Klashni-country

Published January 10, 2010

The famous Russian assault rifle, the Kalashnikov, also called the AK-47 (or 'Klashni' in the street and campus lingo of urban Pakistan), was a scarce commodity in Pakistan until about 1977. But by 1979, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) was vowing to help General Ziaul Haq bolster public support for the 'Afghan jihad' and expunge all leftist and pro-Soviet elements in Pakistan's intelligentsia, journalistic circles and campuses.

As the first batches of Afghan refugees started to cross into Pakistan from war-torn Afghanistan, with them came black marketers dealing in captured and smuggled AK-47s and heroin. Indeed, by late 1979, markets in the tribal regions of Pakistan were flooded with AK-47s and heroin.

The AK-47 was first introduced to urban Pakistan in mid-1979, when the then leader of the Karachi chapter of the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) and president of the student union at the University of Karachi, Hussain Haqqani, appeared on campus with 'bodyguards' armed with AK-47s.

Later, the AK-47 was also instrumental in Pakistan's first ever case of hijacking. In mid-1981, Salamullah Tipu, the leader of a militant student group, entered Pakistan from Kabul (as a card carrying member of the militant, anti-Zia Al-Zulfikar group), and along with at least three to four more Pakistan Students Federation (PSF) militant-wing members, hijacked a Peshawar-bound PIA flight and forced it to land at Kabul Airport.

By 1985, the usage of AK-47s had well and truly spilled out from university and college campuses in Karachi and could be found in the hands of organised gangs of criminals as well. The cherished rifle was now easily available in Karachi and one didn't necessarily have to travel to the NWFP to get one.

The major reason behind the AK-47s widespread availability in the city was the growing influx into Karachi of Afghan refugees, who in the early 1980s had started moving into the shanty towns of the port city. With them came gun and drug runners and fresh supplies of the AK-47 and heroin.

Indeed, in the bloody 1986, riots between the mohajirs and Pathans in Karachi, the latter had used AK-47s, while the former had to make do with crude homemade weapons, especially those prepared by the Biharis of Karachi's poverty-stricken Orangi locality.

By 1987, however, the All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organisation (APMSO) was well equipped with numerous AK-47s as it became the organisation supplying the Mohajir (now Muttahida) Qaumi Movement with street-fighters. It was also sometime in 1987 that the AK-47 started to be called 'Klashni' ( a word coined by APMSO militias), and the phrase 'Kalashnikov culture' began to appear in the Pakistani press.

For a detailed history of the Klashnikov in Pakistan up to the present, log on to www.dawn.com on Monday, January 11.

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