Politics & Media
Feb 22, 2010, 08:22AM

Controlling the borders

Undercover on the frontlines of Afghanistan's drug war. 

When I arrived in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan Province, I found the city’s old bazaar shuttered in preparation for Ashura, an important day of mourning in the Shia calendar. In the past, Ashura had served as an occasion for sectarian fighting in Quetta, and so a cordon had been erected; I had to seek police permission, I was told, in order to photograph the procession. The following day, still dressed in Western clothes, I set off on foot from my hotel toward the courthouse. Perhaps because tourists have become a rare sight in this violent city, a Toyota Land Cruiser stopped just ahead of me and two men in the front beckoned to me. Their plump, clean–shaven faces were unthreatening, so I walked over to chat. When they learned I was a foreign visitor, they invited me for a sumptuous lunch, and later we drove around the city’s crowded bazaars and toured a restricted area of the military cantonment. I decided not to introduce myself as a journalist; they seemed to accept that I was simply a young traveler interested in poking around their rough corner of the world.


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