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And he put his silver revolver on the table

And he put his silver revolver on the table
Security guards outside of Lahore

The boys were ticking their legs over as I sat in the car with my broken arm looking on helplessly. I had the video camera out the window trying to capture as much footage as I could. We were cycling along the Grand Trunk road from Islamabad to Lahore.

The road which starts in Afghanistan and finishes in India is a cultural bonanza from the minute you get on. There are bulls, donkeys, goats, tuk tuks, buses and more. We had just passed through another security checkpoint where we had been questioned by police for the second time already that morning when a truck full of a dozen police pulled us all over and approached the car.

Armed with AK 47s, shotguns and Tommy Guns they asked us to get out. Although their guns weren't pointed at us, nearly every officer had their finger on the trigger. Another officer with a bandana covering his face was on top of the truck with a bolted-down machine gun pointed at us.

After they had checked our passports and looked through the car, a crowd of spectators began to gather and we were told we had to leave for security reasons. They then escorted us to a gas station down the road.

I was then taken into a side room where three undercovers in white gowns entered the room. One of them then walked towards me with a silver revolver in his hand, put it on the table separating the two of us and then demanded I show him all we had recorded on the video camera.

I was alone at this stage and extremely nervous as the other lads were all in the next room. Had I been pulled over half an hour earlier there would have been big trouble as I had been shooting a video blog on the inefficiency of the Pakistan police and how corruption had caused exploitation of children. Luckily I managed to delete the footage before handing it over.

After realising that we were harmless, the police lightened up and even offered us some food and drink. After a long chat it turns out that they were just genuinely concerned for our safety. The police then insisted we have armed escorts with us all the way to Lahore.

Only a week earlier, two Spanish cyclists had been abducted from Lahore while only days earlier, an American had been kidnapped from his room. All three have not been seen since.

Unfortunately this is what Pakistan has become. Before 9/11 it was a popular tourist destination and a very safe country to travel through. Now they have basically lost their entire tourism industry. There are police and military checkpoints on every corner and restrictions to where you can and can't go.

In the two weeks I have been here, it has been bombed three times there has been two reported kidnappings of Westerners, yet when we went out to the rural areas we didn't feel threatened at all. We played cricket with the kids every night and drank tea with their parents. In both Islamabad and Lahore we were entertained by Pakistani locals and spoke at forums on the subject of child trafficking.

Take away the security threat and Pakistan has so much to offer the common traveller — incredible mountain passes, lush green scenery, a unique insight into Islamic culture and a diverse assortment of food, drink and entertainment. I do fear though, that this country will be a red zone for tourists in a few years' time unless drastic changes are made.

~ Tim

For more info check out Ride2Rescue.org

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