A journalist friend of mine just returned back from Taliban stronghold southeastern province of Paktika. He recounted to me his amazing experience in the surreal region.
Mud-houses disappear in the capital, Sharana, because of the constructions of new modern buildings. Mud houses in the districts also disappeared, due to another reason. In this area security is just an empty talk. For security reason in Taliban controlled district, one at least should be Pashtun, bearded, and dress in turbans. But that’s not everything. Being non-local anyhow is dangerous. And my friend was just lucky to be able to drag a local to rent a car and bring him to the districts near Pakistan border.
It was a near-to-death journey. The police were surprised to see this Kabuli Pashtun came to this off-limit region. He was so anxious because Taliban was still everywhere. Anybody here can be Taliban, because everybody looks the same – bearded, turbaned, and dressed in traditional costumes. Even the policemen, due to security reason, don’t wear uniform. My friend had the chance to interview the police commander, who completely appeared in Taliban-style. The commander had not so much words but emphasized the Kabul group to leave as soon as possible.
It was hard to leave this district to go back to Sharana. The local villagers were afraid to be guide for outsiders as they can be killed by Taliban fighters, who hide in all places and are ready with the weapons. You can see Taliban here behind the stone, Taliban there inside the caves, all with ready-to-fire Kalashnikov. My friend then promised this villager to fill his motorcycle with gasoline, which then made him agree to be guide.
Here gasoline is rare. In the bazaars, shopkeepers should provide gasoline. Taliban fighters mostly raven the world with their infamous motorcycle, and when they arrive in bazaar and shopkeeper failed to provide gasoline, the poor shop owner will be punished.
The guide from the district lost his way. He was so scared by the Taliban guerillas and decided to go back. My friend’s car then stranded in a bazaar. A very pitiful one. All turned to be ruins and only two shops were opened. These two shops were also not that worthy to be mentioned as real shops. A villager said, “you were lucky to come now. Some minutes ago, Taliban on motorcycles just passed by!”
“What happened here?” asked my friend in Pashto.
The old bearded shopkeeper men came with a sad story about the ruined bazaar.
“The Russians bombarded this place. Yesterday they destroyed everything!” In this forgotten part of Afghanistan, people even have never heard anything about America or ISAF, NATO, Coalition Forces, and all other friends. They were still thinking that it was Russian troops who were invading the Afghan land. It was actually American or NATO forces who just bombarded the area suspected as the hiding place of Taliban warriors.
This man was very angry. “They killed seven villagers. Innocent people. These bastard Russians, they have to come here and sit with us!”
Sitting for a jirga, a council, is Pashtun tradition to dissolve disputes between conflicting parties. My friend asked him what he wanted from the jirga.
The old bearded men said, “First, to apologize us for this killing, according to our tradition, they have to send us seven women for each victim killed.”
As there were seven people killed in the bombardment, and seven women per each victim, this ancient man was actually wishing to get forty-seven ladies as offerings!