While I was in Peshawar - the only Indian correspondent there, poor pathetic Siddhartha Vardarajan of the TOI - a Pathan auto-rickshaw wallah made eyes at me. I had been warned about this. Many people had told me that the Pathans loved men, and not just friends who could have been pulling my leg. A Kashmiri journalist once warned me against going to the NWFP: "Please don't go," he beseeched me. "Those people are not okay." This is the same journalist who came to my hotel room one evening and declared me to be a sufi.
I had also read about pathan proclivities in Ahmed Rashid's book on the Taliban. He mentions one of the legends surrounding the one-eyed Mullah Omar, wherein two commanders waged a tank battle in one of the southern Afghanistan cities. They were apparently in dispute over a boy they each wanted to sodomize. So Mullah Omar rescued the boy and punished the commanders. Not that that had salutary effect on other sodomists, for one of the punishments implemented by the Taliban regime in Kabul over the years was the burying alive of homosexuals.
So imagine my great anxiety when in the dusk the auto-driver caught my eyes and raised his eyebrows in invitation. In a peshawari auto-rickshaw, there is nowhere to look. The carriage is high off the ground, and there is very little legroom, so that I (and I am not a tall person by any measure) had to sit like a frog in position to hop. The sides are draped with oilcloth so that no one can look in, for most passengers are women who are hidden away by the Pathan women in this super-conservative society. But the auto-driver is too humane to leave his passengers entombed with nothing of the outside world to look at; hence narrow mirrors have been erected all over the auto-rickshaw, so that the passenger can admire his/her underchin, sideburns, or psychopathic auto-driver.
That's probably why General Pervez Musharraf decided that his new ISI chief would be a pathan. Lt Gen Ehsanul Haq, who was the corps commander Peshawar, wondering whether he would have to launch an attack on Kabul for the Americans, has now a tougher job on his hands. He has to play lecherous auto-driver to the Americans.
So why did Musharraf appoint him? It has to do with Bill Clinton. You may remember how one of Clinton's first crises was the controversy over gays in the military. Eventually the policy became: "Don't ask, don't tell", leaving out the "Don't put your dick in my ass because it hurts like hell".
And in fact, the US military is apparently gung ho about going to Afghanistan despite the country's aversion to war and 'body bags' ever since Vietnam. And it's not because of the desire for 'payback' for the Sept 11 attacks, but because of the prospect that US soldiers may get caught and held prisoner by the fierce pathans of the Taliban. It is a case of give-and-take: the Americans give their asses, and the pathans take. All are happy. With so many gays in the US military, this war may well and truly go on for years, as George Bush junior has predicted.
So where does Lt Gen Ehsanul Haq come in? Being a pathan, he's there to facilitate this cultural exchange between the richest and poorest societies on the globe. The only hitch is which side would he be on in this giving and taking? It only lends credence to the allegations that Musharraf is playing a double game. Rather it should be said, he's playing a bi-game, 'sandwiched' between the two extremes of the Taliban and the USA. Who said opposites don't attract?
Two college students, Akshay and Sunil, are sititng in a taxi in Mumbai when a beggar approaches them asking for spare change. Akshay adamantly rejects the man in disgust. Sunil, on the other hand, whips out his wallet, pulls out a couples of notes and gladly hands them over to the beggar with a smile. The beggar thanks him kindly and then continues to other taxis. Akshay is outraged by his friend's act of generosity. "What on earth did you do that for?" yells Akshay. "You know he's only going to use it on cigarattes and alcohol."
Sunil replies, "And we weren't?"