ACCEPTED INTO THE FAMILY Return to Pakistan - 1996 (Part 5)

Baluchistan Province, Pakistan: Saturday March 16, 1996: Ghafoor Kasi began to explain to me some of his frustrations with his job. He said that all of Baluchistan Province, including the city of Quetta, is divided into A and B sections. Neither the police nor the military have any jurisdic­tion over the B areas, even if someone commits murder. Furthermore, if someone commits a crime in the A area, which is just a very small fraction of the city, and can get over into the B area before he gets caught, the police cannot ever pursue the criminal into the B area. An additional issue that frustrates law and order is the fact that military personnel are totally immune to prosecution, even in cases of rape or murder.

Dr. Malik Kasi had told me one time when we were together that he and his wife were traveling through Iran back in the 1970s and stopped for the night at an inn. While they slept they were robbed of all their money and valuables, and in addition he was absolutely certain that the innkeeper was serving up roasted human flesh for the evening meal.

Eventually Khursheed, Ghafoor, and I ended up at their Baluchistan friend’s Persian carpet shop. Dr. Kasi had sent a message to the shopkeepers telling them that a very dear friend of his, who looked like a white Englishman, was coming to their shop, and that they should give me the best deal.

I suppose we spent at least an hour at the cramped upstairs shop, which was stuffed with roll after roll of handwoven silk and wool carpets. When we walked away, I was the proud owner of two exquisite, small carpets, two of the red carpet pillows like the ones in the Kasis’ homes, and an antique wool and silk hanging that had been used for heaven knows how long out on the desert camel caravan trail as a doorway closing for the corner door of a tent.

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Before we left the shop, I had several pictures taken with my camera of the salesmen, the shopkeepers, Ghafoor, Chief, and me and my carpets.

With my treasures loaded into Chief’s Toyota pickup truck, we headed to one of their favorite tea spots near the large military complex. There I was introduced to another senior tribal member.

I doubt that we Americans will ever understand the family structure and culture of that ancient area. When the younger family members meet one of the senior tribesmen—in this case, Ghafoor and Khursheed were only a tad bit younger—the elder is revered and honored by the younger family member dropping to one knee, taking the right hand of the elder, and kissing it as the elder kisses the top of the younger one’s head. There is never a question of pecking order in such a culture.

At the tea house I was also introduced to another young cousin, who had just returned from Iran. Before he could leave the table where the older tribesmen were sitting, he had to go through a ritual of getting himself excused from that table so that he could come join us at our table.

We all gathered at Dr. Malik Kasi’s home tonight for dinner. Of course, just the menfolk showed their faces. A huge table was spread with dishes included that I never knew existed. In fact, I still don’t know what some of them were. Dr. Kasi’s two sons-in-law joined us for dinner, as did the adopted “hashish” brother. It was really a great time of getting acquainted and relaxing.

Following dinner we all retired to the visiting room, where we had been for tea late yesterday after­noon. There we were served tea along with nuts, dried fruits, sugar-coated almonds, and other great munchies. We spent until 11:30 p.m. talking about Greek and Persian history, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great right on up through the partitioning of India and Pakistan by Lord Mountbatten of England.

With a time difference of exactly twelve hours from Evergreen, Colorado, my body is still con­fused about when it should sleep and when it should be awake. But early morning risings and late-night bedtimes have me tired enough to sleep standing up in the shower with the water running.

Sunday, March 17

While I was at Dr. Kasi’s house for dinner last night, Dr. Buzdar finished his neurosurgeries and came by the hotel at about 9:30 p.m. looking to have a cup of tea with me. He left a note with the front desk requesting that we get together for lunch today. I tried to reach him by phone to confirm before I went down to breakfast but was unable to get through to him.

At 9:30 a.m., Dr. Qazi, deputy director of the hospital, arrived at the hotel to take me back to the hospital. On the way he started shedding a little light on what had been happening. It appeared that a process was going on whereby the entire administration of the hospital was being removed and placed into other government projects. Dr. Zehri was gone, along with others I had met in December. Dr. Qazi was very worried because he had heard from three different rumor sources the day before that he was next to get the ax.

At Dr. Qazi’s office, Dr. Malik Kasi and his protégé were there to meet me. They wanted me to visit the school and meet the teacher who had educated most of the immediate Kasi tribe. The school is called St. Mary’s and is run by Rachael Nathaniel, who came from Bombay, India, and started a school in the Quetta area forty-one years ago. She is a devout Christian and has served alone all these years, teaching the Muslim children. Now the church that owns the school building is putting the pressure on her financially, and it looks like she will have to close the school.

I am sure that it was Dr. Kasi’s wife who suggested that I be taken to see Rachael Nathaniel. Thirteen of the Kasi clan are now enrolled at the school, and it was with Rachael that Dr. Kasi’s wife had lived and learned such good English before she married Dr. Kasi. It was a great honor to meet the dedicated lady, and indeed, she has done phenomenal missions work, but I don’t see, at the moment, how Project C.U.R.E. can be of assistance. The local Muslims need to step up to the bat to help save her school. They are the ones who have benefited and are benefiting from her good work.

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On our way back to the hospital, the two doctors found a parking place right in the heart of Quetta, and they told me we were going to visit a very important coffee house. Historically, it had been the meeting place where all the different tribal elders would come to do busi­ness. It was definitely old English Colony India. The coffee house was round and totally windowed on the walls. It looked out over a small parklike area that had a raised concrete patio overflowing with bearded Pakistani men sitting at tables. Everything that happens in Baluchistan probably starts there. Dr. Kasi thoroughly enjoyed tak­ing me around to the elders and introducing me to them.

At the hospital it was time to completely tour Dr. Kasi’s domain. He has headed up the pediatrics department at the hospital for years, as well as being the major pediatrics professor at Bolan Medical College.

I thought I had a rough time handling some of the scenes yesterday, but seeing ward after ward of babies with tuberculosis of the brain, acute encephalitis, and the final stages of severe malnutrition in the pediatrics department really zapped me emotionally. The thought went through my mind, Will I ever get used to this exposure? In some ways I hope so; in some ways I hope not.

At 1:00 p.m., I went to another office to wait for Dr. Buzdar’s driver to come and pick me up for lunch. I really wasn’t very hungry, but it wasn’t going to be as easy to skip lunch today as it was yesterday. We were joined at lunch by a colleague of Dr. Buzdar, another brain surgeon. Dr. Buzdar was really disappointed that we had not been able to spend as much time together as we had on my previous trip. We reminisced about carpet shopping, and I renewed my invitation for him to come to my home in Colorado and see the carpets he helped me buy.

He told me that he is still planning to come to San Diego on June 24 to attend a neurology semi­nar there, and then he wants to drive or take the train from California to Denver before heading back to Pakistan. It really is a blessing to have a home where I feel comfortable inviting all these international friends. I’ll bet that’s why God hasn’t allowed Anna Marie and me to give it away yet.

I had the brain surgeons drop me off at my hotel on their way back to the hospital. It was about time for my appointment with Ghafoor and Chief. They came just as soon as Ghafoor could leave work. He really is Mr. Important in the constabulary and occupies a large front corner office at the police complex. His duties included not just Quetta but the entire Baluchistan region. It really is amazing that he and Chief had taken as much time off as they had to host me. I certainly appreciated it.

We went on an excursion up into the mountains and past the manmade lake where I had gone with Dr. Buzdar on my last trip. However, we continued on higher into the coal fields and through several military encampments. I saw many caves and mine tunnels.

Surrounding Quetta are high mountain ranges with peaks that stay snow covered all year long. My hosts told me stories of how they would climb the mountains during the summer when they were kids and bring snow home on donkeyback to make ice cream.

It was getting dark by the time we left, but my two friends wanted to make one more stop and introduce me to another cousin who is a civil engineer with the government. Rauf Kasi lives in a spectacular two-story home that had just recently been completed. It is in a very new area that is probably one of the most exclusive in Quetta.

As we talked and got acquainted, he was just full of questions about me personally and about Project C.U.R.E. He said, “There had to be something that happened in your life that made you decide to do what you are now doing and do it without pay.”

I said, “Yes, there was something definite and distinct that happened in my life that changed my value system and moved me from success to significance.” Since he asked, I proceeded to give them my personal testimony. Tears were welling up in Rauf’s eyes when we finished. I thought to myself, Yup, God speaks to Muslims.

Ghafoor had to preside at some big police function tonight and was not going to be able to join Chief and me for dinner. When we dropped him off at police headquarters, the Balochistan advance fighting team, sort of like the Green Beret unit in the US, was getting ready to rehearse for their evening performance.

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They were dressed in white ceremonial uniforms with long, red-trimmed coats. There was one drummer and one wind-instrument player, and the rest of the troupe did the tribal war dances. The musical instrument sounded a lot like the music from a bagpipe, only he had to stop the music once and a while between notes to take a breath.

Ghafoor summoned the team over, introduced me to them, and had them perform in front of the headlights of Chief’s truck.

Dinner alone with Chief tonight gave me a great opportunity to get acquainted with him. We talked a lot about his orchard farming and his four kids. Back to the hotel about 11:30 p.m.

As I was getting ready for bed, I recalled some of the different pieces of advice that Dr. Kasi had given me while we were together:

    1.    “Stay away from the mosques.” Many of the simple Muslims have been unfairly brainwashed about infidels. It’s a good practice to avoid danger by just staying away. A story is told about an infidel running out across the desert. When stopped and asked why, he replied that a decree had been given to kill all the camels near the mosque. “But you are not a camel” came the response. “I know,” the infidel retorted. “But by the time I could explain that, it would be too late.”

    2.    When I asked Dr. Kasi to give me advice about buying Persian carpets, he said, “If you, Mr. Jackson, wanted to have great financial success, you would begin going through our country and purchasing old Muslim prayer carpets. There are very rare carpets now available dating back hundreds of years, and no one here wants to charge much for a prayer carpet. But soon they will be very valuable historically.”

    3.    I asked where I could go to the toilet. His reply, “Go anywhere you would like; 90 percent of the people consider Pakistan a toilet.”

    4.    He also advised that I learn some simple Baluchistan greetings: “I’m glad you arrived safe, and no one killed you” (a very common greeting because of the danger and lawlessness); “I hope you have rested”; “No one else is happy in this province; I hope you are”; and “I sincerely hope you are not constipated.”

Monday, March 18

When I returned to my room after breakfast this morning, I received a phone call from someone claiming he was from the office of the secretary of health. He told me that I must come down and sign a large number of documents regarding the cargo container in Karachi. I would also have to make additional arrangements to pay for a tax-exempt status for my organization; and fur­ther, I needed to pay a large amount of money to ship the container from Karachi to Quetta.

Working in Third World countries is not for the newly initiated or naive. I still have times when I mess up, even though I’ve worked in this arena for nearly fifteen years. But fortunately, I read this caller correctly: He simply was going to extort money from me, and I somewhat politely told him to take a long walk off a short dock.

I packed everything and headed for the front desk to check out of the hotel and be ready for Dr. Kasi, who was going to arrive at 9:30 a.m. to take me to the airport. At the front desk was Dr. Qazi, waiting to tell me that it looked official that he would be transferred from the hospital administration position, so he would probably not see me again if I came to the hospital in the future. But he wanted to give me a way to get ahold of him when I return to Quetta on my next trip. He hugged me and hugged me and cried as I left. I knew he was wishing that he had some other option this morning than staying the rest of his life in Quetta, Pakistan.

On the way to the airport, I again invited Dr. Kasi to come to Colorado. I told him how much I appreciated his sharing his family with me. He reached out his hand to shake mine and said, “God willing, we shall be friends forever.” I wish some way that could be true.

At the airport I gave Dr. Kasi a complete set of all correspondence, documents, and fax messages regarding Project C.U.R.E.’s transactions with the Quetta hospital and told him that he could refer to those documents regarding any questions or situations in the future.

Next Week: All Things Are Ready for the Banquet.