Planes, Automobiles, And Schools

Planes, Automobiles, And Schools

Planes, Automobiles, And Schools 150 150 Comfort Aid International

Planes, Automobiles, And Schools

Our trip to inaugurate the CAI-sponsored Al – Mustafa School in remote Parachinar almost does not happen, as the wary Pakistani authorities are reluctant to issue the required special permits until the last few hours of our arrival in the country. Parachinar is an apprehensive, sometimes dangerous place, so the caution is somewhat understandable. The current social unrest by vying political parties for the right to govern the country is making things worse. Nevertheless, the permits come through and after a stay in an Islamabad guest house that costs us a pricey US$18, Sohail, Shaida, and I are on our way, with Liakat Hussain, the Chairman of Haidri Welfare Society who manages the Haidri Blood Bank. CAI has been a major donor to this critical institute, saving countless lives, from bombing and gunshot victims to birthing mothers in complicated labors. Alhamd’Allah. TRS/CAI have committed to shortly donating a CT Scan and other equipment that will expand this facility to a full-scale operating hospital, making it much more than a trauma center.

The ride is comfortable until we approach a hardline community town that has often proved lethal to travelers in the past who are not 100% compliant with their crazed beliefs. I tense somewhat as a local government-provided civilian vehicle with two soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs follows closely behind. Driving through this town is stifling, to me, seeing women clad in head-to-toe garb under the scorching sun; my heart goes out to them, especially the young girls. It may be none of my business to fret about the religious beliefs of others, but still, it’s suffocating to watch them walking about with their faces covered. We are made to sit in a rickety guard room by polite local ISI officers at the entrance to Parachinar and questioned about our agenda, no matter that we already have the requisite clearances. They retain our passports but eventually let us through. We arrive in Parachinar seven hours after leaving Islamabad. Since there are no hotels in Parachinar, we stay at the comfortable hospital guestroom where we are also fed and taken care of very well.

The next day is the highlight of our visit. We inspect the various critical hospital equipment made possible by CAI/TRS donors and then inaugurate the Al Mustafa School. This modern and well-equipped school is a milestone for the community. Parachinar, until recently, was a besieged town, in constant danger. Schools were an afterthought, especially for girls. It is super gratifying that the school will open for these hapless children from September insha’Allah. CAI is already looking to expand the school by constructing two more floors to cover all grades from kindergarten to high school classes. Insha’Allah. Also in the plans is the construction of an additional all-girls Al-Ghazi school not too far away. Both these projects are dependent on CAI acquiring the required funding.

The next week in Pakistan is a blur of driving to places and events. Away from cities, where the roads and drainage system after rains are appalling, the Pakistanis have built a remarkable network of modern highways crisscrossing the country. They are clean, functional, and smooth. Miles and miles of green fields full of wheat, rice, and banana plantations owned by feudal landlords hellbent on keeping their farm laborers under iron fists, treating them no better than slaves from yore. Islamabad is a beautiful and clean city – what a refreshing change from Karachi!

We return to Islamabad and spend a day with S. Anwar of Al Jabir Bin Hayat Trust, who administers various educational institutes in Pakistan. JBHT is a great source of pride and inspiration for me. They have done wonders in promoting education to a broad audience of poor communities, mirroring CAI’s passion for bringing educational opportunities to those in remote locations, especially women, denied this fundamental right.

There is another seven-hour drive to Multan the next day and another three hours to Seetpur in Alipur, Punjab where CAI has sponsored yet another all-girls school in a remote community whose females have been denied education forever. This school will add 300 plus capacity for girls. It is a beautiful school extension, with tiled classrooms, a computer lab, a library room, and a set of decent bathrooms for the kids. As if we do not have enough adventure on this trip, I’m doing pushups in the antiquated Multan Ramada Hotel room when I smell an acrid smell of something burning. Sohail and Shaida are sleeping away their dinner from last night and are oblivious to the live world. I disregard the smell and repeat a set of pushups. But the room fogs up, and I realize something amiss. I open the door to the corridor and the lobby is all smokey. There is a fire on the first floor which is contained quickly but the smoke has entered the air-conditioning system. I startle the sleeping couple awake and we troop down to the reception until the smoke clears.

All I have done in the last month is sit on aircrafts and cars to go inspect CAI-sponsored projects and fight about perfection in remote areas with bewildered contractors or service providers, in languages that are not native to any of us. This last week has been 8 to 10 plus brutal hours on the road daily, and exhaustion sets in. I’ve been eating delicious foods not necessarily good for my health and sleeping erratic hours. There has been very little exercise and I fret about my overall condition. Yet, all this has to be done, so I force my mind to shun the thoughts of home and sleeping in my own bed.

We head to Sukkur in Sindh, another six hours away to inspect the CAI-sponsored Saleh Pat school and 140 homes CAI donors have/are constructing for the 2022 flood victims. It is an exhausting and depressing ordeal. The victim’s homes our ground partners have built are comfortable enough. It is the open sewers we have to tiptoe through, the perpetual nauseating evil smell, the stifling heat from a relentless sun, the persistent flies that infuriate me, and the faces of innocent filthy children with runny noses that sear through my psyche. The flood waters we encountered last year have largely subsided but the grinding misery hovers around unabated. We eventually drive to the relative comfort of Karachi and onwards to our respective homes. Phew.

This Blog is a continuation of my past two Blogs detailing the various countries I have visited for compliance inspection of CAI-funded projects with my varying colleagues at CAI and TRS. You may want to read them here and here.


My novels help pay for the education of about 950 worldwide CAI orphans; I make no money from the sale proceeds. My next novel, Two Blue And Gold Diamond Earrings, will be published in September 2023.


Click HERE for a few excerpts from the novel – perhaps you will purchase a copy or two or more? Priced at a modest US$77, one book will pay for about 3 months of a poor child’s education. Please click HERE to buy. 1,139 print copies already purchased/pledged – Allah bless.


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