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PAKISTAN | Saturday, 29 December 2007 | Views [861]

Just before Pakistan proper ends, and the interzone of autonomous tribal regions begin, some 40km from the Afghan border, are a series of markets. 
As with markets everywhere they sell everything, and the first hundred metres are dominated by stalls selling tiles and bathroom fittings, electrical goods and cheap Chinese crockery. It is as you approach the checkpoint that the provenance of the good becomes more questionable. Laptops and stolen mobile phones, armaments, drugs, pirate DVDs.
The last market before the sign that forbids the access of foreigners has a name but it is better known as Bush market. Ghazi spoke breathlessly of it in
Lahore as a place where the surplus of American military might crosses paths with the even freer forces of centuries old trade routes and smuggling operations. In other words anything an army might require, from clothing to ration packs, tools, hardware, electronics. All for sale, no questions asked, no returns accepted. 
The reality was of course more prosaic. Military surplus means just that, and the market was mostly kool-aid, portion control applesauce and tubes of jam and peanut butter. There were a few desultory piles of MRE* rations, and biscuits of dubious quality in drab packaging.
We bought some sticks of Japanese gum, correctly applied the enclosed tattoos to the backs of our hands, and moved on.

* Meal Ready to Eat, or as Tom Clancy once described, ‘three lies for the price of one’

Tags: Markets

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