When the British left India in 1947, they bequeathed what was arguably a European notion of the nation state on a region for which the very concept was alien. I say “arguably” because anything one writes about Partition or the nation state is open to dispute. And until the financial crisis, I relegated this argument to the realm of historians — a subject that interested me personally, but did not seem relevant today.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
The way Nisar Ahmad sees it, the war in Afghanistan has been pretty good to him. The 19-year-old runs a shop stall on a British military base in Helmand selling knock-off cigarettes, sunglasses, carpets and other assorted trinkets to young soldiers eager to spend their cash. On a good day, he takes in anywhere between $300 and $400 as the nicotine-hungry snap up 10-packs of Chinese-made, fake Marlboro cigarettes for just $5 a pop, or a pair of fake designer shades for $15. Sometimes he’s feeling generous and knocks them down to $10. Even with the cost of buying the merchandise in Kabul and driving it down to the far south of the country, into Taliban country and frequently through militant checkpoints, he still reckons he takes anywhere between $80 and $100 a day in profit.
“It’s good money, very good money,” he says with a broad grin, showing off a gappy, yellowing smile. “I didn’t go to school but everybody he go to school he not make money same as me,” he explains in his faltering English, learnt during six years of working on British and American bases.