Jackie, an American who spent her formative years in Pakistan, will write a weekly piece from Karachi, where she is now working for a development non-profit organization. Jackie will discuss an array of issues based on her observations on the ground – from daily crime in Karachi to the attitudes of people she encounters. Below, she introduces herself to CHUP readers:
After six years away, three spent in the U.S., two in Vietnam and one in Spain I have come back to Pakistan.
Deciding to return to Pakistan at this juncture in my life was a momentous decision. The recent world wide economic crisis comes on the back of Pakistan’s national downward spiral. Inflation is at 24%, foreign exchange reserves are rapidly evaporating, load shedding prevails despite an exorbitant rise in the price of electricity and, of course, the U.S. “War on Terror” and the ensuing drone attacks within Pakistan’s borders anger all parts of Pakistani society. Not surprisingly, this has translated into unrest and even violence – against foreign sympathizers, the government and the average citizen. The week after I collected my visa, the Marriott in Islamabad was bombed. Was this really the right time to return?
I am an American citizen, born and raised outside of the U.S. as a child of parents in international development. I spent my most formative years, 11 to 18, in Islamabad, Pakistan. I left six years ago in 2002, as a direct result of political tension and violence. My family was evacuated three times in eight months. The first time, immediately after 9/11; second, in March after the terrorist attack on the Protestant church in Islamabad; and finally, at start of the summer when one million soldiers were massed on the border between India and Pakistan due to rising tensions of over the perpetual problem of Kashmir. This third time, my parents decided to call it quits – my family relocated to the Washington, D.C. area and I attended Georgetown University.
However, ever since I left, I have been looking for an opportunity to return. I had a wonderful experience in Pakistan and it was the closest thing to ‘home’ for me. During college, I took several classes on South Asian politics, history and Islamic studies, trying to stay as connected as I could to the region. After graduating, I moved to Vietnam for some more overseas experience, and although it was an interesting country in its own right, I kept thinking of Pakistan. Recently, an opportunity to return emerged – a position at social enterprise in Karachi. I could not pass up this chance, dangerous or not.
Now I am here. I must confess that my ride from the airport to my new home was tense; I kept looking around nervously, expecting a roadside bomb or explosion at any moment. The sense of impending doom has since dissipated as I realize that millions of people continue to go about their daily lives as they have for years, regardless of the increase in terrorist attacks. In the short time I’ve been here, I have met several Pakistanis who recently returned after time spent abroad, hoping to improve their country’s desperate situation. Over the next few months I will share my ‘new’ impressions of this country and the stories of those who have also coming back and are working to “change up” Pakistan.