Saturday, October 20, 2012

Days Four/Five in Pakistan: To the Tribal Areas!

"Go to Places that scare you." - Alice Walker

Continued from Day Three in Pakistan: October 5, Preparing to March - JoAnne Lingle reporting on her trip.

9:00am - Peace March to Waziristan

Long before we departed our hotel, Code Pink's tireless Tighe Barry had taped enlarged photos of children who had been killed by drones on both sides of our two buses. An even larger photo was taped on each roof.

We were on our way! Two buses with a total of thirty-one North American peace activists were going to South Waziristan despite warnings from the U.S. Embassy and the Pakistani government. Our first scheduled stop was Imran Khan's headquarters for a rally. With security cars leading and Imran's bullet proof car directly behind, our buses were to follow Imran and his posse.

Everything changed as soon as we pulled out from our hotel - this would be the first of many changes along the way We didn't go to Imran's headquarters for the rally. We were told to go ahead because journalists and media had completely swamped Imran Khan's headquarters. Now our buses would trail behind all the other vehicles. At the least, we were promised security in front and at the read of our buses.

All along the road we traveled, people were lined up with banners that said "Welcome" and "No Drones" in English. It was apparent people knew who were in the buses. Rallys were held at every town and bus stop. Traffic was jammed, often causing us to be at a stand still and turning the 6 hr journey into 13 hrs with only two restroom stops.

When one of the fixers came on our bus to tell the women to close the curtains and cover their heads, it was obvious we were in a place that was not very welcoming to Americans.

Our bus got lost! We had noticed for some time that we were not keeping up with the other bus - cars were getting in between us. Soon we realized we were totally alone on the road. Our bus was in the middle of nowhere without security. Another unplanned adventure!

An hour or so later, the driver turned around and we saw our convoy; however, all the security was up front near Imran Khan's car.

Richard Leiby, correspondent for the Washington Post, was imbedded on our bus and sitting right next to me. Richard interviewed me and wrote an article about our journey, quoting my story about having a drone replica in our church one Sunday. The article was published in the Post the following day: Imran Khan and Codepink are blocked from Pakistan’s tribal area.

Imran Khan and Codepink are blocked from Pakistan’s tribal area

At 10:30 p.m., we arrived at our overnight destination, a compound called "The Farm", a stone's throw from South Waziristan where we were to be the next morning! We had a late night supper of beans, rice and beef before finding our sleeping quarters. Exhausted from our long day's travel, our twenty plus women went to the three rooms assigned to us to discover a woman journalist had taken one of the rooms and locked us out. Fortunately, we found enough mats to lay on the floors of the two remaining rooms and flopped on the floor exhausted, placing our bodies "head to toe".

The next morning, we were awaken by a loud knock on the door at 6am telling us we must clear the room in 15 minutes. Breakfast was to be served in this room. With amazing speed, we did it.

After breakfast, Imran Khan came to our room to thank us for coming. He told us the Pakistani government had closed the roads into South Wazaristan and we would not be able to go further. He said it didn't matter that we could not continue. The fact that we had come this far was inspiring to the people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA.

At 10am, a huge rally was held in a tent at the Farm to welcome Imran Khan and our delegation. After speeches by Imran Khan and Medea Benjamin, we said our goodbyes, packed up and headed back to Islamabad. On the way back, Imran had arranged a lunch for us at a lovely place beside a lake with a breathtaking view of the mountains.

We were back at our home away from home, the Chancery Hotel, in less than six hours and welcomed by the staff, who had by now become our friends, with cups of steaming hot tea.

With gratitude and appreciation for your love and support and with hope for a more Peaceful world.


Continued at: Day Six in Pakistan: October 8 - Day after the Peace March
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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