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10

This continues the whole time. An immeasurable energy

is shimmering through the crowd and a sea of green-and-

white flags is being waved energetically backwards and

forwards. Amid loud applause, the first Punjabi Ranger

appears on stage in full regalia. His wide-open eyes are as

dark as his black uniform and the starched fan on his turban

is reminiscent of a cockscomb. With a fierce look and raised

arm he heads straight to the gate. He swings his leg repe-

atedly high into the air so that his knee nearly touches his

nose. Behind him, more Rangers follow. They too march with

a great deal of bravado; stamping, lifting up their legs, fists

clenched. The audience goes completely crazy. We hear that

the same spectacle is happening on the Indian side. After

fifteen minutes of unadulterated macho behaviour, the gate

slowly opens. There they face each other - the Pakistani

and the Indian - with only a vacuum to separate them. Once

enemies, now neighbours, but still a long way from being

friends. A curt handshake is all that they can manage. The

ceremony ends with the simultaneous lowering and the pre-

cisely executed folding of the flags, after which the fences

are closed again until the next day.

A HOTEL UNDER SIEGE

The

Pearl Continental Hotel

in Lahore is teeming with sol-

diers. Air force officers of various nationalities circulate in

battle uniforms through the lobby and corridors and occupy

almost all the seats in the restaurant. We are amazed. Of

course, we want to know what is going on. We try to find

out from the two Europeans who we notice are part of the

group - a Brit and a German. We only get an extremely vague

answer. One Nigerian colleague, however, talks more freely.

‘Together with colleagues from 25 other countries, I am fol-

lowing a course at the International University of Defence in

Islamabad', he says. ‘The Pakistani army has, after all, a lot

of experience with the fight against terrorism. We receive

lectures and training at various locations in Pakistan’. See,

those examples of constructive collaborations are not writ-

ten about in our newspapers. Whether we are safer with all

those soldiers around us or not, is anyone’s guess. On the

king size bed in our hotel room, we discover two goodie

bags with nice gifts from Porsche and the travel agency.

They include a T-shirt with the inscription 'Welcome to

Pakistan'. That's why Qasim needed our measurements,

of course. We look at each other and burst out laughing.

Bulletproof vests, indeed ...

THE MOTORWAY TO PROSPERITY

We drive to Islamabad. But getting out of

Lahore is not that easy. Angry farmers have

placed blockades on all major through roads.

They are striking because they are not satis-

fied with the agricultural policy. Maybe you

would not have immediately thought so but

striking is a right in Pakistan. A good thing

no doubt at the social level but a complete

disaster for the morning rush hour. Long

lines of honking cars, buses, mopeds and

rickshaws form. An unflappable man with a

horse and cart also demands a space in the

queue. The traffic police can only watch on,

and everyone just does what they think best.

Miraculously, our driver manages to extricate

us from the traffic chaos and we find oursel-

ves on a perfect motorway. All the frenzy has

evaporated and before us stretches a wide,

first class motorway with 6 lanes, 3 in each

direction. Every Porsche driver must surely

breathe a sigh of relief once he has reached

this point. The M2 - Prime Minister Sharif

nicknamed it the

'Motorway to Prosperity'

- was opened in 1996 and links Lahore with

Islamabad across a distance of 367 kilome-

tres. As far as that prosperity is concerned,

the country still has a long way to go, but

it must be said that the toll road drives as

smoothly as the Route du Soleil. Even though

we are still in Pakistan and not in France

and our driver has to take into account

slow-moving cows and donkeys camping in

the middle of the road. We pass numerous

trucks that are full of unbelievably exuberant

decorations. It is all so over the top that it

becomes beautiful again. Or shows how a

truck can be elevated to a cultural object. In

four hours, we reach the capital of Pakistan.

TRAVEL

PORSCHIST