When our officials go on foreign tours, they normally meet and discuss matters with those of equal status and if they get to meet some high officials in the host countries, it is only as a matter of courtesy. However, when foreigners visit us, it is a different story altogether. They are allowed to trample the protocol of our dignitaries under their feet. Their lowly officials breezily bypass their counterparts to meet the highest officials of our country. A landmark achievement recently has been a telephonic conference held between Richard Holbrooke, the US Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, and our President. How that fits in with the protocol, I just do not know. I remember some years back, a student was asked to name the capital of Pakistan. His answer was Washington DC. It sounded like a joke at that time, but it is a joke no more. We may not have quite arrived there yet, but we sure seem to be moving in that direction at a brisk pace. -S.R.H. HASHMI, Karachi, via e-mail, March 13.