Yes, Pakistan. Actually, the far northern part was our goal. Our May trip was planned to see a number of good friends and business colleagues in a country that is mentioned every day in our newspapers…and not in a good way.
We have both visited Pakistan on a number of occasions during our diplomatic careers–Fred, first in the 1980’s, and Sharon, last in 2004.
Frankly, in our era it has long been a troubled place. It has been ranked the 20th most climate-vulnerable country, because of many serious floods, earthquakes and avalanches on mountain roads.
Also, terrorism and extremist activity have caused dangers not only to foreigners, but to Pakistanis too. Most recently, the U.S. unilaterally killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Even in earlier decades, there was danger; a mob sacked the U.S. Embassy and killed diplomats in the late 1970’s.
99.9 percent of the population is peaceful and pro-western, but that other .01 percent has caused a lot of trouble. Can you imagine the stress of trying to live a normal life in Pakistan? A school girl is shot in the head for advocating education for girls! Wow.
A recent Gallup poll asked nationals of over 100 countries how happy they were, and the results showed Pakistan as just about the most unhappy country in the world.
Still, we have a number of close friends in Pakistan, and we buy the majority of the rugs in our shop from there. Pakistanis weave amazing carpets and are good business partners. We thought it was time to visit them…however carefully.
Our goal was to visit the wonderful Ismaili weavers in the Hunza valley of far northern Pakistan. We will be writing several blogs about our trip but, with all honesty, must admit that we didn’t reach our goal. We curtailed our trip early and cannot recommend Pakistan–as the situation now stands–as a destination for even an intrepid traveler.
Pakistan is a big country ranging from hot tropical coastal plains and deserts in the south to very high mountains, the Hindu Kush, in the far north. In between Karachi (yes, the airport attacks) in the south, and the capitol of Islamabad, (yes, the bombings), are fascinating ancient civilizations dating back thousands of years.
But, our destination was Hunza, a 12,000-foot valley in a region containing eight of the 20 highest peaks in the world. This includes K-2, also known as the “Savage Mountain” because of the second-highest fatality rate of its climbers. It is the second-highest mountain on earth, after Mount Everest, at 28,251 feet.
Our plan was to fly to Islamabad and then skip over the dangerous Waziristan bits by flying up to the far north. Unfortunately, the global bad weather brought by this year’s El Nino not only has caused bad floods in England and Bosnia, but has resulted in unseasonal torrential rains in Afganistan and Pakistan and messed up our plans to fly to Hunza.
Stay tuned for later blogs on Islamabad and Hunza.