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producers' dispatches from the front

D I S P A T C H E S

+ "Nuclear Neighbors"


from Marcela Gaviria

click here for a larger map While Scott and I are having a very "civilized" meal at the U.N. Club, a place reminiscent of a gentleman's club in the colonial subcontinent, India attacked Pakistan.

I find out about the latest skirmish twelve hours after dinner as we try to track down General Musharraf's closest aide, General Rashid Qureshi. He is swamped with calls, so we figure that the only way to trap him into meeting us is by attending the special press briefing.

"Late last night India launched a totally unprovoked attack on a Pakistani outpost in Northern Kashmir," General Qureshi told a couple dozen Pakistani journalists crammed in a space that looks much like my grandmother's old living room.

It's an old conflict -- this part-time war between India and Pakistan -- one that has lasted for more than 20 years. Ironically, it seems to flare up every time an American dignitary comes to town to mediate the dispute between the two uneasy nuclear neighbors. Tomorrow, Richard Armitage, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, will arrive from Delhi. And so to mark his arrival, Pakistan says, the Indians have bombarded one of their outposts using aircraft.

Islamabad street.
It's strange hearing talk of "sorties" and "maximum restraint" and "escalation of the conflict" in a war that has nothing to do with terrorism or Al Qaeda. In fact, it seems Pakistanis are far more wrapped up in the fate of "Indian occupied Kashmir" than with the coalition's mission in the tribal areas. Kashmir is an obsession in this country. Kashmir matters to the Pakistanis because it's a Muslim area being occupied by Hindu infidels.

Pakistan is fiercely religious. It is, after all, called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Here there are hundreds of madrassas, or religious schools, and a mosque every few hundred yards. Men walk about in their Shalwar Kameez and prayer hats. Beige and light blue seem to be the colors in vogue. One rarely sees women on the streets, and if you do, they are wrapped from head to toe in a colorful medley of cotton fabrics.

Scott and I took a walk through a middle-class neighborhood today. Men sat on benches having their beards trimmed by roadside barbers. Others held hands in friendly embrace. And a few prayed on straw mats in a courtyard. Vendors were deep-frying batter in pools of grease sprinkled with a few dead gnats. Piles of dung were scattered here and there. The smell was so odious, I felt nauseous.

Martin has arrived and once again he's lost his luggage. Tomorrow, Inshalla, we will go to Peshawar.


< previous dispatch  +  next dispatch >

London
(Aug. 13-14)

Zubaydah Is Dead
13 August, London

Armchair Jihadists
14 August, London

Gulf of Oman
(Aug. 15-21)

Faces at a Dubai Mall
15 August, Dubai, U.A.E.

HMCS Algonquin
16 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

On Board the Algonquin
17-18 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

Like an Elephant Chasing a Mouse
17-18 August, Gulf of Oman

Dubai to Karachi
20 August

A Firehose of Information
20-21 August, Dubai - Muscat - Chennai

Pakistan
(Aug. 22-29)

Old Hash
22 August, Islamabad

+ Nuclear Neighbors
22-23 August, Islamabad

We Believe in God
24 August, Islamabad

Paranoid in Peshawar
27 August, Peshawar

Bombs or Dust Devils
27-28 August, Peshawar

Rumors and Half Truths
28 August, Peshawar

Pakistan Border Lands
(Aug. 30-Sept. 4)

On the Road to Chitral
30 August, Dir Khas

Prisoners' Dilemma
31 August, Dir

In the Northwest Frontier
30-31 August, Dir

Border Town
2 September, Chitral to Arandu

Don't Go to Timargarha
1-2 September, Drosh to Timargarha

An American Informer
3-4 September, Peshawar

Pakistan
(Sept. 5-23)

Road to Nowhere
7 September, Islamabad to Faisalabad

Faisal Town
7 September, Faisalabad

Frustrations
9 September, Faisalabad

The Plight of Women
10 September, Faisalabad

A Little Noticed Gun Battle
10-13 September, Lahore-Karachi

The Madrassa
14 September, Akora Khattak

The Next Big Get
20 September, Karachi - Islamabad

A Circle of Trust
21 September, Islamabad

Indomitable
23 September, Islamabad

Saudi Arabia
(Sept. 24-Oct. 2)

Inside the Kingdom
24-25 September, Riyadh

My Baffling Question
27 September, Unizah-Buraydah

An Obedient Dissident
27 September, Buraydah

An Audience with the Crown Prince
2 October, Riyadh

Yemen
(Sept. 25-Oct. 10)

Arriving in Yemen
25-26 September, Sana'a

The Wedding Party
27 September, Sana'a

A Talking Drug
28 September, Sana'a

The World's Most Ancient Skyscrapers
3 October, Sana'a

Americans Are Vampires
7 October, Sana'a

Waiting for Rahma
9 October, Sana'a

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