Weekday Squib: Warm Hospitality from Big Brother

‘Monitoring’ foreign reporters in Pakistan

Scott Baldauff’s account of the ISI’s attempts to keep tabs on foreign reporters is hilarious.

Now, I’m not an especially paranoid man. Generally, I assume that anyone who listens into my conversations (and you know who you are) is in serious need of a life. But Pakistanis who know better tell me that the security apparatus – led by the military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate – is indeed keeping tabs on foreign reporters, aid workers, and Pakistanis alike.

One American woman I know, who happens to have an Indian name, used to get regular obscene phone calls when she and her husband were posted in Islamabad a few years ago. Her husband complained to the Foreign Ministry, who then complained to ISI. Abruptly, the phone calls stopped. (Coincidence, perhaps.)

Yet there are a few instances of spooky decency. One Indian friend, who came to Pakistan on a tourist visa, jumped into a taxi cab to go shopping, only to find out the taxi driver didn’t know his way around. For 20 minutes, the taxi drove in circles, until finally, a gleaming white Toyota Corolla pulled up alongside at a stop light. A man in sunglasses motioned for the driver to lower his window. “Madame, please tell us where you are going, and we’ll lead you there. Otherwise, we’ll never get our afternoon tea.” [CSM]