Grand Trunk Road

'You Know, You Look Like Faisal': An Awkward Moment In Pakistan

After their visit yesterday to a Pakistani village where the family of Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad owns a home, NPR's John Poole and Tom Bullock shared with us a story of the shock and disbelief expressed by the people of Mohib Banda concerning the news.

This morning, Tom offers this addendum, which has a touch of humor and more observations about the region where Shahzab's father, a retired military officer, remains a respected figure:


NPR producer Tom Bullock in Mohib Banda, Pakistan, interviewing village elders about Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad. (Photo by John Poole/NPR)

Tom Bullock, second from right, talking with elders in Mohib Banda. (John Poole/NPR)


"As I finished the last interview, Mohib Banda's village elders rose from their plastic chairs. They smiled, shook my hand and offered us tea or something cold to drink. Then one said, 'You know, you look like Faisal.'

"The other men looked for a moment, then laughed and agreed. 'You do' said Faisal's step-cousin (speaking in Pashtu). 'Has anyone ever told you that before?'

" 'Faisal,' of course, is Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of planting the car bomb in Times Square.

"And no, this was the first time I'd ever been told I look like an accused terrorist.

" 'It's the beard,' the step-cousin said. The village elders agreed.

"Sajid, our driver and interpreter on this side trip off the Grand Trunk Road had been trying to stifle a laugh. When pressed by the elders, Sajid whole-heartedly blurted out — 'it's definitely the beard'.

"This odd exchange followed our revealing drive to the village from Islamabad.

"As the Grand Trunk Road wound north and west, the sprawl of the capitol gave way to green fields. We passed centuries-old forts and relatively modern monuments built by the British when this area of Pakistan was still part of British India. We crossed the Indus River. We passed countless heavily decorated trucks that traverse the road every day.

"As we entered the Northwest Frontier Province, there was a visible change. 'Western-style' clothes gave way to traditional attire. For men, that meant shalwar kameez — long-tailed, loose-fitting shirts over baggy pants. The few women we saw out in public favored burqas. In Islamabad, a head scarf is more common.

"We had arrived in a much-different place."

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