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Reporter's Notebook: Celebrating In Pakistan


Muslims around the world are celebrating the holy festival of Eid this weekend. That includes almost all of the people of Pakistan. NPR's Philip Reeves is in that country, and sent us this postcard.


PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: We're just outside Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. In the distance, the foothills of the Himalayas rise into a bright-blue, cloudless sky. An old, flatbed truck rattles up. Two men get out, and unload a couple of cows. There's a struggle, then the men lead the animals a few yards down a path...


REEVES: ...to this open-air market. Hundreds of men, most in traditional white robes, are milling around in the dust. There are hundreds of animals, too - cream-colored cattle decorated with lurid, orange and green paper flowers, and with silver tinsel wrapped around their ears; goats, as groomed as prize poodles; sheep, dyed shocking pink, with bells around their woolly necks. It's Eid al Adha, the three-day festival of sacrifice, when those Muslims who can afford to slaughter animals and share out the meat. Mohammed Kamran(ph) is looking for an ox. He knows what he wants.

MOHAMMED KAMRAN: (Through translator) It should look nice, and the body should be good. Its belly should not be bulging out or hanging down. Physically, it should be perfect.

REEVES: The problem is finding an animal at the right price.

KAMRAN: (Through translator) We have been coming here and haggling over prices for two days, but can't get a deal. The animals are either too expensive, or not good enough.

REEVES: Mohammed Sadiq's(ph) also having a tough day. He's here to sell his three goats and a sheep. He can't persuade anyone to buy them, although he's made a big effort to spruce them up.

MOHAMMED SADIQ: (Through translator) We invest a lot of time in them - washing them, feeding them, and preparing them to come here.

REEVES: They're delicious, he says.

SADIQ: (Through translator) Their meat is tasty. Animals that eat salt, have tasty meat. And we give them salt to lick.

REEVES: This weekend, several million animals will be slaughtered for Eid, in Pakistan alone. The custom is to divide the meat into thirds, with at least one third going to the poor. The rules are less clear when it comes to the animals' skins. Lots of money's at stake. A good cow hide can fetch around $35. Charities here collect the skins, and sell them to tanneries.

Some of these charities are run by political groups. That worries Pakistan's government. It's listed some 40 banned organizations that it says are linked with violent sectarian or jihadi groups - including the Pakistani Taliban. It's ordering provincial authorities to stop these organizations collecting hides. Political analyst Harris Khalique says that's a good idea, in theory.

HARRIS KHALIQUE: For people who want to contribute to outfits which are terrorist in nature, which promote violence, it is a message for people to refrain from doing that.

REEVES: But in practice, the order won't work, says Khalique.

KHALIQUE: It is almost next to impossible for the government to enforce it, because they can't control people who go out and collect hides. They change their names.


REEVES: Back in the market, if you ask people what they're going to do with their animal hides, you tend to get the same answer. They'll be given to madrassas - religious schools - to clothe and feed students.

SADIQ: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: That's what Mohammed Sadiq's planning to do. Like many here, he associates madrassas with piety, not extremism. But right now, Sadiq's got a more pressing issue to worry about - finding someone to buy his tasty goats.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad.


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Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.