The Cab Driver from Waziristan

In Abbottabad, a Suzuki Bolan is the what you get when you need a taxi – probably because of its turning radius and the ability to squeeze into the narrow lanes of the old Abbottabad. The lanes were constructed during the British Raj days and are more suited to horses than cars. I just took a cab ride, or a ‘dabba (as Bolan is called here) ride’, with a driver who turned out to be from Waziristan. In the 10 minute short ride, he told me a rather long story when the conversation that started with how CNG gas stations are ripping off drivers by using very low pressure, turned to the inevitable topic of Pakistan. Here’s what he had to say (in mostly his own words):

I belong to Waziristan, and my family consists of mostly doctors, including my father. It has been many years since the Army operation started in my home-town. I had land and many shops, and the money I earned was enough to support my family. When the operations started, being the coward that I was, I moved to Abbottabad for the sake of my children’s education. My children study in Burn Hall (established by the British, and one of the top schools until a couple of decades ago. It is now run by the Army/ex-Army people). My shops are all destroyed now, and I have been forced to drive a taxi to earn a living. I can not pay my children’s school fees, and have been trying to talk to the Army decision makers. I have written them letters in which I tell them that I am not asking for compensation for the shops that have been destroyed, or a plot in exchange for the land I can no longer use, I am asking you for a discount in my children’s school fees as I can no longer pay them with the earnings I make from the cab I drive. They respond in the negative, saying we can not do anything for you. Now you tell me what kind of feelings will I have for a country whose army destroyed my livelihood and can not help me educate my children?

When I asked him what he thought of the APC and the talk of talking with the Taliban, he said that if our government had to hold talks with the Taliban on a peace process, they should have done so a few years ago instead of now, when everything is destroyed by the conflict. He gave me the analogy of a family where only one brother is full of mischief. The father, along with his other sons, first of all tries to discuss the issues that the problem child has, and get him to behave. If the son carries on his offensive behavior despite his father and brothers’ advice, only then they can take measures like kicking him out of the house.

Though I may not agree with his analogy, the driver probably had his own brother on his mind, as, just before the ride was over, he told me he has brother who is a captain in the Army. His brother was recently posted to Waziristan, of all the places, and said he will fight his neighbors and family if ordered, because the army is a servant of the government. The cab driver and his family agree.

And yes, in case you were wondering, he wore a long beard.