islamabad - The security protocols and advisories in the capital have turned average houses into fortresses. The boundary walls of embassies and ambassadors’ residences are of towering heights, supported by yet another layer of bomb proof custom made walls. They are then crowned with barbed wire for added security. The facades of these houses give the impression of colonial era residences. Pickets installed on the way to the diplomatic venues are guarded by traditional barriers: a 15 feet pole, pulled by a heavy stone hanging at one end or an automatic iron shield that pops up out of the ground with one click of a button. While traipsing through such barriers, one often wonders whether the one is in Islamabad or Gaza. 

Topping it all, the friskers, the beeps, the back and forth march under the scanners lead one through the iron gates, which are the final hurdle between the guests and their gracious hosts.  

Going to an event hosted by Ms. Helle Nielsen, Charge de Affaires of Royal Danish Embassy, was not an easy task. The guest dropping point was at the corner of the street and then a long walk had to be undertaken to reach the venue. “What if it was raining today,” a guest who didn’t have the privilege to be dropped by a chauffeur complained as he walked on, accompanied by his better-half, who was in visible pain due to her high heels.  

The occasion was a mix of everything, as already indicated on the invitation card: “Innovative Denmark:  Enjoy, Engage and Interact.” The lawn had a setting of an exhibition; kiosks and marquees were pegged in the garden displaying handicrafts, paintings, housing material, furniture and gourmet items. Big canvasses erected at different points told different stories of Danish culture. An alley painted with murals led to the terrace where Danish culinary awaited the guests. Boat shaped paper containers were replenished after every 10 to 15 minutes, as guest savored their taste buds with meat balls and Tuna, cheese chunks on braun bread, apple puree with crackers. A two-member musical band by the name of ‘Elof & Wamberg’ had especially flown from Denmark for the event and to enthrall the guests.  Although it did not seem to be an appropriate occasion to discuss politics or current affairs, yet the guest could not resist from discussing the current political situation of the country. “I am still focused on Panama Leaks scandal as I think it’s something to be worried about,” commented an Eastern European ambassador. Topics like Mullah Mansour drone attack, Pak-Afghan relations, Nawaz Sharif’s meetings in London and opposition’s take on the TOR committee meetings figured in the discussions as guests munched on Danish delicacies. “The systems in the government are collapsing. Who issued CNIC to Mullah Mansoor, how did he get the passport?” asked Senator Farhatullah Babar. “It has to be taken seriously,” the Pakistan People’s Party senator said. The female guests, however, were more concerned about the proposed legislation by the Council of Islamic Ideology. The council is considering drafting a “Protection of Women’s Rights” bill and it recommends a raft of restrictions on females, ranging from ban on women to receive foreign guests, annulment of co-education beyond primary level and forbidding female nurses to treat male patients. What an irony. The discussion on rights of women and that too at a place which prides in promoting gender equality, human rights  and art & culture. Is anyone listening?

–The writer is a freelance

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