Quetta, Pakistan: Thursday March, 15, 1996: I decided at about 8:30 p.m. to go to the coffee shop and eat some dinner and work on another strategy. I began to think, These people really don’t give too much of a rip about $500,000 worth of medical stuff!
At dinner I decided that, most important, if I had to start all over with a government health secretary or someone else, I had better be supplied with the information I had left in the file at the Denver office. The time difference between Quetta and Denver is exactly twelve hours. I guessed that made sense—the two places are exactly on the other side of the world from each other. So following dinner I waited until 10:00 p.m. in Quetta to call Ruth at the Denver office, allowing her time to settle into the day at 10:00 a.m. I eventually got through to her, explained my situation, and asked her to fax to the hotel all the necessary documents.
Friday, March 15
In the morning all the papers Ruth had faxed were at the front desk. After breakfast I received a phone call from Dr. Malik Kasi, a doctor I had not met on my previous trip. I thought when he introduced himself on the phone that his name was Dr. Qazi, a doctor whom I had met. He said that he would be busy today. I briefly explained to him my plight and my concern for the container that was being ignored at the Port of Karachi. I nearly begged him to allow me to meet with him today to explain in full detail. He offered to invite me to his farm and have coffee with him. I told him I neither had his address nor any transportation. I asked if he could send his driver for me. He admitted that he had no driver but would come to the hotel perhaps around 10:30, 11:00, or so.
I stayed in my room, close to the phone, from that moment on. Here was my first opportunity to maybe talk to a real live person who might shed some light on the mysterious situation.
Ten o’clock came … 10:30 … 11:00 … 12:00 … nothing. Oh no, not more waiting! One o’clock … 2:00, 3:00. I had not moved from my room. Suddenly a note was slid under my door. I jumped up, grabbed it, read it. The time listed on the note was 9:40 a.m. Dr. Malik Kasi, had been there looking for me and had left at 9:40 a.m. I had a feeling that the scene at the front desk was not going to be a pretty one. Indeed, I did have considerable pent-up frustration.
I headed to the desk and calmly asked for some explanation. If someone was looking for me at the front desk, why was I not notified of such by phone in my room? And why, if all that had taken place at 9:40 a.m., would anyone wait until 3:00 p.m. to deliver the note?
Most of the people behind the desk scattered. No doubt they sensed the intensity in my calm. I went through several folks before I got to the shift manager. He suggested that perhaps my room phone was not working. I acknowledged that as a distinct possibility and gave my apologies if that were the case. We checked out the phone … That was not the case. I explained to the manager that I had not moved an inch from the room since breakfast, that I had been waiting for the man’s visit, and that this visit was very important. Additionally, he was now gone, and I had no phone number for him over the weekend and no address to use as a follow-up.
The manager offered to personally find Dr. Kasi’s address and go there to see if he could return to the hotel. He was good to his word. About one hour later, Dr. Malik Kasi knocked on my hotel-room door. I cheerfully greeted him and suggested that we go to the coffee shop so that I could buy him a cup of tea.
Naturally he was quite reserved and cautious. I joked and told him that perhaps he could shed some light on a very great mystery. His eyes got big. I then went on to tell him the whole story of my originally coming to Quetta in December 1995, meeting the many people, doing the Needs Assessment Study, and then returning to the United States.
I showed Dr. Kasi all the fax messages and documents I had sent so many times via fax, e-mail, and finally through the counsul at the Pakistan embassy in Washington, D.C. I told him that I never received a reply to any of my messages. But I presumed that someone, somewhere was getting them. So I came to Quetta anyway. But to my surprise, no one was at the airport to meet me, and no reservations were made for me at the Serena Hotel. “You are the first live person who has responded to my many calls,” I told him. “I was beginning to believe that either I was going crazy or I was in the wrong Quetta.”
He asked several pertinent questions and was trying to figure out why he had never been brought into any of the factors regarding this whole matter. He said, “Let’s go now. I know where Zehri and Buzdar live. We will go directly to their homes.”
On the way we went past the house of one of his cousins, the Dr. Kasi who picked me up at the airport on my first trip. He came out to the car, dirty, unshaven … sort of a mess. Dr. Malik Kasi said, “Look, he sees you and he is embarrassed.” The younger Dr. Kasi admitted that he had been given instructions to take care of my getting picked up at the airport, and that he had delegated the task to a very reliable man, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, at last, I knew for certain that someone had made them aware of my arrival. We went to Dr. Zehri’s home, but the houseman said he would not be back until late Sunday. (I had been told he would be gone until November … Perhaps I hadn’t understood.) Dr. Buzdar was not at home either.
As we drove, Dr. Malik Kasi began to explain what he thought was going on. He said that in 1988, while the Russians were in Afghanistan, just a couple of miles away, the US and other foreign organizations began pouring aid into Quetta and all of Pakistan to reinforce the border and help the people. Most of the UN and humanitarian organizations were very lazy and would simply send lots of stuff, and particularly lots of cash, with almost no accountability. Officials had gotten used to simply diverting those things into instant riches for themselves, millions of dollars at a time.
“When the parents are petty thieves,” Dr. Kasi told me, “the children grow up to be big robbers.” He said that they never expected you would come back or do any other follow-up. So they encouraged the distancing by ignoring communications, counting on your not having time or intent to do a follow-up assessment.
I was angry. I was pleased that I was finally getting some information. Mostly I was excited to have made the acquaintance with Dr. Malik Kasi. Right before I received the note under my hotel door, I had the telephone in my hand to start another calling barrage. But I was checked in my spirit by God, who instructed me, “I have this whole situation under control. Don’t mess up the timing. Don’t get others involved at this point. Just wait … You’ll see.”
We stopped at one of Dr. Malik Kasi’s farms, where his brother (adopted into the family as an orphaned child) managed the farm and a large orchard. He had an interesting philosophy of life. Since the oldest brother of the family had been assassinated on one of their village roads, this brother’s attitudes and lifestyle had changed. Dr. Kasi said that the oldest brother was the favorite and sharpest son of the family, and everyone liked him. The assassination was such a terrible shock that the adopted brother never really regained his life. “He offers free food at the farm to anyone who needs it,” Dr. Kasi told me. Additionally, he runs sort of a “hashish smoking orchard.” He grows and gives away free smokes of hashish to anyone who wants to come to the orchard. He has found that smoking hashish eases his pain, and he offers to do the same for others who need it.
I asked Dr. Kasi if all that wasn’t contrary to the Muslim requirements. He said that the consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden, but when the Koran was written, the people knew nothing about drugs, so they were not banned. The brother will sometimes have two thousand people out in the orchards just sitting under the trees smoking free hashish, blasted out of their minds.
From the farm we drove through the Kasi village, down the Kasi road (named after the assassinated brother), and to the old home compound that has existed on the spot for nearly two hundred years. It is where the great-grandfather had built a “modern” home and guesthouses inside a high-walled compound. Dr. Kasi’s youngest brother, Quetta’s chief of police, now lives there with his family.
We entered one of the guest areas where they receive visitors. A gas “fireplace” was burning, taking the chill from the old building. All the floors were covered with gorgeous Persian carpets, and the room walls were lined with pillows constructed with Persian carpets about thirty-six inches by twenty inches, sewn together and stuffed with cotton. Tea and condiments were quickly served on the floor, and each man took a pillow and pulled it up close to the fire. Some sat on the pillows, including me, and some sat on the carpets and leaned back against the pillows.
One end of the room was a shelved display area for a collection of extremely rare Gardner and Romanov porcelain pieces. I hadn’t the goofiest idea of the value of the collection. Over the fireplace, on the mantle, were pictures of the police chief with important dignitaries. Also displayed was a badge from someplace in Maryland and an arm patch of that police unit. The brother had been trained near Washington, D.C., in 1988 by US Army Special Forces and Secret Service as part of the US security involvement in the US-Russian stand-off on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Next Week: I Was Learning That There is Absolutely No Rule of Law in Pakistan