Friday, October 19, 2001

OTTAWA DAILY TIMES: Native to Report on Afghanistan Action

KANE FARABAUGH — an 1995 Ottawa Township High School graduate and a reporter for CBS News and WOWK-TV in West Virginia — left this weekend for Pakistan, where he will report on the Afghanistan refugee issue and on the war against terrorism. He covered the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, and left this weekend for Pakistan, where he will report on the Afghanistan refugee issue and on the war against terrorism. He offers a report below, and future articles will appear periodically in The Daily Times. On Sept. 11, Farabaugh covered the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field. From Pakistan, Farabaugh will teleconference with Matt Smith’s geography students on Friday, discussing his experiences and accepting questions from the OTHS students.

CHARLESTON, WV - Back in the winter of 1998 - 1999, I worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific as an Information Officer. It was my responsibility to write about the strife and suffering of the Burmese refugees along the Thailand - Myanmar border in Southeast Asia. Working for JRS, I heard of the situation in Afghanistan.

Thousands, perhaps millions of refugees were streaming across the border into neighboring Pakistan, all fleeing in fear first from the Soviets, then the Taliban. I never had the chance to go and examine the situation with JRS. The time wasn't right.

But now America's at war and I'm a television news reporter. For the past several weeks I've been monitoring the situation in South Asia. I've been trying to understand why there's very little information about the Afghan refugees filtering through the media. All the attention now seems to fall on the concerns here at home, like Anthrax.

But the situation is desperate. For years, the Pakistani government has silently tolerated the influx of Afghan refugees. Now that influx is reaching critical mass, and there's no support structure to handle the wave of human misery now fleeing the rain of U.S. airstrikes and Taliban control.

I'm travelling to the region to get to the bottom of the crisis, and I'm getting there with the help of several local contacts here in West Virginia.

Mrs. Parween Qazi is a math teacher at Riverside High School near Charleston. She's from Peshawar, a town in Pakistan just miles from the border with Afghanistan. She's introduced me to one of my hosts, Dr. Adil Zareef. He's a human rights activist critical of the Taliban, and he's agreed to be my guide through the area. With his help, it's my goal to visit the refugee camps to understand thier suffering.

Before I can get there, I have to get ready. My station, WOWK, is financing my adventure in South Asia. It was a long shot to convince them to send me. Tenacity paid off, and not only does my news director Dennis Fisher back me up on the trip, my General Manager Sandy Benton is estatic we have the chance, but concerned about the risks. Because of her, the station's floodgates were opened to make sure we were equipped with a satellite phone, portable digital camera, and a visa to get in the country.

Which takes me to Washington D.C., and in a stange way, one of the places that ultimately started this trip. There's the Pentagon, a structure with a wound inflicted by terrorism, the springboard to a war far away that I'm now going to witness firsthand. There's also the Pakistani Embassy, and that's where I had to get my visa.

Visa in hand, camera at my side, and notebook in pocket, the trip is about to begin. I'm setting off for a place the some journalists are refusing to venture. Americans are warned to avoid travelling to the country, and protests flare up almost daily in different cities throughout Pakistan. I'm not scared, and I'm not really nervous. I'm excited to go, blessed to have the oppurtunity, and thrilled at the chance to cover an important story largely forgotten by the national media.

Pakistan and Afghanistan inspired author Rudyard Kipling to write "The Man Who Would Be King." In the novel, Peachy Carnahan, a thrill seeker on his way to Afghanistan, runs into a reporter for the Northern Star on a train in India. He thinks twice about robbing the man (Kipling) when he finds out the reporters a freemason. Instead, he says the magic words. "I'm coming from the East and heading to the West to find 'That which was lost'." I wonder if he ever found what he was looking for.

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