Beginning in my schoolboy days, with the mention of the Kyber Pass, I always envisioned images of menace, mystery, and mayhem. I shall be ever grateful for the Fulbright grant that supported a group of us from South Carolina to spend a summer in Pakistan, including the chance for me to actually enter the Pass.
Motoring into it, with its mountainous terrain on both sides, my thoughts turned to those British soldiers in times past who suddenly found themselves ambushed as the boulders turned into menacing angry and armed tribesmen. As the slight noise of distant thunder gradually became more clearly identifiable as Soviet artillery from the Afghan side of the border, the menace part of my vision gained even greater clarity.
As we approached the terminus for our visit, we suddenly came upon what appeared to be the largest flea market I have ever experienced. In truth, however, this was a smuggler’s market operating in clear daylight and packed with buyers who could evidently find whatever they wished. I saw for sale weapons of all types, washing machines and refrigerators, even cars, and sundries too numerous to mention. I never discovered how close this market was to the Afghan-Pakistani border, other than that it was within sound of the Soviet bombardment, but that it existed at all remains a mystery to me. It does, however, reflect the poor control exercised by the central government over this North West Frontier Province tribal area of the country.
I wonder if this market still functions? I’ll bet it does.
Malcolm Carroll Doubles – Fulbright to Pakistan 1983