Reporters on the job

PAKISTANI RACIAL PROFILING: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf found that visiting an Afghan refugee family (page 9) in a neighborhood of Rawalpindi, a suburb of Islamabad, wasn't easy. His car was stopped three times at Pakistani police checkpoints - twice on the way there and once on the way back - where police asked to see his passport. "I was wearing a traditional Pakistani outfit, in part because it's comfortable, and in part to look less obviously out of place. But going local had unintended consequences. The police thought I was Afghan. 'Passport!' demanded one cop. 'Hey there, how are you?' I replied in my best American English. The cop did a double take. Looked at my passport, and looked back at my face, and said, 'Sorry, I thought you ... you may go.' In the back seat, my translator, an Afghan refugee girl named Zohra, was giggling. 'Now you know what we go through every day,' " she said.

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN: Today's story about life inside Kabul, Afghanistan, was partly reported by an Afghan, who worked for the Kabul Times (page 1). He told reporter Phil Smucker, based in Pakistan, that getting into Afghanistan is the easy part. "Any Afghan or Pakistani can travel into Afghanistan. It's getting out that's hard," says Phil. "The border is sealed by Pakistani guards. It took him almost 48 hours to get out this time. He had to find the right mountain pass. To avoid the border guards, he took the same goat trails used by the refugees coming across, but it can be dangerous." The trip is less tiring if one rents a horse (300 rupees or almost $5), donkey (200 rupees) or a camel (150 rupees). "The camels are cheaper, because they're more likely to misstep on the narrow goat trails."

COMBAT ZONE: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher (now based in Tokyo) has not been to the Erez Crossing - the border between Gaza and Israel - in 15 months. "Before the intifada, I'd been through this checkpoint dozens of times, on many occasions at night, and never thought about my safety. But my interviews went later than expected yesterday (this page), and as we drove back in the dark, I could see my interpreter, Mohammed, was very nervous. 'I haven't taken anyone to the checkpoint this late in eight months. It's just too dangerous,' he worried." Nothing happened. But "I used to see thousands of Palestinian men coming home from work in Israel, carrying plastic bags, a newspaper, or some food, and trucks to export produce would be lined up to enter Israel. It was totally silent yesterday. The guns of war have stopped the wheels of commerce."

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