The first time I went to Pakistan I was slightly on edge. It was not the most peaceful of places. Immediately before the board meeting I was sitting in the CEO’s office running through the agenda with him when suddenly the merry sound of gunfire rattled the neighbourhood and me. Er…. anything to be worried about? I probed. No, replied my colleague nonchalantly. We are close to the railway station and the workers are on strike. He stopped as if that explained everything.
The following day another colleague had a birthday and I suggested I might take him to lunch. My treat of course. And so we jumped into the back of the car and drove off to the restaurant. Walking not allowed. Just in case. I tried not to notice the man next to the driver. He was cuddling a Kalashnikov. A few minutes later we pulled up outside the restaurant. As we did so, a car screeched to a halt behind us and two more men jumped out, also cuddling a Kalashnikov each. My Mr. K-carrier didn’t bat an eyelid. Somewhat alarmed I looked at my colleague. Oh, he said. They follow behind us. They are to protect you. Just in case. Of course I felt much better after that. Three potentially trigger-happy machine-gun toting bodyguards. K1, K2 and K3 I anointed them. In fact K2 was built like a man mountain.
I had had this treatment before but that had been in Lagos, 10 years earlier. That was after one of our directors was stuck in traffic on the main road from the airport. Suddenly a gun came through his window and he was relieved of his laptop and phone. No harm done. In Lagos I was also touched at being told that I would not be staying at any of the best hotels but at the private home of a colleague and his lovely wife. Much too dangerous, he said, to stay at a hotel. Murder or bombs? I asked. Prostitutes, he replied. You can’t get past reception for them. Much better here. Indeed it was.
After my baptism of no fire in Pakistan I rapidly grew to love the place. Sometimes airport security was a little over zealous on domestic flights but on international flights I bypassed the normal immigration queues. My “Protocol Officer”, Mr. P saw to that. After my third or fourth visit the head of security, the Brigadier, asked what I thought of Karachi. I had to admit I had little impression of it as Mr. K and his chums never allowed me to go anywhere. Office, Safe House, Office, Safe House…. that was all I saw. Oh no problem, said the Brigadier. I’ll get you a tour organised tomorrow. And he did. And I survived. A casual stroll with a colleague and two very discreet security chappies lurking. Not a trace of Mr. K.
Over the next two or three years they realised I like to take photos and one trip we held our board meeting in Lahore. And here I took the following images. See if you can spot Mr. K.