‘Why are there so few people in the market, sir?’ Kacper asked the shop owner; in one of the Islamabad’s most popular trading areas, called Gina Market. ‘Last time, I was in Pakistan in 2006, this place was full of people, especially on Saturdays, like today’ he added. ‘This is because of our security. People are scared to be in public places, as we are worried of bomb blasts’ explained the older man. All of the sudden his face became sad. ‘Things are not going well in Pakistan these days… Inch’Allah (God willing), we will overcome these difficulties, and Pakistan will be safer again’ he added with some hope in his voice. ‘Pakistanis are wonderful people, and I am sure, they will be able to sort problems of their country soon’ Kacper wanted to sound as positive as he could. He paid his bill at the counter, and left the shop. Together with his Bangladeshi friend and colleague, Sadhan they decided to walk around the marker a bit more. They both wanted to buy some DVDs with movies. ‘Sadhan, this is absolutely crazy. This is not Islamabad I remember. Ordinary people seem to be scared, and there is such a strange feeling… What is striking me is that it is not only the foreigners that panic about their own security, the Pakistanis themselves seem to be very concerned, and this is worrying’ went on Kacper, somehow not yet able to acknowledge the new situation that he is finding in Pakistan. Sadhan just nodded his head. ‘Yes, this feels very strange’ he agreed.
Later that afternoon, Kacper went home, and decided to read some documents related to the humanitarian situation of the internally displaced people coming from the Swat Valley. He had around 3 hours to do so. He would then go for a dinner with his two new colleagues he was going to work with – both public health specialists. Kacper’s organisation in Pakistan tried to provide some basic services like access to water, and sanitation to around 25,000 families, who fled from areas, where the military operations were taking place. Naturally, public health professionals were of key importance to design and implement such projects. Before engaging himself in some documents, he decided to have a look at the Dawn, one of Pakistan’s daily newspapers. 40 People killed in blast in the mosque… A time bomb destroys a school for girls in Peshawar… Two members of MOM party killed in a terrorist attack in Karachi…The police convoy in Northern Territories attacked. Many police officers injured, and some killed… - read titles of various articles all over the newspaper. ‘Goodness me! This is just one edition of a daily, and all these horrific news are here!’ he noticed to the receptionist of the Bed & Breakfast he stayed in. ‘Sir, this is normal. All editions of daily newspapers look similar in Pakistan these days…’ the guy paused for a second. ‘Many of us stop reading the news, as they are too difficult to handle. Sometimes it is better not to know…’ he explained to Kacper. ‘We will look after you here though, sir. You should not worry! We are happy, you are in Pakistan with us’, he reassured Kacper.
‘Are you ready Kacper?’ asked Osman on the phone. ‘We are now coming with a car to pick you up, and then we can move to the restaurant for our dinner’ he informed Kacper. ‘We have already done the security clearance for the restaurant for tonight, so we don’t need to worry about it anymore’ he let Kacper know. ‘Fantastic! I am looking forward to be going out with you’, he was genuinely excited.
They all placed their orders. Kacper looked out to the street. It was still light. More people appeared on the street, obviously enjoying a pleasant evening and temperature. ‘This is so odd…Things seem to be so quiet, yet everyone is worried all the time, about how insecure it is…’ wondered Kacper. ‘Yes, we live in strange times… You just need to get used to it, and be vigilant all the time’ answered Osman. ‘Once you are really busy with our humanitarian response, you will stop noticing how odd it is here, and just get by with your life’ he went on.
Osman, Mary (Zimbabwean colleague), and Kacper started chatting away. In order to break initial ice, and make the atmosphere a bit cosier, Kacper started talking about his previous work experience. The two colleagues relaxed quickly, and also begun sharing their previous work experiences from various parts of the world. The conversation was very casual, and it seemed like, the three started feeling very comfortable with each other’s company. ‘It seems like, I will be working with a very nice team here…’ thought Kacper gratefully. ‘They are both really nice people’ he was very pleased.
As they were about to pay their bill, nearly simultaneously their mobile telephones started beeping – announcing that text messages arrived. They all looked at each other, and reached the phones. Security Alert: The bomb blast in Islamabad, Sector H8. Please confirm you are ok, and return to your respective residences as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation. Ahmed. ‘I guess, we need to be going home’, Osman stated slightly annoyed. Their car was already waiting for them in front of the restaurant.
Back at home, Kacper tuned to one of the TV news channels. Ambulances, crowds of people, running policemen… A suicide bomb attack took place in front of the Police Head Quarters in Islamabad’s H8 Sector. Although three people died, and additional 4 are injured, it is believed that the police prevented a major disaster, by shooting at the attacker at the yard of their compound. The attacker detonated bombs strapped to his body, as police started firing shots at him… ‘It seems like, the deployment in Pakistan has got a potential to keep me busy…’ came through Kacper’s mind, before went to bed. ‘We will be fine, we will all be fine’ he went on thinking about challenges of his work.
PS. Kacper has just returned from the Polish Embassy, where he voted in the European Parliamentary elections.