Getting dumped by the FIA
The Pakistan report card
The News, February 04, 2009
I was recently offloaded from a flight to the US by the FIA at the Islamabad airport. Being prevented from leaving the country on a short trip seemed like a surreal and bad joke, which incidentally is also the name of a column I wrote for The News this past fall that criticized the government for having the FIA investigate people who were writing jokes via SMS about the President Asif Ali Zardari. I believe their time can be put to far better use. Though it should be noted that coincidently one month ago I began receiving calls at my workplace and AAJ TV from unknown numbers from individuals claiming they were with the government and wanted to know about my whereabouts.
I was travelling to the USA to help with the campaign for Mayor of Boston of my friend Kevin McCrea who is in the running on an anticorruption and transparency platform, and incidentally is someone who has both visited and is fond of our country.
That article I have just mentioned (The Joke) is actually incidental information. I do not believe for a moment that I was targeted because the series of events that took place at the airport do not support that supposition, though I do concede that the phone calls from government sources remain disconcerting but it was something I brushed off at the time. I am no martyr of column writing. The truth is far more mundane, and in some ways more saddening for me personally.
As I was going through immigration after I had received my boarding pass, the officer looked at my passport and asked me if I was a government officer, and I said I wasn't though I used to teach at the University of Peshawar and the Institute of Management Sciences in Peshawar when my passport was made and this information was included in it. He asked me for my resignation letter and an NOC, even when I told him that I had never been asked for this before when travelling to Malaysia, Dubai, Thailand and Sri Lanka in the past three years while working in advertising.
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