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Guns and roses

Updated July 07, 2013
— File Photo
— File Photo

Once some journalists were invited by a senator to Mohmand Agency where an Afghan tribe had decided to join Fata. The political agent who is considered King in Fata also accompanied us. As we drove towards that area the tribesmen fired anti-aircraft guns and rockets to welcome the guests. At one point we stopped and complained of an attack on the convoy when a huge blast took place on the roadside. Later we learnt that jubilant tribesmen had carried out an anti-tank mine blast to greet us.

In Darra Adam Khel where 5pc of the arms business has been presently converted to other legal trade, several hand grenades and anti-personnel mines were blown up to welcome the arrival of a bride at a house in Akhorwal area at a wedding party.

Similar to the culture in interior Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, the Pakhtuns too express every emotion from anger to celebration through gunfire and the tradition thrives to the present day. Every house owns at least one Kalashnikov worth Rs100,000. Bandoliers slung across the shoulders of the tribesmen and Pakhtuns as they casually go about their daily lives is not an uncommon sight.

In their race to acquire more sophisticated and modern weapons, each tribe wants to outdo the enemy and cause maximum damage while fighting as most disputes in the Pakhtun society are over land. The gun culture is as old as land disputes.

The tribesmen fight over possession of mountains which provide them wood, apples, almonds, apricots and other fruit as well as a high point for surveillance or at least give them a level fighting field.

In Kohat, the Mohammadzai tribe had a land dispute with the bordering tribe of Bezote in the Orakzai Agency, which was carved out by including land from Kurram Agency, Kohat, Khyber Agency and Hangu. The division was not acceptable to some tribesmen who lay claim over that land. There are similar land disputes in Kurram Agency, North and South Waziristan, Mohmand, Bajaur and tribal frontier regions.

During a fierce gun battle in 2009, the Bangash tribe provided the Muhammadzai tribesmen weapons to fight the Bezote tribe. According to Noor Muhammad Bangash, who contributed to the war, the Bangash tribe told the Muhammadzais that they could not provide tanks and helicopters but would arrange all types of arms and ammunition. This is a common situation in all the Pakhtun dominant areas of the country.

It is a tradition that in case of land dispute, all tribes offer an armed person from each house and funds are raised to buy arms. Deaths on each side are accepted without remorse. One tribe emerges victorious and the war legacy continues with no end.