There are many who believe OBL is hiding in one of many “No Man’s Lands” of Pakistan. One region known as Baluchistan/Waziristan, is where recent intelligence indicates where OBL might be. Who are these people and how do they think and live? What are their values? The following article provides excellent insight. I believe understanding these people, and their culture(s) will aid our efforts to win the War on Terrorism.
Letter from the Northwest Frontier
By Justine Hardy
Those historic, hirsute North West Frontier warriors of South Waziristan had been throwing bricks and firing their Kalashnikovs at the helicopter of the area commander of the South Waziristan Scouts, who in turn had just been flying through to check out the lay of the land.
A Pathan walks into a chai shop on the corner of Tanai Scout Post Road in Wana and asks everyone there to a circumcision party. As jokes go it could be straight out of some city boy’s recession-war-bombing-weary perk-up collection, but it’s not, the Pathan really did walk in, or rather he ran in, his blue eyes wide and his beard at full sail. He wanted everyone to come to his first son’s do, he wanted us all to celebrate with him and his family.
We had just been taking a restorative chai after a morning of rioting in the streets of Wana. Those historic, hirsute North West Frontier warriors of South Waziristan had been throwing bricks and firing their Kalashnikovs at the helicopter of the area commander of the South Waziristan Scouts, who in turn had just been flying through to check out the lay of the land. Here they are pretty much in cahoots with the Taliban, a still-powerful undercurrent in Pakistan despite their routing across the border. The rioting had really just been business as usual so the circumcision party offered a bit of light relief.
The Pathans of the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and the Pashtuns of East Afghanistan are the same people, the same blue-eyed, fair skinned, very non-vegetarian warrior tribe. Many refer to them as one of the ten lost tribes of Israel and certainly, as illustrated by the invitation in the chai shop in Wana, they follow many of the customs of the Jews. They are also one of the biggest tribal groups in the world, numbering about 15 million. They love a good scrap and they are a people famous for their inter-clan feuds and savage mountain guerrilla techniques. Pathans and Pashtuns live by a code of honour. They must provide hospitality to anyone who asks even if he be a sworn enemy. They are also driven by Badal, the cycle of revenge, invariably motivated by zar, zan, zamin – gold, women and land. This cycle of revenge is not only carried right through the whole clan but it is handed down from father to son and across the centuries. As warriors, the mountain Pathans have never been defeated.
Wana is the main town of South Waziristan, a restricted frontier area particularly well-known for the ferocity of its inter-clan punch-ups. My guide, of the flashing teeth, eyes and AK47, was keen to tell me how the town apparently got its name. When the British established their outpost in the town they got lonesome for their ladies and sent for them from Lahore and Delhi. Up the lovely ladies tripped and were to be seen bustling about the town bazaar swishing their skirts in that fashion so particularly offensive to petticoat-shy Muslims. The OAPs of the town called a jirga, a council of elders, and voted to ban these wanton western hussies. Keen not to enrage the exciteable locals the British sent the women packing. And so the town got its acronym name: Women Are Not Allowed.
My storyteller’s eyes twinkled as he re-adjusted the cartridge belts across his chest in a slightly over-boyish fashion. Even so I went along to the party. It would have been an insult not to.
It was all meat, argument and no alcohol of course as is the standard at gatherings in this part of the world. And obviously there were not a lot of females around. I asked a more moderate local lad, whose Pathani hat was casually awry, whether he thought his people might calm down a bit if they cut down on the meat and took to moderate consumption of the occasional soothing nip. He rolled his eyes in a fashion that suggested he was perhaps already not averse to a bit more than that. I stayed a little longer than I really wanted to – wild mountain dancing is not one of my strong points – but my guide was keen to join in. Back up the hill and out of town, in the relative serenity of a dilapidated old government rest house set among some trees, I was cooched down beside the fire writing up my notes with the same frantic enthusiasm that had been given to the dancing down the hill in Wana. My guide wanted to find out whether I was writing about his dancing performance. I told him that I was comparing the raw ranges further north to the handiwork of a clan of drunken giants setting to with a gargantuan chisel.
But we are not taking alcohol here,’ interjected my guide. So I posed the vegetarian and moderate tipple suggestion to him.
He laughed like a character out of a Bollywood movie, smacking his thighs and throwing his head back to the moon. But suddenly he came over all serious in the firelight.
We Pathan people are the people of these mountains in Azad (Pakistan-controlled Kashmir) and Afghanistan. We will always fight. We hate people from the outside and we hate to be told what to do. We live by tribal law and this is all.
It is Pathans who have been targeted in the war against terrorism. It is Pathans who fill the refugee camps on the Afghan borders and in Iran and Pakistan. And it is the Pathans who have defeated every invading army that has ever tried to take control of Afghanistan.
Whatever happens to the Taliban, the Pathans will still be Pathans.