As tensions rose throughout the day, you had television news ablaze with patriotism. But the mood in the streets was palpably different
I woke up in Islamabad to the knowledge that Pakistan may be on the brink of war. Not an incredible reality given that it is Pakistan. However, my reality living and working in Islamabad differs from the Pakistan presented in the news cycle. Most days when I’m not reporting I’m frequenting Aussie-style coffee joints for a flat white, hiking on the Margalla Hills and enjoying dinner in the city’s bustling restaurant scene.
But now I was faced with the prospect of war. Pakistan and India had engaged in airstrikes deep into each other’s territory. What stood out this time was that never before had either country veered beyond the infamous Line of Control. Not since 1971 has there been such an escalation in tensions between the warring neighbours: the stakes were high and I knew the alert was considerable. As a reporter in this region, it is very important to acknowledge the importance of perceptions. This is a nation living on the edge.
I called a Careem, Pakistan’s equivalent of Uber, to begin my day of reporting and attempt to work out the severity of the situation. The cab driver, as usual, asked me politely where I was from and how long I’d lived in Islamabad, due to my Englistani Urdu accent. He asked if I had heard about the Balakot attack, I told him that I had and that I was travelling to report on the situation. Our conversation continued as we chatted about the highs and lows of and labyrinthine nature of the Pakistani parliament.