Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 1 in Pakistan: Report from Code Pink Delegation

The letter below was received from JoAnne Lingle on October 17. See also JoAnne's article, written September 21, in anticipation of her departure for Pakistan to participate in the Code Pink delegation.

Dear Friends and Family,

Words cannot fully express how privileged I feel to have been part of the recent Peace Delegation to Pakistan - 30 U.S. citizens and 1 Canadian.

Arriving in Islamabad: 10 of us arrived on the same plane from Abu Dhabi. Benazir Bhutto International Airport is old, small and run down. A sad legacy to the airport that bears her name.

The immigration lines were long. When we finally got to the man at the desk, he handed us forms to fill out, then took our photos. When I stood in the place for my photo, he waved me on. I smiled and asked, "You're not taking photos of old women today?" He laughed and said, "No, No! It's OK, we have you in our system." No one else had the same response. Interesting!

As we stepped outside the terminal, we were greeted by hordes of well wishers shouting, "WELCOME! WELCOME! WELCOME! We were showered with rose petals, serenaded and presented with two lovely bouquets of roses. This warm welcome was unexpected and overwhelming. After all the hoop-la, we were whisked to our hotel where we were warmly welcomed with refreshments. At 3:30am we were ready for a short rest before beginning our first day of an awesome 7-day journey seeing Pakistan through new eyes.

October 3 - First day: After getting to bed at 5am and told our 1st meeting was scheduled for 10:30am, I set my alarm clock for 9. Neither my room mate nor I heard the alarm and were awaken with a phone call at 9:45!

Our first meeting was with Shahzad Akbar and his team from the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), our host organization. Shahzad gave a general orientation about the people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and how drones endanger U.S. National Security. Most information from this orientation can be found in the Stanford/NYU Report: Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan.

Our 2nd meeting was with the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, Richard Hoagland, who came to meet with us at our hotel. After he was introduced, Amb. Hoagland walked around our table, shaking hands with each one as we introduced ourselves to him. He shared with me that he was from Ft. Wayne IN. Later I heard that he was also a Mennonite and that we could call him "Dick" :-)

Amb. Hoagland was very cordial but forthright in his request that we not participate in the Peace March to Waziristan. When asked if the U.S. would attack Waziristan with drone strikes during the march, he said, "I will guarantee 100% that Code Pink will not be targeted," not fully answering our question.

In the afternoon, we went to a shopping area to exchange money and shop. Women bought Pakistani dresses and head coverings while the men bought shirts and hats. Everything is quite reasonably priced here. Some of us found a wonderful book store that had everything from Chomsky to Guevara. I purchased two books: one on Islamophobia and one titled: Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and The West.

Later that evening, those of us newly arrived were invited to dinner at the home of the head of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). There we were greeted by other women and engaged in lively conversation. Although they are against the U.S. drone attacks, they were not supporting Imran Khan who they said was right of center when it came to economic issues. Instead, they were supporting a coalition of small progressive parties.

During the after dinner conversation, they were delighted to hear that a large part of my financial support had come from Muslim friends of Al Huda Mosque in Indiana.

A local and well known musician played and sang several Pakistani songs, ending with Bob Marley's "Stand Up for Your Rights" and a rousing "Ain't Gonna Study War No More".

With gratitude for your love and support for the people of Pakistan.

With Hope for a more Peaceful World,

- from a hostel in Istanbul, overlooking the beautiful Blue Mosque

Continued at: Day Two in Pakistan: October 4 Press Conference

Read the full story of JoAnne Lingle's participation in the Code Pink peace delegation to Pakistan.

For more photos see the Code Pink delegation photo site.

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