Friday, July 27, 2007

The Gun Market Of Pakistan And The Khyber Pass

The Khyber Pass

The Khyber Pass (also called the Khaiber Pass or Khaybar Pass)(el. 1070 m.) is the most important mountain pass connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan.

Throughout history it has been an important trade route between Central Asia and South Asia and a strategic military location. The pass summit is 5 km inside Pakistan at Landi Kotal. The pass cuts through the Safed Koh mountains which are a far southeastern extension of the Hindu Kush range.

In some versions of the Aryan migration theory, the Indo-Aryans migrated to India via the Khyber Pass. Recorded invasions through the Khyber Pass begin with the conquests of Alexander the Great, and also include several later Muslim invasions of South Asia, culminating with the establishment of the Mughul Empire from 1526. Going the other way, the British invaded Afghanistan through the Pass and fought three Afghan Wars in 1839-42, 1878-80, and 1919.

To the north of the Khyber Pass lies the country of the Mullagori Afridis. To the south is Afridi Tirah, while the inhabitants of villages in the Pass itself are Afridi clansmen. Throughout the centuries the Pashtun clans, particularly the Afridis and the Afghan Shinwaris, have regarded the Pass as their own preserve and have levied a toll on travellers for safe conduct. Since this form of extortion has always been their main source of income, they are naturally disturbed when anyone comes along to interfere with it. Hence their dislike of invading armies and penetrations, and other exercises of authority, even though some armies have been prepared to pay the blackmail, in the form of allowances. Resistance from the local tribesmen has always been fierce.

George Molesworth, a member of the British force of 1919, summarised it well. "Every stone in the Khaibar has been soaked in blood."

Rudyard Kipling called it "a sword cut through the mountains."

It became widely known to thousands of Westerners and Japanese who traveled it in the days of the Hippie trail. Taking a public or private bus or car from Kabul or the Afghan border, on the Pakistani side people were advised not to wander away from the road. A quick daylight passage was then made. Monuments left by British Army units, as well as hillside forts, could be viewed from the highway.

The area of the Khyber Pass has been connected with a counterfeit arms industry, making AK-47's and Martini-Henry rifles, among others including pistols and sub machine guns using local steel and blacksmiths' forges.

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