Final Trip to Peshawar – “Good Bye Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”

I had my final two-day trip into Peshawar/KP at the end of the work week this past Thursday and Friday. My driver, Majid Bhai, stopped the car for me on the motorway so I can take a quick photo both ways right at the border with a sign that read “Welcome to Khyber PakhtunKhwa”, and then on the way back where the sign read “Goodbye, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.

 

After the “Goodbye,” I had to fight some tears. You sometimes forget how much you were able to accomplish and how much you had seen, when you think about what you couldn‘t do or what you couldn’t see. But I think I did the best I could in my circumstances, nevertheless, and finished the fieldwork there strong. Despite all my challenges, I remain deeply in love with KP and the Pakhtuns, and hope this dissertation can be just the beginning of the small contribution I want to make in this part of Pakistan.  I believe I finished strong in Peshawar, completing a total of 7-8 interviews in two days, and experiencing a little immersion at the same time…

On Thursday, I had a meeting at the CM Secretariat again, and then headed to the KP Civil Secretariat to give some salaams to new friends.

I spent the rest of the next few hours at the FATA Secretariat. I am grateful I finally made it there, as I have been trying to find a way to get there for a long time. But when you are there, you realize it wasn’t as hard as you perceived it to be. But I was grateful to have finally made it to the FATA Secretariat, The primary implementation agency of my development program case studies in FATA (now ex-FATA or “newly merged areas since May 2018)…. Last year on my exploratory fieldwork, I had the wrong address that led me to the Iranian Consulate. Since then, I have been trying to figure out how to get here…and I was able to make it here on my final trip to Peshawar, and meet some of my key informants…

So much about KP and Pakistan as a whole is about Perception in many ways. It is actually quite profound how much the concept of “perception” is embedded in every facet of Pakistani life, most especially in KP, culturally, socially, politically, etc…. It’s fascinating, but exhausting at the same time. Will explain this more in detail another time. I had quite the adventure in the evening, as I was looking for the SRSP (Sarhad Rural Support Program) headquarters and we landed in a defense colony area occupied by the Army. Just be careful and try not to misplace your Shenakti Card (ID), in a very dark secluded army occupied area in Peshawar, at night, while army officers stop you for a security check…very scary situation! Later that evening, I interviewed a development practitioner at my guest house.

On Friday, I returned to the University of Peshawar one final time for an interview with a young woman professor originally from FATA. I met her at the Baacha Khan Pak-Afghan Peace Conference last week. She was wonderful and truly insightful and I also got to see a beautiful side of the campus I hadn’t seen before.

 

I next had an interview with a contact at their home in Hayatabad. Because of Friday prayer, we stopped at the Hayatabad Zarghon Mosque.

                

I had planned to visit the Peshawar Museum but it was closed on Friday…so i stopped for a quick visit to the library next door… It has been a painful reality to not be able to access (ex) FATA or other areas of KP, as it was for Afghanistan, but at least I got some exposure in other ways like meeting people from there in Peshawar or Islamabad, or reading about the province at a library in Peshawar….  I learned just how strong I am with “uncertainty” in this experience, and I’m determined to visit these regions some day, if not for my dissertation….

….I always enjoy visiting ancient historical sites, and so I heard about this area called “Tehsil Gor Khatree”, which is the site of the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple. It was just past sunset when I arrived, and it took a lot of guts to enter an unfamiliar area with few people around, silence and in the dark by myself… The lighting was there in patches and but not great… entering through those large doors felt like taking a deep breath before diving into deep waters, not knowing how to swim… Gor Khatree literally means “warriors grave….” I certainly felt like a rush “surviving the experience”, some young boys even stopped to tell me that they don’t see tourists coming in the dark, it is better to see in the daylight, I’ll come back another time during the day. It was an amazing experience regardless…
     

The famous Sethi Street and Sethi Museum, historic mansions were near Ghor Khatree so I spent my final moments in Peshawar at Sethi Street and the Bazaar. I didn’t find the Sethi Museum even though I passed it, but just walking through this cool street bazaar was quite an adventure. I have to learn not to smile so much and probably close my mouth and tame myself from being so awestruck and fascinated by my surroundings. Lol. Especially if I’m exploring on my own. The “Gunta Ghar” (Cunningham Clock Tower) was also there in the bazaar, similar to what I saw in Faisalabad a year ago. I was also told when leaving that I should probably come back during daylight as it is more interesting.

Overall, I am glad, even though I didn’t get a chance to visit rural communities, I got to engage and immerse in other ways. There was this little kid who followed me throughout the street. Some kids would join him in the follow. The second I would turn around, another would join the kid. Then I went too far and lost them. Every other corner it seemed there was a store making naan, and women in full Burka and Chaddar are sitting on the ground, it seemed they were waiting to be fed. They allowed me to take photos of it. it was quite a spectacle. The whole street and internal bazaar was. Funny, yet again, for many of them, I was the spectacle. At least the fascination was both ways… I have realized no matter where I go, I can’t take the time to pull up my pants and make sure my zipper is up, because everyone is staring at me…lol … I know how I could blend in better, but I choose to be me… lol.. and most of the time, it is actually appreciated and welcome, even though in some circumstances I have been told that it’s “different”…

As I mentioned, overall, my total 15 days, including the 3 last year during my exploratory fieldwork in Peshawar, was a great experience and will contribute to my dissertation positively. I had a chance to also remotely interview people in Islamabad who were from KP/FATA or have experience working there too. Pretty soon, in a few days I will wrap up Islamabad as well and head to the South to continue and finish up my final interviews in Karachi/Sindh province…

 

Please Note: Original date for posting was January 7, 2019. This post was revised on January 3rd, 2020 only to include the missing images.

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