Ann Hartman, FOPUSA Board Member and staff at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii is leading a group of journalists for a three-week period to several cities in the US – Honolulu, Washington, DC, New York City and Columbus, Missouri. The Pakistanis are part of an exchange program with journalists from the US visiting Pakistan.
Barbara Janes, Sandra Houts and Millard Mott from the FOPUSA Board met with the journalists in DC for a long lunch at the Capitol Hill Tandori and Grill Restaurant.
The lunch with the 12 Pakistani journalists was wonderfully lively and open and instructive. They were energetic and diverse in their opinions. Three of the journalists were women.
The women’s experiences were very different in all respects—family support, manner of dress, and choices in their beats. On the other hand, they experience good relationships with their male peers—and, the males around us agreed that the female journalists also treat them well! The field of journalism has welcomed women only in the last decade or so—but, it’s happened.
“I had to go on a hunger strike to get my father’s support to become a journalist.” – from one of the women.
“There isn’t a neighborhood in Peshawar that hasn’t been bombed. But people carry on with their lives.”
“I’ve been surprised by the government structure in the U.S. The States have a lot of independence from the Federal Government.”
“I’ve learned how important a civil society is to support a democratic government.”
“There has been some progress in Pakistan. The Supreme Court is now truly independent.”
The journalists were from several parts of Pakistan – Lahore, Quetta, Waziristan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Karachi. There were five from Peshawar. They were in good humor, teased each other, – just generally fun conversations while learning about the contemporary Pakistan. We talked about safety in all the cities; the consensus apparently is that no one is safe, though some places are less so.
Most of the journalists thought there would be no problems going anyplace in Pakistan except Azad Kashmir and Peshawar; even Quetta was thought to be open to tourists but not journalists.
The Pakistani meal we shared with them was tasty and reminiscent of our earlier days in Pakistan and appreciated by the journalists. They were impressed and a little surprised to meet a group of folks who had experienced Pakistan the way we had.