October 20, 2005
Hotel Bajrang, 100 NRs
The earthquake in Pakistan, with more than 40,000 victims, has haunted my nights since I came back from Annapurna. What I am thinking is simply rushing my way to Pakistan, and do all the best there to help the people. I just cant forget the suffering faces of the victims of tsunami in Aceh, and I am sure, the people in Pakistan side of Kashmir suffer the same pains at this moment.
Today I went very early to the Pakistani embassy in Santipath, Channakyapuri. The embassy is a huge, mosque dome shaped building, with several gates. And the visa section on the gate no.3, which was quite difficult for me to find and I had to make a tour around the embassy. There were lots of people queueing, but there is special window for foreigners, so not until 2 minutes, there was someone answering my questions. The procedure was straightforward, I was given an application form, he let me to fill it out, and…. get a letter from my embassy.
According to my previous experience, letters from Indonesian embassy are always easy, considering that many of the diplomats encouraging young people to travel independently, and especially that I never commit any crime in my history. I have ever applied Pakistani visa in Kabul before, same experience, and got the letter just in a minute.
So I went confidently to the Indonesian embassy….
Ladies and gentlemen,
The receptionist of our embassy, an Indian man, told me that it’s not so easy to get the letter of recommendation. I was stunned. There were some friendly staff (Indonesians) told me that the officer now is not so keen in issuing letters, due to the Jamaah Tabligh members from Indonesia like to use India as transit on their way to go to Pakistan. But she, from consular section, told me that my case was different, and probably I would get the letter easily.
After waiting for hours and hours, the diplomat, the guy who has authority to give signatures on any legal matters in the embassy, agreed to spend some of his valuable time to meet me. Fortunately I met another Indonesian traveler with bunch of problems in the embassy, so I didnt fall asleep when I was waiting. (This Indonesian traveler lost her passport when taking train from Nepal to Delhi, and has problem to leave India).
I explained all of my problems to this High Excellency Mr Diplomat. He just seemed not so interested in listening, and instead forwarded me to find my way by myself. He said I should find organization first, bla bla bla, and the final point is that I wont get any letter from him. Full stop.
The friendly staff told me, since 2 yrs ago the officer has changed, and this very officer does not really like to issue any letters to anybody, even for the internal staff, and makes the life difficult for many. She then tried to contact me to meet another diplomat.
And at last, I successfully meet the second diplomat. But when I was talking with him, the first diplomat came into the room, and he explained everything to the second one. And yep, the reasons is getting again to be procedures and procedures, and I was refused again. He even said, “you should be thankful that our embassy is procedural. The other indonesian embassies you mentioned are working against the procedures”. And the mainline is I should have got my visa earlier, in my home country. I have explained to him, due to my type of travelling, it;s impossible to have all of the visas prepared before departing. But this was not the matter for him.
Should I give up going to Pakistan? Why this good will should be stopped by my own embassy? The Indonesian local staff took sympathy on me, but she couldnt do anything either, just gave me some suggestions:
– contacting indonesian embassy in beijing (I dont reckon I have contacts there)
– contacting indonesian embassy in tashkent (but really not so much reason for an indonesian in delhi want to go to pakistan)
– contacting indonesian embassy in islamabad, NGO groups, etc etc to give me invitation from Pakistan
– sending a letter directly to indonesian ambassador in delhi
But I was just so tired of this bureaucracy. I even think to take the easiest way, directly fly to Kabul, and then make my way from Kabul to Pakistan. But this option could be very expensive, and probably Afghanistan visa also would require another letter from my embassy, which I am sure that I will meet that very diplomat again to beg.
What to do? What to do?