The South Asia Channel

Talibanistan: The Talibs at home

By Nicholas Schmidle About a year ago, while sitting at my home in Washington, DC, I found myself with a sort of delayed-stress longing for the Taliban. The desire stemmed from an overseas dispute, a business deal gone bad. Back in January 2008, I’d been forced into a hasty transaction—shortly after five policemen knocked at ...

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By Nicholas Schmidle

About a year ago, while sitting at my home in Washington, DC, I found myself with a sort of delayed-stress longing for the Taliban. The desire stemmed from an overseas dispute, a business deal gone bad. Back in January 2008, I’d been forced into a hasty transaction—shortly after five policemen knocked at my front door in Islamabad and announced their intent to kick me and my wife out of Pakistan. We had an hour to leave. Fortunately, through some well-connected friends, we managed to get 48 hours to pack our apartment into boxes, find a good home for our kitten, Cricket, and sell the four-cylinder Pajero Mini SUV that we had used to scoot around Islamabad for the past year.

That’s where the problem began; we didn’t actually sell the car. There was never an exchange of money. But we had reason to believe that the Pajero’s new owner, Bilal, would keep his word and pay for the vehicle. After all, Bilal’s father owned the house in which we had rented a three-room apartment for the previous two years. Moreover, Bilal worked for an international telecom company, so we knew he had a steady paycheck. And the deal cincher was that just a year earlier we had bought that very Pajero Mini from Bilal himself.

But collecting on an outstanding debt from halfway around the world isn’t easy. Phone calls went unanswered or ignored. Five months after being expelled from Pakistan, I asked a fellow journalist in Islamabad to intervene. He was the third or fourth person I’d enlisted for the job. Why didn’t we just call the police? The police are courageous and have suffered greatly in recent years from terrorist attacks, but when you see them thumbing for rides to work, you also get the impression that they lack the capacity to get certain things done. My friend, on the other hand, had moonlighted as a used car salesman and boasted of having repossessed a car or two. He seemed ideally suited to the task. But after weeks of chasing Bilal around town, he still hadn’t recovered the debt (or the car).

It was at this point that I pondered calling on some Talibs to get the job done.

To read the rest of this story, visit the World Affairs Journal, where this was originally published.

Nicholas Schmidle is the author of To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

SABIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

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