history International Affairs

The Gun Bazaar of Pakistan

Pakistan’s Gun Bazaar

The area is inhabited by Pathans or Pushtuns, rather fierce Pushtu-speaking hill tribes. On the map, it is part of Pakistan, but the Pakistani government has never really controlled it. Pathan tribal chiefs run everything.

Pathan territory spans the border. 60% of them live in Pakistan, 40% in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, they are the largest ethnic group at 40-odd% of the population and have often dominated government and business.

The Pathans have twice defeated the greatest armies of their day. When Alexander the Great wanted to cross the pass, he could not manage it for several weeks, until he bribed one of the local chieftains into assisting him against the ones who were blocking him. At the height of British power in Queen Victoria’s reign, the Khyber was the border of the Raj. Britain fought several wars against Pathans and never completely subdued the area. In the first Afghan war, a force of 16,000 (4500 soldiers plus grooms, cooks, etc.) went in and one man came out alive. Pathans were also recruited into the British military, where they were excellent soldiers.

Since 1980, Pathans have been fighting Russians, various other Afghans, American and allied forces, the Pakistani army…and sometimes each other.

The Pathans provided most of the adherents of Taliban. Many — both pro and anti-Taliban — are still (2012) fiercely resisting various efforts by US and allied forces and/or the Pakistani government to control their area.

Crossing the Khyber has always been something of an adventure. Today, it is far too dangerous for most travellers Link

In 2010, the already complicated relationship with Pakistan (always accused by the US of hosting the Taliban in this border area without reporting it) became tougher after the NATO forces, under the pretext of mitigating the Taliban’s power over this area, executed an attack with drones over the Durand line, passing the frontier of Afghanistan and killing three Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan answered by closing the pass the 30th of September which caused a convoy of several NATO trucks to queue at the closed border.[8] This convoy was attacked by extremists apparently linked to Al Qaida which caused the destruction of more than 29 oil tankers and trucks and the killing of several soldiers.[9] NATO chief members had to issue a formal apology to the Pakistan government so the supply traffic at this pass could be restored.

In August 2011, the activity at the Khyber pass was again halted[10] by the Khyber Agency administration due to the more possible attacks of the insurgency over the NATO forces, which had suffered a period of big number of assaults over the trucks heading to supply the NATO and ISAF coalitions all over the frontier line. This instability made the Pakistan Oil Tanker Owners Association to demand more protection from the Pakistani and US government threatening not to supply fuel for the Afghan side.

This rising of violence had taken place due to the detention and killing of the Al Qaida´s chief leader Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. However, it must be said that the strengthening of the insurgency´s activity had always been linked to the control that Pakistani military services and the ISI exercises over this western area of Pakistan. In other words, conflict over the Khyber Pass is totally tied to the diplomatic relationships between Pakistan and the US, lately affected by the illegal American military intervention in Pakistan for the “hunting” of Bin Laden and the big number of Pakistani soldiers and civilians killed due to the, scarcely reported, drone attacks[11] perpetrated by the NATO and US army over the frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Link

By Eric Patton

Well look down Yonder Gabriel, put your feet on the
land and see

But Gabriel don't you blow your trumpet till you hear
from me

There ain't no grave can hold my body down

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