable children in developing nations, and help create a better, safer world for all Humanity

Funding Information
Total Funding Received to Date: $9,620
Remaining Goal to be Funded: $490,380
Total Funding Goal: $500,000

Why this Project is Important
Potential Long Term Impact

Project Message
“Music has incredible power to inspire and energize Human Beings to bridge divides and create a better world”
– Todd Shea, Chief Operating Officer

Who is Running This Project
Contact
Todd Shea
Executive Director
8020 N. Nob Hill Road
#201
Tamarac, FL 33321
Pakistan
Email: toddshea@cdrspakistan.org

Project Sponsor
GlobalGiving
Organization
Comprehensive Disaster Response Services
Chikar Rural Health Center
Chikar, Dist. Muzaffarabad 131000
Pakistan
011-92-300-502-9705
http://www.ShineHumanity.org

Additional organizations worthy of your donations
http://www.penniesforpeace.org/
http://www.ikat.org/

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