Good morning from sunny Jacobabad. Yesterday morning I woke up in the Step Inn in Sukkur. The car was supposed to be at the hotel at 7am. The car, driver and security man arrived at 7.30am. Not bad I guess, but then the security coordinator, told me that we were waiting for a police escort! I was not happy, at all. I asked Irfan if we really needed a police escort, and he said we did. He said that the area we were going to was really insecure and we had to have police with us. I was still in a miff, so I sent some communications to the Security and also my boss in Islamabad asking if we had to use the Police, and explaining my concerns about the fact that people in the villages might not like to talk to us very much if we were surrounded by armed police officers. At 8am the cops arrived, and we took off towards Jacobabad, I didn’t think that the situation would change, but hoped that I would get a call en route saying we could let the police go. We didn’t.
There are a number of districts between Sukkur and Jacobabad, I think at least 3. At the border of each district, the police jurisdiction changes so we would stop at the side of the road for the next police crew to arrive. I have to say they were prompt though, there was no real hanging around waiting. Not like Irish cops! JOKE! 🙂
I was still a bit sleepy and was kind of nodding off occasionally. At one point the police escort in front of our car flagged down a huge truck, and pulled him over to the side of the road. We pulled in also. It turned out that a hundred yards or so before the truck had hit the back of a motorcycle and propelled it and it’s two passengers off the road. The truck had kept on going as if he didn’t even see what he had done.
I had missed the incident entirely, Euan would say that is because I’m unobservant, but actually I had sort of nodded off and my eyes were closed when the truck hit the motorcycle.
One of our police escort crew stayed with the injured men and the truck to wait for an ambulance which was summoned. I felt like I should get out of the car and see if I could help with first aid, but I know I would have given my security a heart attack. I think I should get some guidance on this from my boss. This is a problem I’ve had before in Haiti, we were driving past a house where somebody was sick, and they really needed some help, but my security didn’t want me to assist. I’m not sure if I should ignore them, or if I should comply. The last thing I would want to do is make the situation worse. It’s a real conflict of conscience. Apart from anything else, even though I do have first aid training, it’s very, very rusty and I’m not sure I’d know what to do with somebody who had been propelled off a motorbike at speed, other than to pretty much immobilise them. If something happened to them, their family might well blame you for their death or paralysis or further injury. Maybe I should check this out. Irfan was saying that the families would most likely want to do some damage to the truck driver… I’m not surprised!
Eventually Irfan and our driver got back in the car and we headed onwards towards Jacobabad. Along the way we passed through a few small market towns with donkeys and carts and buffalo and vendors of all types. Bustling little communities full of life and action and colour. As we entered these little congested areas, our lovely, delapidated police escort truck ahead would throw on it’s siren and bullishly force it’s way through the mêlée in a rude, arrogant manner. I found this really embarrassing and cringeworthy. I asked Irfan if he could have a word, but he basically thought that we wouldn’t move at all if this didn’t happen. I disagreed.
The landscape either side of the road was flat and expansive, there were large swathes of lush green agricultural growth for parts, and then equally large swathes of dead and depleted looking ground, some areas were water logged and apparently others were really saline as a result of previous waterlogging and probably overintensive use at some point. All along the road were brick kilns like the ones we saw in lower Sindh. But the ones we saw yesterday don’t have any chimneys. People use the local mud to form bricks which are then air dryed. After a couple of days of air drying the bricks are built into a large kiln which is fired using locally sourced timber. After a few hours, the bricks are hardened and allowed to cool, then removed and stacked for sale. There are all sorts of people working at the kilns, young children, older children, women, young men and old men. The younger children are used for gathering the mud, the older children and the women make the mud bricks, the young men stack and unstack the bricks in the kilns and the older, more experienced men monitor the kilns and keep them burning. This job is the most dangerous of all. The old men walk on top of the burning kiln which is built of loose bricks, opening the covers and throwing down more wood to keep the fire burning. If the bricks are not stacked well, the assembly could easily topple like a bunch of loose dominos with fatal consequences. It’s definitely not a nice job, and obviouly no external authority is too concerned with safety standards for the people. I’m not sure how many people die at this activity, but I’m also not sure I want to know! All I do know is, I’m not to eager to use bricks for any shelters we propose.
Along the road, I asked Irfan to explain to me about Darul Aman. I wanted to know more about them and what kind of women ended up there. His description tallied closely with my assumptions and my ideas of what a Magdalene Laundry was. It’s not run by a religious organisation though, I believe. They are run by the state. Darul Amans are refuges for troubled and petty criminal women. Women who have run away from their husbands or fathers, or who have perpetrated small criminal activities. They can be homeless, destitute women or orphaned girls who have been left without a family member to take care of them. I asked him if a father or brother would send their daughter, wife or sister there. He said nobody would send their family members there. It is a place of last resort. A woman can leave when she has somewhere else to go, if she wishes to. If she can afford to live somewhere else. She is allowed to live on her own, if that is her wish. I’m not sure about the petty criminals, I guess that is up to the judge that put them there in the first place.
We then got into the happy subject of Honour Killings.
If a woman or a man does something to disgrace their family, it is acceptable to many that the family will kill that person to regain the family’s honour. If a woman sleeps with a man outside of wedlock, or if a man has an affair with a woman, or a number of other different options, the family may choose to kill their family member. I think that in most cases, this will be a brother killing his sister, but it does vary. Ifran told me of a case where a woman had died and was buried in a graveyard. A man came to pray over his family, but accidentally prayed at the grave of the woman by mistake. The husband of the woman arrived at the graveyard and saw a man praying over his wife’s grave, so he assumed they had had an affair. He accused the man, and then killed him.
According to Irfan, the Quran allows for the punishment of people by stoning. This punishment does not have to result in the death of the person. It can be in the form of a humiliation.
Irfan told me a story about an ancient Khalifa’s son, a Khalifa is a head of state, a responsible man. According to the story, this ancient Khalifa’s son had raped a woman in an orchard. The son claimed to have prayed to Allah and asked for forgiveness which Allah had granted. The Emperor said to his son, it is good that you have prayed to Allah, and that Allah is merciful and has forgiven you, but you also have to abide by the rules of the land, and I need to punish you for what you have done, so you will be stoned. He had his son stoned in punishment, but he wasn’t killed.
According to Irfan, stoning is not normally practised in Pakistan anymore.
Along the road, we saw 3 NATO oil tankers which were on their sides and had been blown up, I think last year. I don’t believe NATO uses this route anymore!