Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Dennis Kux
My job was to report on various subjects, including transportation, and textiles and agricultural policy—the part which the Agricultural Attach� didn't do. I had a certain amount of guidance, but for day-to-day activities, I was pretty much on my own. I was given an area to work in, and some suggestions were made that I might do this or do that. After that, I was given a fair amount of leeway. This arrangement worked pretty well for what we were trying to do. The Economic Counselor was Tom Robinson, a very good man. He arrived in Karachi about six months after I did. There was a Commercial Attach�—Hugh Curry who was quite good. And there was Stan Schiff, a bright financial economist. There was another junior officer named Gordon Chase who also was good. There was a woman officer, Frances Highland. She had an apartment in the house where I lived. She had been, I think, a Foreign Service secretary in China before World War II. She successfully “Wristonized” as an officer. She did industrial reporting—for example, on petroleum and was quite productive.
I remember one interesting report I did on the textile industry which was then growing rapidly as Pakistan was a major cotton producer. I visited all of the major textile mills, mostly around Karachi, but I also traveled around Pakistan quite a bit. In fact, after I had been there five months, I was told: “Look, we don't know very much about the major irrigation dams and the irrigation system in West Pakistan. Why don't you take a trip and write a report on it.” So I got in my car by myself, and drove about 3,000 miles all over West Pakistan. I visited six or seven major irrigation projects. Life was such as that time that even as a Third Secretary of the American Embassy, I could do that. When I went up to Lahore, about 800 miles from Karachi and the capital of West Pakistan, I called on the Chief Engineer, the head of the water program for West Pakistan. He had perhaps never seen an American looking at his operations in such detail, although undoubtedly the aid people had been there. But as far as I could tell, he was pleased by our interest and didn't seem to resent the questions I asked.
The countryside was poor, particularly in the southern area, the Sindh. The area was very arid, mostly desert. If you didn't have irrigation, you couldn't farm. There were certain areas that were covered by irrigation, where the farming results were not bad even though farming techniques were poor. But there were lots of people even on the desert areas. One of the things that always hit me about Pakistan was that you would be driving around and you would stop your car in the middle of nowhere in the desert to eat a sandwich or what have you. Pretty soon there would be 50 people around. It wasn't clear where they came from.
Apart from the density of the population, you were struck by the poverty in the cities—both in India and Pakistan. That hit me at first, although after a while I got used to it. Otherwise, you couldn't survive. Karachi was somewhat worse than other major Pakistani cities because it had a lot of refugees who fled there in 1947 and were still living in mud huts and squalid conditions a decade later.