Pakastanis Offer Views on U.S.

Family says America’s government biased against Muslims

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – There’s a mountain bike in the hallway.
The oldest of Badar uz Zaman’s four children is contemplating
college. The parents try to fend off unsavory cultural influences.

This family 11 time zones ahead stayed with friends in Denver
last year, enjoying the same malls, aquarium and movies that
Coloradans enjoy.

The living room of the uz Zamans might feel familiar for
Americans who also are unsettled, anxious about the recent
terrorist attacks and the possibility that violence will beget
more violence.

They fear, as many fear, more trouble.

Their lives underscore the forces that connect families

But a visit with the uz Zaman family – in the quiet of a
living room rather than the tumult of a street demonstration –
also might help Americans understand how very differently some
people here view the world that now seems so conflicted.

The children, ages 11 to 16, just returned from
government-organized public rallies supporting Pakistan’s
pro-United States position in the war against terrorism. It’s a
stand that has divided the country in part because it aligns
Pakistan with a non-Muslim country that may attack Muslims in

Sitting on a red Afghan rug in their living room, where a
framed quote from the Koran – “The greatness of God has been
explained in a beautiful manner” – hangs over a Sony television,
the children blurt out what they really think: that U.S. leaders
have insufficient evidence against Osama bin Laden to justify
attacks on Afghanistan.

That America’s government is biased against Muslim people.

That pro-Israel lobbies guide the campaign against terrorism.

The television on this recent night replays images of
hijacked airliners crashing into World Trade Center towers. Badar,
47, confides he recently dreamed of F-16s flying above a horrible

“World War III?” he says. “Maybe.”

“These attacks may provide the American government another
cause, another excuse, for putting more military weapons in this
region,” 15-year-old Osama says. “These things scare us. We all
know the nuclear issue. I want a peaceful world.”

“Enmity in its heart’

Badar, giving voice to the divide political scientists see
between the West and the Islamic world, says he’s convinced that
“the West has enmity in its heart against Muslims.”

And like many on the other side of that divide, this family
wants the United States, beyond smoking out villains, to
re-evaluate policies.

You enter their two-story house through a white metal gate.
Hamida, 43, her head covered with a magenta veil, labors out of
sight in the kitchen.

Each day begins with hustle. Badar or Hamida drives the
children to school around 8. Hamida runs the household while Badar
buys and sells real estate, then breaks around 2 to take the
children home for a meal before returning to his office.

Thanks to Badar’s success, the family is preparing to move to
a bigger house in neighboring Rawalpindi. Everyone prays daily –
though not always five times. On weekends, they sometimes pile
into a black, four-door Toyota to visit the mountains up north.

As a boy, Badar memorized the Koran word for word. Now
Muslims around America – where Islam is the fastest-growing
religion – invite him to recite by memory during the Ramadan holy
month of fasting, a few hours each night.

Frequent trips to Denver

The family has been to Denver twice and Badar has come 13
times since 1985. He speaks fondly of Denver’s gold-domed mosque.

“There are opportunities,” Badar says of life in America.
Good universities. “Freedom.”

He considered moving his family to Denver but decided to stay
in Islamabad, the capital of this country of 141.6 million.

“In America, you are very busy,” Badar says. “Life is more
comfortable here.”

Americans sometimes felt out of balance, struggling to make
mortgage and car payments without cultivating family life. A
“cruel” interest-based banking system – the dominant global
banking system – may be part of the problem, he says.

“Islam says man’s life is more than just working and sleeping
– there must be space for the soul.”

Another issue was his discomfort with aspects of American

“Just watching television in the United States, you could see
it’s not good for the little ones – especially girls. Boyfriends
and girlfriends, those things. After 18, you have no control over
our children.”

Badar is the son of a soldier who became a farmer. He grew up
in a stone house – no electricity or running water – in Waulah, a
town about 100 miles south of here.

A strict local imam spotted him at 13 and, with support from
Badar’s mother, drove him to memorize the Koran’s words. He hated
the challenge at the time, reading over and over by the flickering
light of a lantern. But he persevered.

“We want peace’

Now his children are studying too, not by lantern light but
at an elite public school where seniors aim for Oxford and Yale.
Coursework includes British history in eighth grade and the U.S.
Constitution and legal system in high school.

They adopt their critical posture toward the United States,
Badar says, because they read the two newspapers that arrive daily
at the house.

They also take in television, conversations with teachers and
parents, and words in the Koran that call for defense of Islam.

“It’s not that we hate the American people,” Osama
emphasizes. “It’s not like that. It’s a matter of government. We
can’t support the stance of the U.S. government. We like the
American people. We want peace. We want peace all over the world.”

Sore spots he and his sisters cite: U.S. policies toward
Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.

Students perceive a willingness to let Muslims suffer.

Breaking down barriers

As the smells of lamb, spicy fish and rice waft from the
kitchen, Sana, 16, says the United States revealed its bias when,
in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, many people quickly
suspected Muslims.

She and her sisters – Ifra, 13, and Sundus, 11 – take an
active role in family conversations. They don’t wear the
traditional veil. Badar “is pretty relaxed” about that, says Sana,
who wears traditional loose trousers and a flowing top.

The younger girls play cricket, baseball and badminton at
school. They’ve grown up at a time when a woman, Benazir Bhutto,
broke down barriers as Pakistan’s prime minister.

Osama, wearing khaki trousers and a blue T-shirt, talks of
studying at elite universities in Britain or the United States.
He’s inclined toward aeronautical engineering, and also is
passionate about politics, devouring this week’s issue of The

Skeptical on terrorism

A question on this 15-year-old’s mind: “How is terrorism

Without a clear, accepted definition, he says, a U.S.-led
crackdown might focus too much on Muslim groups. “Why not think
about Jews, or other people? They could be terrorists, too.”

The United States is trying to assure current and potential
allies in its anti-terrorism campaign that this is not a war on
Islam. Many here are skeptical and say they want the Bush
administration to show the proof it says it has that bin Laden is
behind the attacks of Sept. 11.

During the public “solidarity” rallies, for which class was
canceled and students were enlisted as marchers, some students
spoke in Urdu as foreign broadcast cameras beamed.

“Osama is a star. We condemn the United States,” they say
half-jokingly, Sana and Osama say.

The United States, those children say, should apply its own
principles. Osama opened a notebook and spoke about the Magna
Carta and U.S. Constitution and due process in the legal system.
Attacking a terrorist suspect in Afghanistan would be “violating
your own Constitution,” he says.

Sana says: “If America presents evidence, we are with you.”

Life at the Border

Escaping war, facing despair

Thousands of refugees flood Pakistan to find only hunger, desperation

SHAMSHATU, Pakistan – Montana mountaineer Greg Mortenson
winced at the sight: Refugee boys as young as 4, whose families
just fled Afghanistan, labor here in an open-air brick factory to

“Sometimes no food,” 9-year-old Arnan Gul said, his bare feet
swollen and caked with clay.

The struggle between terrorists and the United States is
claiming victims here, and the situation is worsening by the day.

Fearing a U.S. assault on Afghanistan, men, women and
children crossed the border into Pakistan this week – illegally,
through mountains, because officially the border is closed.

Here, southeast of the city of Peshawar, they grip hoes and
hack out clay to earn enough money to eat.

“This world is just not fair,” said Mortenson, who has been
setting up schools around northern Pakistan in an effort funded
largely by Colorado members of the Golden-based American Alpine
Club. “These aren’t the terrorists. These aren’t bad people.”

The potential for a huge refugee crisis is growing as tens of
thousands of Afghans ignore their own leaders’ reassurances and
try to escape into Pakistan.

Some are stopped. Some make it through.

Bearded men wearing turbans and brown shalwar kameez lead the
way, followed by women in burka gowns that cover their faces, the
custom here.

Some support Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which rejects
the U.S. demand to give up Osama bin Laden, blamed by President
Bush for the suicide terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Some don’t.

Mostly they’re just poor, suffering already from a drought,
clinging to their Muslim faith.

Sajjad Ali Shah, a Peshawar arms importer, said Afghan
friends told him some refugees who had brought their families to
Pakistan now were returning to Afghanistan with a desperate
money-making plan.

They will wait for U.S. aircraft to attack and then sell
metal from the bombs as scrap.

The situation, already brutal for many, could worsen. U.N.
officials say 1 million refugees could seek shelter in Pakistan if
the United States attacks.

The Taliban’s supreme ruler, Mullah Mohammed Omar, on
Wednesday tried to calm his country, where aid agencies say at
least half of the population of Kabul, the capital, has left.

“America has no reason, justification or evidence for
attacking,” his statement said, as reported by Cox News Service.
“Therefore, all those (Afghans) who have been displaced internally
or externally are instructed to return to their original place of

But refugees keep coming by the thousands.

That adds to tension in border lands where almost everybody
carries weapons and many resent the Pakistan government’s support
of a U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

Pakistan’s border is closed partly because of security
concerns raised by U.S. officials after the attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Pakistani officials on Wednesday refused to open up, saying
the country can’t handle more Afghan refugees than the 2 million
already here. But refugees who slip through anyway, such as those
who trekked over mountains south of the Khyber Pass, can stay.

Some, such as the Ullaha family, end up at this roadside
brick factory on a parched plain.

The Ullahas left their barren farm near Jalalabad because
of the “war situation,” said Shooker Ullaha, 40, the father. He
had heard radio reports about attacks on America, he said, and
then about the U.S. threat of military action against Afghanistan.

He hadn’t heard recent assurances from U.S. officials that
“there won’t be any kind of D-Day” and innocents won’t be hurt.
His voice rose in the heat.

“Afghanistan and America friends after Russia war,” he said.
“Please. I appeal to America: no attack.”

For 24 hours he led 10 family members through the mountains,
he said.

And Wednesday, their second day in Pakistan, he and his four
sons already were working – 4-year-old Uzammat pushed a scraper to
clear mud from the work area. Naqeeb, Nusherat and Amdad – all
under 8 – helped hack out clay from a berm. Men molding bricks set
them in rows on the ground to dry before hauling the bricks to a
kiln at the base of a smokestack.

They say the Pakistani owner pays them the equivalent of
$1.50 per 1,000 bricks – a day’s work for an adult.

“If the situation clears, I go back,” he said. “I can’t go
back to Afghanistan now because the situation is not clear.”

Mortenson listened silently.

He was thinking of his own two children back in Montana, he
said later, imagining them molding bricks to survive. Nearby in
the sprawling, mud-brick Shamshatu refugee camp, he has set up a
school for children – an open-air classroom with 12 teachers and
space for 420 students.

But nobody studied there Wednesday.

Pakistani police told Mortenson the Shamshatu camp was unsafe.

Traveling back and forth to northern Pakistan over the past
five years, Mortenson, 43, has set up 22 schools for children in
communities that supply porters for U.S. climbers in the Karakoram

“The need is everywhere,” he said. “The only way we can defeat
terrorism is if people in this country where terrorists exist
learn to respect and love Americans, and if we can respect and
love these people here.”

The border is jittery.

There are conflicts between those supporting Pakistan’s
government, which backs Bush’s demand for bin Laden, and Muslims
appalled at potential military action against other Muslims.

“Maybe civil war,” factory owner and trader Mohammad Arif said.

A towering painted portrait of bin Laden clutching machine
guns decorated the back of one truck. Some Pakistanis point out
bin Laden built roads and clinics in Afghanistan.

Tuesday in the Khyber Tribal Area, five men were pulled from
a car and shot in a feud.

Inside a mud-brick compound after the killings, 16 men sat
drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. They joked that they all are
cousins of Osama bin Laden.

Five more shots from a machine gun reverberated just over
the wall. In one way, people on the border, accustomed to
conflict, are not jittery: Nobody flinched.

Black-clad Pakistani police and soldiers patrol along roads
and at edges of Afghan neighborhoods in Peshawar.

Inside a fortified United Nations compound, bureaucrats
coordinate construction of new tent cities and water supplies for
up to 1 million refugees.

“Afghanistan is a human-rights and humanitarian catastrophe.
These are probably the hungriest and poorest people of the world,”
said Yusuf Hassan, spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for
refugees. “They are trapped.”

U.N. officials want the border opened. U.S. officials say
they haven’t taken a position.

“We’re concerned about the humanitarian crisis,” spokesman
Mark Wentworth said from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan’s capital,
Islamabad. “We continue to provide assistance to refugees in
Pakistan. We continue to try to provide assistance to vulnerable
Afghans across the border.”

Out on the hot plain, Mortenson watched boys molding bricks
and wondered whether America’s campaign will succeed. Leaving
Afghanistan under threat of military attack for weeks “is causing
innocent people to panic,” he said.

Children languishing in refugee camps could become prey for
terrorist recruiters in the future, he said. “What’s the
difference between them becoming a productive local citizen or a
terrorist? I think the key is an education.”

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