Once welcoming, Pakistan city fears Taliban rise
By KATHY GANNON, AP – May 3, 2009
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — At the entrance to Peshawar, a young man on the side of the road offers a prayer, while on the bridge overhead three men videotape him.
They could be friends in Peshawar for the first time, perhaps from a nearby village. But that isn't my first thought.
My first thought is, maybe he is a suicide bomber setting off on a mission.
I make a mental note of his appearance — maybe 5 feet, eight inches, brownish-beige shalwar kameez, mustache, no beard, maybe 20 years old, maybe younger. They say most suicide bombers are 18- and 19-year-olds, poor, disaffected.
I decide to quietly, gently roll down my window, just an inch, thinking that if there's an explosion — from the young lad I just saw or any number of other directions — the opening will reduce the effect of the concussion. It could perhaps prevent the windows from shattering into deadly shards, unless of course the explosion is right next to the car, and then I guess it doesn't matter.
It has been 22 years since I lived in Peshawar, a city of one million people close to the border of Afghanistan. In the early morning traffic, noisy diesel-belching rickshaws weave past screeching buses with people hanging off the side. Horns blare as cars bump up against horse-drawn carts straining under the weight of half a dozen people crammed onto a seat made for three.
But what strikes me most is the palpable fear that now hangs over the city.
The Taliban insurgency is spreading from the wild, ungoverned border region close to Afghanistan into urban Pakistan. Peshawar, the commercial and cultural hub of the frontier province, is on the front line. Some say it is under siege. It has that feel to it.
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