Stories about airport

My first bribe: Pakistan brings out the worst in me

I’ve lived in the UK most of my life and visited Pakistan last summer after five years. I was simply overwhelmed when I arrived at the airport and was smiling at everyone and everything I saw. Unfortunately, my feelings of  joy came to an end soon enough. Fist stop: baggage claim I waited at the baggage claim for the last piece of my luggage -a lawnmower that that my grandfather had requested – for half an hour. Finally, I saw the big orange box. It was sitting on a luggage trolley along with another suitcase. Standing next to it was a tall, grey-haired ...

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The Rahat fiasco: Sacrificing freedom to safeguard what?

After singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s recent India fiasco, our interior ministry came up with an order binding artistes to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for travelling to foreign countries. The order does not seem to achieve any objectives and only slaps severe restrictions on the artiste fraternity. Local artistes, showcase their talent in foreign countries and help promote the culture of Pakistan this become a means of raising awareness about the values and traditions of our society the world over. In Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s case, India proceeded to take action against him under its law simply because he ...

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Imitating art

I was at the Karachi airport, waiting, and then from the blessed corner of the lounge where several rosaries were placed on a long prayer mat the azan was called. I welcomed it as an omen that the departure of my flight was about to be announced. But this azan too did not herald the awaited prize. No announcement followed. Depressed, I remarked that this was the third azan I had heard being called while I sat in the same seat. “Just the third?” the passenger sitting next to me asked. “It is the fifth I have heard. That is how ...

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Why I broke the law at the Islamabad airport

While working abroad, not many of us can afford to go back to Pakistan for a visit as often as we like. In 2009, when I finally had some time (and $1700 to spare), I landed in Islamabad. Two weeks flew by and I found myself at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, ready to head back to the US. As I handed my passport to the official looking security fellow, he looked at my face and said: “ji, aap kay pass protector nahi hai” (you do not have a protector). With my passport handed back to me, I was dismissed. Having no clue what ...

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Frisky business: Why Indian diplomats should be checked at airports

What differentiates a democratic system of governance from colonial rule or from a totalitarian system or a feudal order is the rule of law and equality before law. India has been a practising democracy for more than 60 years and several landmark social and political changes have taken place in the country to break the nation free from feudal and colonial ways. But somehow the desire of the ruling  and rich class to see themselves above others is so deep rooted that whenever there is an attack on this hierarchy, the privileged class makes it a national issue and links it with national ...

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US airports: (Not) a humiliating experience

Earlier this year, Javed Chaudhry wrote a column titled “A humiliating experience” for The Express Tribune. He details a bad experience at the hands of immigration officials upon arrival at a US airport. Unlike Chaudhry, my recent experiences of applying for visas and then traveling to North America as a Pakistani on a Pakistani passport was extremely pleasant. I applied for a visit visa to the US from the UAE. At the interview, the officer looked intimidating. However, his tone of questioning was very humble. The officer kept addressing my wife and I using the terms “ma’am” or “sir” respectively. The questions ...

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Profiling Muslim men is unjust, unworkable

It is commonly understood that mainstream media creates, processes and disseminates information which determine our beliefs and attitudes and, ultimately, our behaviour.  Consistently displayed messages create a false sense of reality and produce a consciousness that cannot comprehend or even worst, willfully rejects the actual conditions of everyday life. Many have argued that these manipulative messages become the ‘instrument of conquest’, by which the ruling elite tries to make the masses conform to their objectives. By using ‘talking heads’ that explain, justify, and sometimes even glamorise the prevailing conditions of existence, mainstream media secures popular support for a social order that ...

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Pakistani airports vs international airports: Which is worse?

I’ve been sniffed by dogs, asked to remove my shoes, been randomly radio tested for explosives, questioned by immigration officers and the list goes on. After travelling  to 26 countries, I have realised that being a Pakistani is not easy when it comes to airport immigration and security clearance. I imagined that at least in a Pakistani airport, I would have some respite. But I was so wrong. My worst airport experience was at Karachi’s own Quaid-e-Azam International airport a few weeks ago. I reached the airport at 9pm to catch an 11pm flight and felt dismayed that I would be bored at the ...

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