16th December 2017

Isfahan doesn’t like me, they said.

And it doesn’t even know me! Can you imagine being discounted, even before you have said hello, only because my passport is a gorgeous moss-green in colour?

Background story for the drama – I was scheduled for a couple of meetings in Isfahan, Yazd and Tehran this week. I had an invitation letter from a certain governmental department, which ensured I would get a visa on arrival, despite the usual rule that all Pakistani passport holders need to apply for a visa beforehand.

After somewhat wrapping up a manic day at work, I arrive at the airport exactly 45 minutes before my flight is scheduled to take off. I am told that the letter needs to include a guarantee. The certain ministry, despite it being a public holiday in Iran, works up a letter and sends it across for the airline. Unfortunately, the translation from Persian to English takes a little too long, and I miss my flight. I wave my German and Indonesian colleague goodbye as they board the plane.

Not defeated, I re-booked my flight for the next day, get the letter verified by the airline, and head home to work some before calling it a day.

Next morning, I receive an extremely apologetic text message, saying that as I am a Pakistani, I need to go through a few rounds of approval and it might take some time. In all my naïve ignorance, I couldn’t quiet understand what was going on. Didn’t Iran love Pakistan? Weren’t we friendly neighbours?

Yes, clearly I haven’t been reading news and living under a rock.

Before going ahead, I want to clarify that I absolutely respect laws of any and all countries when it comes to granting visas. It is their right and responsibility towards its citizens to make sure that everyone who enters their country meets a set of requirements, and has the best of intentions.

The reason I am still writing this post is to possibly educate Pakistanis who might be planing to travel to Iran. There are only two other nationalities besides Pakistani that need certain approvals and additional documents, and I don’t think I have any Afghani readers – at least none that I know of. If you are an Afghani and reading this, well hello you!

A little history lesson – Iran and Pakistan used to be good neighbours when Pakistan was declared independent. The Shah of Iran was the first to visit Pakistan after independence, and often helped out in times of trouble – be it a famine, drought or war.

Relationship between the two countries started rolling downhill after sectarian riots engulfed major and minor cities of Pakistan, where shia minorities were targeted and tortured. Situation got even dire when Pakistani government strategically inched closer to the USA and Saudi Arabia. Consequently, in recent times, Pakistan and Iran have become much less friendly towards each other and far from ideal neighbours. The shared border often sees attacks and bloodshed, causing irreversible losses to both nations.

What bothers me is that while people in both countries are precious and amazing, they have been pulled apart because of political allegations and masked choices. In my last trip to Iran, I fell in love with the people and their softness in all aspects – from features to tone of the voice and overall demeanor. I can personally attest to the extent of similarity between the two nations, and would recommend a visit if you do get a chance. The architecture is stunning, their craft industry exports to the world and the weather is amazing as well.

I am proud of my country, and hope that one day we will stop sabotaging our relationship with our neighbouring countries only to please a few rich and influential countries.

Until then, enjoy random pictures from my last trip – just because I have nothing recent:

About Shaheen 1028 Articles

Need coffee, romance, fashion and manicure to survive.
KHI – DXB – CGN

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