Dear Sir, PAKISTAN is an unreliable ally in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Former President General Musharraf may have persuaded the US & some of its allies that they were committed to the cause but this was never the case. Pakistan is completely compromised and cannot play a constructive role (in the Western sense) because the country as a whole is pro Taliban. The new Government is having to admit its dependence on extremist support. They have had to agree to the application of strict Sharia Law in Swat Valley close to Afghanistan and adjacent to the disputed Indian controlled Kashmir. A tinder box location. It is important to realize that this extreme version of Islamic Law involves the closing of girls schools, approving the beating of wives, head & hand cutting etc the type of regime that we (and supposedly they) are fighting in Afghanistan. There is a difference of almost 600 years between the Christian calendar 2009 A.D. and the Islamic 1430 A.H. Sometimes one feels that gap reflects life in outlying parts of the country compared to their major city centers. It is salutary to reflect on our progress since our own 1430s when we burnt alive not only foreign Saints like Joan of Arc but any member of the English public who dared to own a bible (the Lollards).

I went on a project in Pakistan in 2000 a year before 9/11 and faced a cultural shock from the moment I boarded the plane in Heathrow. I had not lived in Britain for years and my experience of people from India or Pakistan (the same thing for old colonials) were either of fellow university students (super upper class) or Curry House workers (super poor). The first were super self confident the others super subservient. On the plane out I sat next to a young bearded British Muslim off to a wedding (?). He was unlike any Indian/Pakistani I had met about 18 aggressive, arrogant, self opinionated and argumentative. Born in Britain brought up in an Immigrant Moslem environment he had picked up the worst traits of both communities. Prior to arriving I had never heard of Osama bin Laden but he was (and is still) a local hero on a par with Che Guevara among the young in the West. His “T-shirts” were everywhere. Che became a hero after his death, Osama is still with us despite a $250 million dead or alive type reward to test the loyalty of his followers in his safe haven in North Pakistan.

Prior to the Indian Mutiny of 1857 the Raj had been promoting social reform. The revolt slowed this for the next 90 years until independence from Britain in 1947. My project was at the fabulously named Rawalpindi where the National Oil Company was based. An unusual microcosm of the social history was etched on the tableau of tennis honours (mixed doubles) in the entrance hall to the run down club house ex-Shell. In the 30s typically a Miss A Burt and Mr. B Caruthers would have won. By the 40s perhaps a Miss C Denby and Mr. R Singh won. Moving onto the 50s both single ladies and non-Muslims had left so the doubles winner could be Mrs. E Farthingale and Mr. S Hilal.

This progressed to Miss J Habib and Mr. M Ramadan by the 70s as a short lived female emancipation occurred. By the 90s only married couples were allowed to play together and by the time of my visit no more entries occurred at all as all mixed sports had been prohibited. The pool had had separate segregated days for some time but was eventually closed as the pool could be overlooked and bathing costumes were rated irreligious. What had been the hub of company social life had deteriorated into a scruffy shell open in theory but closed in reality. Obviously the sale of alcohol had long since stopped and spread to hotels where even century's old Folk Dancing was forbidden.

This is the reality of Pakistan our vital local ally in the area.

Mike Lillico
Playa de Palma