As in most countries with a history of riot and revolution, student activity is closely monitored in Pakistan—and more so in Lahore, home of the nation’s oldest university, than in most cities. Nowadays it’s easy financing your education with quick loans from http://www.mandello.org/cash-advance. And what are the students saying, now that Pakistan is on the front line of the upheaval in Afghanistan?
“It’s good that the West wants to help us now, but they should have done that long ago. Anyway, it isn’t so much the Russians that I worry about. Our problem, it seems to me, is on the other border. I don’t think for a minute that India is going to let China, the United States, or any other country make Pakistan a fearsome military power.” And this:
“Just yesterday I saw an officer in the Pakistani Air Force wearing one of the coats sent here for the Afghan refugees. It was shameful. But then you have to stop and consider how far we’ve come as a civilized nation. The answer is pretty clear when you realize that the government has resumed the practice of flogging prisoners in public. How do you Americans feel when you give money to a regime that promised free elections but gave us the stave instead?”
One of Ali Bhutto’s last acts as prime minister was to institute severe Islamic laws in the country. General Zia has since moved to further tighten government control over the manners and morals of the people.
- Any liquor found in a traveler’s luggage is confiscated until he leaves the country.
- Public flogging is permitted; at times a microphone is placed before the criminal so that his moaning and cries of pain can be heard by the assembled crowd.
- Gory penalties for serious crimes are now lawful, although not a single doctor in the country seems willing to inflict the most gruesome: amputation. (Muslim Shia and Sunni sects also disagree on a thief’s sentence: Shias maintain the fingers should be cut off only to the first knuckle, thereby allowing the punished to continue to help himself from the communal food bowl. Sunnis say the hand should come off at the wrist.)
- In July of last year the government announced it would collect a 2.5 percent tax on savings accounts over a certain amount. This tax, known as the zakat, would then be distributed among the poor, as the Koran prescribes. Many in Pakistan (mostly those who will be required to pay the tax) claim it should be voluntary.
- Judges of the Supreme Court, high courts, and the federal Shariat court are now to be addressed as “Sir” and “Janab Wala,” instead of “My Lord,” and they will wear traditional black sherwanis and Jinnah caps while attending court and official functions.
All of that has brought about a certain tension in Pakistan, and one must flee the crowded cities to escape it. The village of Bahrain in the Vale of Swat is a fine place to go. There, where mustard fields sit under clouds of sassy bees, I met a merchant who offered me treasures of the world at prices I could afford: a star sapphire from Nepal, a stone carving from a first-century Buddhist stupa, an ancient coin from the realm of an obscure caliph of Baghdad.
I asked if they were genuine, and he rolled his eyes to heaven.
It would serve no purpose to reveal my choice, for the pain of the appraiser’s report is still with me. A wise man, of course, would have gone for the stupa piece, considering that a great Buddhist civilization once flourished on this land. As long as 1,600 years ago the valley was described in the chronicles of Chinese pilgrims who trekked here in fulfillment of religious obligations.