I arrived yesterday afternoon in Pakistan, safe and sound. I am going to be at the Peshawar office of AWN for about a week to get more information on my voter registration project and to work on a communications and media project. The voter registration project is being run by Leeda, AWN’s Administrative and Finance officer who is based in Peshawar, so its necessary to meet her, ask questions about the voter registration project, and write the final report on the project. I’m also going to advise AWN on a few of their communications projects, such as the website and the newsletter.
The communications aspect of AWN is run from Peshawar, not Kabul. Since communication is so arduous and slow, and the Internet only works sporadically, I felt that it would be more productive to actually see the office, talk to the AWN workers, and get a firsthand feel of how the Peshawar office operates.
I went by car from Kabul to Peshawar on a ten hour trip that, supposedly, is one of the world’s most beautiful (and dangerous) drives. I checked first with the ANSO (Afghan National Security Office) beforehand to get an up to date security assessment (currently safe), and was off. I traveled with Afifa Azeem, the Director of AWN, and Engineer Naeem (AWN’s Office Manager). However, since the drive is very long, and very uncomfortable, I think I’ll fly back.
The trip was long, very hot (about 110F!), and uncomfortable (no paved road for most of the way). But it was also breathtaking. We traveled on mountain passes most of the way, but also through a desert that was still being de-mined (I could see men de-mining sections near the road).
With the tall, rocky mountains, the river that ran along the road, and the occasional mud-building village, it was easy why this journey was so famous. We arrived after eight hours to the Afghan-Pakistani border, left the taxi, and walked across the border (only trucks are allowed across the border-people have to walk). There were hundreds of people and making the same crossing with their belongings. And security was practically non-existent, my passport was checked, but my Afghan colleagues’ were not. It is easy to see why Afghanistan is able to smuggle so many things (and people!) into and out of its borders.
We were assigned as armed guard (they assign a guard to all foreigners, apparently), and started on the road to Peshawar. The road to Peshawar cuts through the tribal areas of Pakistan, one of the most lawless places on earth, also an alleged hiding place of Osama bin Laden. With its tall mountains, and remote villages, it is not surprising that the Pakistani government has had so many problems exercising control over this area. However, we made it to Peshawar in one piece and I arrived in my hotel room safely. It was a nice room (except a big lizard I’ve seen running around), and I’m looking forward to my time in Pakistan as a chance to get some work done.
Posted By Sarah Schores (Afghanistan)
Posted Oct 17th, 2006