WASHINGTON, D.C., September 21—In the wake of President Bush’s tough
speech last night, the populations of countries in
Central Asia are in turmoil as they try to get out of
the way before U.S. bombs start to fall in Afghanistan.
The Indian press reports that the only land route
between Pakistan and India, the Attari-Wagah
checkpoint, is a scene of frenzied activity. Hindus in Pakistan say they are being
intimidated by Taliban followers who
demand: “Either adopt Islam or leave the
country.” They say Buses going into Pakistan are
nearly empty. Those traveling from Pakistan to India are packed.
Some 20,000 refugees are reported to be massed
along the Afghan-Tajikistan border facing Russian
troops. Tajikistan supports the Northern Alliance—the
Taliban’s enemy—and has been asked by the U.S. to become
a staging area for a war against the Taliban. So far
it is unresponsive because the precarious government
could fall if it openly supports the U.S., inciting the fundamentalist pro-Taliban opposition.
The Tajikistan border is patrolled by Russian
soldiers, who traditionally have played courier for
Afghan opium on its way to Moscow and European
markets. Last weekend the troops were put on alert.
has a population of 6.6 million. Most of the people
live in dire poverty. Per capita GDP is $1140. For
the last year 10,000 Afghans have been living in a
squalid refugee camp just inside the country.
Pakistan claims to have closed its border with
Afghanistan, although fundamentalist pro-Taliban
fighters in the past have moved easily from hundreds
of training camps and schools in Northwest Pakistan to
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 18, 2001