Reporters on the Job

WAITING HIS TURN: Reporter Phil Smucker went yesterday to the office of the home secretary for Pakistan's North- western Frontier Province. He was there to ask why charities continue to openly raise money in Pakistan for the Taliban to fight the US (page 1). He felt he was fortunate to get a walk-in interview with the No. 2 official in the office. "I was about to put a few questions to him when a motley crew of tribal elders, in skull caps and tall karakul hats, burst through door. I deferred to this delegation, sat down in a corner with my interpreter to listen."

The elders greeted the government official, exchanged niceties, joked about the US airstrikes, and then launched into a long story. As it turned out, they had brought the brother of a jailed kidnapper. The kidnapper had been charged with murder because one of his abductees had died in his custody. The elders, who included one of the frontier province's best-known mullahs, were petitioning for the kidnapper's release. The government official informed the crew of elders that the kidnapper had "already been sentenced to prison" and, therefore, he had no means of gaining the man's release. A smile turned to a frown on the mullah's face, and the government official stood up, excusing himself for what he said was "a meeting." But Phil hadn't had his interview. "I had to chase him down in the hallway for the quote I needed."

TEA WITH MILK AND RIFLES: When the Monitor's Scott Baldauf and photographer Robert Harbison met Afghan warlord Haji Zaman Ghamsharik (page 1), he looked every bit the Afghan gentleman, with a perfectly tailored salwar kameez suit. But the clues that Mr. Garmsharik was more than he appeared to be were readily apparent: The burly guard with the crooked nose at the front gate, and the scowling armed guard sitting behind him during the interview. "Oh, yes, I forgot the waiter who poured us cups of tea with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder," says Scott.

Cultural snapshot

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