December 09, 2000 GMT
Pakistan - 5

Islamabad (03-11-2000) till Lahore (09-12-2000)

My initial plan was to do some major service on the bike on the campground in Islamabad, but when I got an offer from my former employer to work in Lahore for one week I decided to do the service in Lahore.

It gave me pocket money, and hotel and food paid for, during one week. This customer had bought second-hand machinery from a bankrupt company in the UK, and had built it back together them selves. Everything was wired up as well, the only thing I had to do was to fine-tune the whole machinery. The Technical Manager was Barry, a British I had met before in the UK and on Sri Lanka. Instead of in a hotel I was put in a house where Barry was living as well and I had my own bed- and bathroom. Christian, a former colleague was here also and it was good to see him again as we had done quite a few jobs together (mainly in China).

My idea was to work here for one week and stay some weeks more to work on the bike in the factory. So I had the opportunity to use the equipment of their technical department and they could still ask me questions about the machinery while I was around. So it benefited both parties. But finally I stayed here for a whole month and was able to get the bike fully fixed again and also make the machine run well. During the night time we were watching movies and drank beer! For the first time in 2 and a half month I had beer again. Officially still forbidden in Pakistan but as Barry had 3 alcohol permits, he could buy 18 cases of 20 bottles of beer, which was, even for the 3 of us, way too much.

Because I was staying in Lahore for a couple of weeks I had decided to get some parts shipped to me. My GPS bracket was broken and while they were supplying a metal bracket now, I sent an email to the supplier, Touratech, to complain about this and they offered me to send a new bracket free of charge except for the shipping costs. I decided to buy some more parts and get it shipped to Lahore, Poste Restante, also my girlfriend, Jeannette, sent me a box with all kind of things to Lahore.

The first package to arrive was the parts from Touratech. I could get the parts... but had to pay an additional Rs. 5500 (US$ 90). The parts were worth only US$ 150, but Touratech had charged me for the bracket fully (US$ 50) and had included a full invoice with the parcel. The Pakistani customs only looked at the highest amount mentioned on the invoice (US$150) and start calculating their formula from it: first 35% import tax, then over the total 15% VAT, and then a 6% income tax. We showed them that this couldn't be right because they were also taxing the shipping costs and the VAT was already charged in Germany (and showed on the invoice). They simply didn't care and wouldn't argue about it at all. We took a copy of the invoice with us and Barry asked the company's administration if they customs were charging the right amount and... they did.

I was really pissed of with Touratech because:
1. They had charged me fully for the GPS bracket
2. They charged me German VAT for items that were shipped out of the EC.
3. They didn't include a pro-forma invoice with reduced prices in the parcel.

I mailed them and got no answer. So I gave them the option that they paid the extra costs as a result of their mistakes on the invoice or I refused the package at all so it was sent back to them and they could send all the items to Holland instead.

At the end they decided to send the parts to Holland so I had to refuse the package. Refusing the package was not as easy as expected. Ok, refusing it was no problem but this didn't mean it was shipped back to the sender. I was told that it was impossible to export imported parts. But I told them the parts were not imported yet as they were still in customs. That made no difference however. But because I was a tourist an exception could be made but then I had to write a letter explaining why I refused the parts and request them to send it back to sender. I just wrote them the wrong parts we sent, for a different model motorbike and the parts were useless to me. I enclosed a print of the email Touratech had sent me, after modifying it with a word-processor first. In the meantime Touratech had already new parts sent to my parents in Holland. So I had my parts (still in Holland however) and I could easily refuse the parcel without worrying if the parcel from Pakistan ever made it back to Germany (and I couldn't care actually!).

With the parts send to my parents they included a cheque to refund the wrongly charged money for the GPS bracket. But my father could cash this cheque only against an USD$15 charge because it was a foreign cheque. A perfect example of a united Europe. Because my parents are living 5 km from the German border my father went to a bank in Germany and there he didn't get extra charged for it but.... they couldn't pay the cheque out in cash. They had to transfer it to an account and as my father didn't have an account in Germany they had to charge..... US$ 15.

In Lahore I was together with my German colleague Christian and I got some of his left over Pakistani rupees when he left, and so I had to pay him back and so I sent him the cheque which he had no problems to cash.

My rear tire had two punctures, both repaired but it was loosing air slowly so I had to inflate it every couple of days. Also the tire had run a surprisingly amount of 32.000 kms.(!) and needed to be replaced. But the sizes of tires I have are difficult to get in Pakistan, but everybody told me the best place in Pakistan to try was Lahore. I tried at the tire market and one shop only had my rear tire. This was no problem because that was my worst (leaking) tire, the front was still going strong. There was no choice or whatever in brand, so I ended up with a Yokohama street-tire, which was good enough for me.

On Monday 4 December I decided to leave Pakistan and enter India. I had to, because my (3 months) visa ran out the next day. But it was no problem as my bike was in a perfect condition now: it had had a full major service and I repaired all small (and bigger) broken and damaged parts.

The Sunday before I was about to leave Najeeb (Managing Director) phoned me and asked me to stay a couple of days longer. I told him this was impossible as my visa was running out but that was no excuse, as he would extend it tomorrow. It would only take 2 days. So I decided to stay for 3 more days. They didn't need my passport for the extension, just some copies and 3(!) photos. After 2 days they faxed me a letter stating that my visa was extended for two more weeks and I was able to leave from Lahore Airport. This was a mistake, as I was not leaving by air but overland. The next day they sent me a corrected letter where they only crossed out the word 'Airport'. So now I could also leave from Lahore border. But I had to wait some days more for the original letter, which had to be sent down from Islamabad.

The reason Najeeb wanted me to stay longer was that they had some problems with a non-Brugman machine but with the same process automation system. So I used these extra days to sort everything out together with Barry.

I received my original extension letter on Friday only so I decided to leave the next day, Saturday 9 December. I had plenty more time to arrange all my luggage as well so I was as organized and prepared as when I left home (as I had been calling it).

Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM GMT

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