Steve Anzalone recently traveled to Pakistan to develop a new EDC project that will help the country improve its preservice teacher training. He arrived just after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, during a time of heightened security and increased tensions between India and Pakistan.
For me, it was a trick just getting there. Because of a religious holiday, flights into Pakistan were heavily booked. Bangkok travel was shut down because of protests. It meant Washington to Amsterdam to Istanbul to Karachi—and then Islamabad.
The timing was soon after the India bombings. There were accusations on both sides and some saber rattling going on. That’s always a concern since these are two nuclear powers. The situation was on everyone’s mind. Most of our meetings were at a hotel. Security-wise, it took an effort to get into the hotel, but you do welcome all security measures being taken.
Islamabad is really lovely. With all the lush greenery, it looks more like Beverly Hills than what you may think Pakistan should look like. You do have to be more careful going about and being seen in public places. We went out one night with the Pakistani team, but we avoided the popular restaurants, even those we had been to in the past. We kept our travel around town to a minimum.
Keeping people safe is important in designing a project. Security issues are obviously getting more attention. There are many more measures in place and protocols to be followed. For example, we ask people to be careful going to work, to vary their routines. Don’t go to work at 9 a.m. every day down this road. These are not new ideas, but they are being taken more seriously.
The first step of the new project is moving from proposal to work plan, then bringing onboard staff from Pakistan who will be working for us. EDC will focus on colleges of education that train teachers. They’ve been ignored in the past, and now we have an opportunity to get them resources, help the faculties develop, and offer more practice teaching. There’s a lot going on that hasn’t happened before, and that’s exciting.
Before any trip, I ask myself, is this place really more dangerous than somewhere else? The closest I’ve been to a terrorist event was two miles from my office when a plane hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. On September 10, nobody would have said I was in a dangerous place. Is Islamabad more dangerous? It’s hard to quantify risk; terrorism is so unpredictable, and its methods change so quickly.
For the Pakistanis, there’s a sense that life goes on, just as in Europe in past decades where terrorist attacks became part of the fabric of life in many countries. In that spirit, we’re there with them. The message is more clear than ever: take precautions.
Originally published on April 18, 2009