Stories about passengers

Travelling on a Pakistani public bus is never boring!

I am sure many of you have travelled on public buses in Pakistan or know someone who has gone through the ordeal. In case you haven’t, allow me to enlighten you of what the rest of us have to go through. Here are ten of my experiences while travelling on public transport and the issues many of us have to face on a daily basis. 1. Bus stop? What’s that? Drivers of public buses in Pakistan never bother to wait for their passengers at the bus stops so there is hardly any point in waiting there. And it goes without saying that if you ...

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I hope MH370 has been hijacked to Pakistan

Speculations that MH370 had been hijacked to Pakistan hardly surprised me. Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney appeared on Fox News to explain how he believed the missing airplane could’ve landed ‘safely’ and ‘intact’ in Pakistan to be used for terrorism in the future. I had, in fact, been waiting for the media to start questioning whether the Taliban had played a role in the disappearance of the plane. And since Pakistan is globally considered synonymous with the Taliban, it was only a given that the media started wondering whether the plane had been hidden there. Even when the Tehreek-e-Taliban spokesperson denied ...

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Air travel: Royal treatment only if you are not Pakistani

I have realised of late that flying is no longer as enjoyable as it used to be, especially transit travel or stop-over flights. This realisation hit me recently when I travelled from London to Islamabad and had a stop-over in Dubai. The journey began well with the flight from London to Dubai well-equipped with the latest gadgets and gizmos; the air hostesses were polite and smiling; and there was a general aura of comfort and relaxation. However, this comfort did not last long and there was a world of difference in the connecting flight from Dubai to Islamabad. The plane itself was ...

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Cathay Pacific: The flight unfit for flight

The aircraft, having boarded on time for a 00:20 hours departure on June 15, was on the runway when the captain announced that a technical fault was making it impossible to take off and we had to get back to the base for maintenance. So, okay, approximately 300 passengers on board the Cathay Pacific flight CX2700 decided, these things happen. We should be 20 minutes late but safely in the air soon. Not the case. The aircraft would approach the runway, gather some speed and then turn around to the base. After three hours of maintenance we were off-loaded from ...

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Avoiding aviation disasters

On November 18, President Asif Ali Zardari finally woke up and took notice of an emergency landing by a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane and demanded a “comprehensive” report in three days. The organisations that have been asked to submit a report to the president — the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and PIA — are politicised to the core. Through his spokesperson, President Zardari expressed “deep concern over the recurring reports of emergency landings of PIA aircraft mostly due to technical reasons”. Since this is the case and precious lives are at stake, independent people should be appointed to head ...

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Be alert at the Jinnah International Airport!

For quite some time now, we have been hearing of people getting mugged and deprived of their suitcases after exiting the Jinnah International Airport. This is especially true for the passengers of long haul flights. Usually the victims arrive by midnight or early morning, when it’s convenient for the criminals to strike without being spotted. Recently, when I travelled to Karachi from the US, I noticed that a group of shady looking men were offering help in handling baggage near the pickup area and one of them even picked one of my bags and proceeded to put  in my car ...

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Airport travelers: Friends afar

There’s something magical about letting yourself disappear in the music of your mind and losing your heart to absolute strangers in their conversations, their actions and their journeys. Like a ghost, I sit on one too many buses and trains just observing people. I take mental notes about their mannerisms when they’re not watching. I make up stories about where they may be headed, who their lovers may be and what they might have overcome in their lives. I fall in love with some and end up hating others. And though we never even exchange a single word or glimpse, I ...

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Want rescue? Please hold indefinitely

I was standing in the kitchen with my mother when we heard a vehicle come to a screeching halt on the main road we live across. As I peered out of the window, I saw the red car slam into what looked like a pick-up truck. There was a loud bang and then both the vehicles turned upside down on impact. Immediately I grabbed the phone and dialled 15.  The recorded voice of a woman asked me to hold and I did. This went on for around five precious minutes before the operator picked up. “Hello Madam, Rescue 15.” “Hello. There has ...

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The PIA problem

This article is not written with the intent of defending President Asif Ali Zardari or his party.It aims to illustrate how the hyper personalisation of politics and governance in Pakistan has created unachievable expectations for quick fixes, based on overly simplistic explanations of state failure. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is an illustration of perhaps the biggest disservice the president has done for his country; he allowed himself to become a lightning rod for every explanation of state failure. By explaining the poor performance of the state to the person who occupies the Presidency, we overlook the many structural, underlying and historical reasons that perpetuate state failure. The dominant ...

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Surviving flight 304 with cake-boy

Karachi-wallay like to stereotype. We spin whole life stories around accessories and behaviour. Pants above ankle length? Member of an Islamist party. Pink iPhone case with matching nails? Definitely out of town, maybe a Lahori. So it was only fitting that when I boarded the PK304 to Lahore I was assigned the seat right out of a bad airplane movie: the one directly behind the bathroom, next to the mother with the howling baby. By that I don’t mean I’m going to start bashing PIA. Personally I like PIA, I like the spicy food and I think the schedule runs ...

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