February 22, 2020
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Kassim Called Me

Kassim Called Me
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Visiting Pakistan is not the same as dropping by the US. Nobody's jaw drops nowadays if you tell them you are off to New York or even Shanghai. But Pakistan? I got two wholly disparate kinds of reactions when people found out I was flying across the border. One group was clearly anxious: "Be careful." But the second category? "Why didn't you tell us?" they demanded. "We are dying to visit the place!" No one in his right mind would reject an invitation to visit Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, especially when the invitation came from Kassim Kasuri, son of the foreign minister of Pakistan. The Kasuris run the largest private educational system in the world. It's called the Beaconhouse School System. So a visa to travel to these principal cities (as part of a travelling educational circus celebrating the 30 years of Beaconhouse) was not going to be an issue and it wasn't.

But I was surprised at the warmth and solicitousness of immigration at Karachi's Jinnah international airport. Indians are the last to get through simply because they have to fill in the 'C' form, a simple, cyclostyled sheet with half a dozen entries that has to be handed over within 24 hours to the police station nearest your hotel or place of stay. Probably because we were from India—and this encounter wasn't taking place at the LoC—immigration staff, surprisingly bereft of the coldness infecting similar officialdom the world over, explained everything we had to do very patiently and with smiles. I could swear these guys were my uncles.

The following day my friends, on my behalf, visited the police station (with four photographs) where they got the 'C' form exchanged for a residence certificate. You have to visit the police again and trade in the residence certificate for an exit pass one day before you leave the country. If you forget to do that, there are good chances you may be forced to stay on Pakistani soil far longer than you may desire.

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