Friday, April 18, 1997

Smuggled into the Khyber Pass

Travelling 3rd class by train, from Karachi on route to Peshawer, we had been befriended (and rescued) by Manzoor. He couldn’t do enough for us, putting us up for a night at his half-built house and then driving us around the North West Frontier and through the tribal area of Darra. Darra is a smuggling centre for guns, drugs and all black market goods. A real dive.

We were keen to see more of the ‘tribal lands’ and, if possible, the Khyber Pass while we were staying in Peshawer. However, the authorities were stopping all foreigners because Russian troops had been in the area the day before. No worries, Manzoor had lots of friends and one, ‘Princy’, knew a well respected ‘black-marketer’, an Afrida Headman and managed to smuggle us around a check point to this blokes house.

The tribal areas are scary places. They are virtually autonomous with a Wild West 'rule of the gun'. Manufacture and trading of arms and smuggling seemed the principal activity. Everyone armed to the teeth and living in fear.

The 'family strongholds' are mini-forts. Mud brick construction, with watch towers - forbidding places. On arrival at 'ours' Frances was taken away to cook chappattis with the women - us men fired a few rounds from the headman’s locally made 7mm rifle. (Frances, on hearing the shots, was convinced that I had been shot!)
The following day we left for the Khyber Pass proper with Princy and his friend. We were lucky to get there - thanks to our Afrida who was well known and persuaded the authorities. The Khyber Pass is a real fortress - both natural and full of Pakistan and old British gun emplacements. Smuggling tracks are everywhere. Mules are trained to make their own way across the border, loaded with goods.

Amazing place - from the top you could see the snow capped peaks of the Afghan hills

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