3) The adventures of red eyes zorro

April 08, 2024 19 min read

Pakistan Hash

Karachi International Airport has a real cosmopolitan feel, doesn’t it??

Well, nothing could be further from the truth. The arrivals area reminded me of Victoria Coach Station on a bad day! My luggage was in a lost and found room, totally disorganized and filled from floor to ceiling with bags.

The attendant, dressed in a half-uniform, didn't seem to know where anything was, or even care! I couldn't help but notice how unkempt and uncaring all the officials looked. I vaguely heard a voice on the intercom saying something about no smoking or “bartering (!)” in the airport terminal! But the worst was yet to come.

Pakistan's airports don’t allow access to the general public without a valid ticket, so the inside of the airport is relatively calm compared to what’s happening outside. Five, four, three, two, one, the doors opened and I was immediately hit like a hammer by the intense heat and humidity.

People were swarming everywhere. Band of dirty characters clad in green coats with greasy hair, foul breath, and orange-red teeth after chewing some form of red snuff. Calling themselves porters, they swarm around you in threes trying to grab your luggage in an attempt to demand an exorbitant tip.

Some try to gain your trust by offering help in finding tickets to your destination or assistance at currency exchange kiosks. Others try to sell you taxi rides and tours of Karachi, even though it was one in the morning!

A smile armed in this case was not the right way to be! Inquiring about flights to Peshawar, I was informed that there were no available seats for the rest of the week. This turned out to be a scam between the national airline ticket agent and one of those characters who followed me everywhere trying to tell me how much he wanted to help me !

For a small extra fee (of course), they could find me a seat! I suddenly confronted my "belligerent bastard," which ultimately proved to be the simplest way to deal with these scavengers! I highly recommend this approach to anyone traveling through airports in Pakistan. Treat them as if you’re about to bite their nose off and spit it in their face, and they’ll quickly stop harassing you.

A free bus (not announced in the terminal for some reason) to local airport hotels brought me a night of sleep and a fresh start in the morning. Armed with my new attitude back at the airport, I had no trouble acquiring a ticket for the next flight heading north. The flight to Peshawar lasted only an hour and a half and, aside from a few peculiarities, like chanting a Quranic prayer over the PA system before takeoff (not exactly confidence-inspiring!) and a warning that drug trafficking was a "capital crime" in Pakistan, the plane took off smoothly.

pakistan security

A very dubious meal was served with a choice of tap water or tap water! The water was delivered in disposable clear plastic cups that looked like they had been well chewed and probably not washed after about sixty or seventy people had used them! Free prayer mats were available for prayer against the wall of the central service area. This same wall bore a "no shoes" sign, much like the standard no-smoking signs we see in the West. Just a shoe instead of a cigarette! For some reason, I neither felt hungry nor thirsty, so I opted instead to read a Karachi newspaper.

In the two days leading up to my arrival, three bombs had exploded, numerous people had been assassinated, another had been tortured to death, 300 cars a day were being stolen at gunpoint, and significant drug seizures had taken place. At one place, a high-ranking Air Force officer had been caught selling a few kilos of heroin to the DEA in New York, and armed men with Kalashnikovs had fired at a bus on a major road.

I was beginning to understand why so many people had warned me that it was lethally dangerous here. Among the multiple drug seizures that had taken place, it seemed most of the drugs were coming from the tribal areas around Peshawar. Well, at least I was heading in the right direction.


I arrived in Peshawar late in the evening and, after the usual harassment from porters and taxi drivers, I managed to get a reservation at a relatively comfortable hotel. The Rose Hotel in Khyber Bazaar, located in the old town. For $7 a night, I had a private bathroom (a hole in the ground with two footrests), a shower, and a free spittoon!

pakistan street

Peshawar, the home of the Pashtuns, is in the purest sense of the term, a frontier city. It’s less than 30 miles from the Afghan border and just a few kilometers from the tribal area, at the southern end of the Karakoram Highway. This highway is actually what was once the ancient Silk Road connecting China to the Western world via the Khyber Pass through Afghanistan.

As a result of the war in Afghanistan, about six million Afghan refugees fled to Pakistan seeking asylum. Many of them settled in Peshawar and the surrounding areas. The estimated legitimate population of Peshawar is 800,000, but this figure may actually be probably doubled (and then some) due to the Afghan invasion.

During the day, Peshawar buzzes with the hustle and bustle of frontier life. The place is alive with tiny kiosk-like shops, street vendors and hawkers, money changers, horse-drawn carts, colorful buses enticing everyone aboard, motorcycles and rickshaws revving their engines, flying buses (colorful Suzuki pickups with bench seating in the back), all calling out the names of villages they’re heading towards to attract customers.

lover in pakistan

Thousands of pedestrians everywhere, hundreds of limbless beggars of all ages (a result of the war in Afghanistan and the 2,000,000 uncharted landmines left by the Russians and Mujahideen), all crawling on their bellies, backs, and sides, through dust and mud, hand outstretched, begging for a few rupees for food. People carry exotic carpets from place to place or herd flocks of goats, cattle, and oxen through the main streets. Combine this with the loudspeaker calling to prayer from the mosque five times a day, the dust flying everywhere, the traffic seeming to have no rule or regulation, except of course for the continuous honking to warn people, cars, and animals that you’re approaching! It takes some getting used to the whole life here, especially in light of the fact that there’s no visible sign of other Westerners anywhere.


Finding a good, trustworthy person to score from, or what Pakistanis would call a person with a "pure heart," is nothing short of difficult. Although a large percentage of Pathans smoke, and you can often smell the acrid odors from the rooms of my hotel, only the "untrustworthy" ones approach you. The kind ones are not dealers but merely consumers by nature, and the penalties for selling to a Westerner are too high for many to risk.

grocery pakistan

Fortunately, I had "forgotten" to dispose of the small piece of Moroccan hash I had bought in Amsterdam. This piece accompanied me for the first few days here until I met Mohammad (if the name is good enough for a prophet, it's good enough for my son too!). Mohammad was a man with a truly pure heart who sold me top-quality hash at the local rate of $2.95 for a total of ten grams, or just under $13.50 US for a little over an ounce.

On my way to Karachi, I met a Canadian who worked for Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan. She spent some time in Peshawar and the rest in Afghanistan. This woman had warned me about the rickshaw drivers here. They sell you hash and then deliver you to their police friends for a cut of the bribe you’ll have to pay to avoid getting arrested.

On my first evening, one of these rickshaw drivers approached me. He offered me good brown Afghan hash at the ridiculously high price of $20 US for a total of ten grams.

hors pakistan

As he was making his sales pitch, I noticed two policemen on a bench across the road. They were discreetly watching the whole event unfold. As he tried to put the hash into my hands, they started getting up from their seats, thinking I was about to take it. But this old hippie Gonzo had already spotted them. I also noticed how calm the rickshaw driver seemed about their presence, just four or five meters away. I left immediately.

Over the next week, I learned that this rickshaw driver, who also offered me white heroin at $12 a gram and brown heroin at $10 a gram, was, along with another rickshaw driver, in cahoots with those cops. I became a prime target for these guys because not only was I the only white person in town for most of my stay, but I also had long hair. It got to the point where I couldn’t leave the hotel without being harassed to buy their drugs. Eventually, it took yelling at them in the street and threatening to call the police before they backed off and left me alone.


On my third morning in Peshawar, everything came to a halt for the celebration of Eid. Eid is the Muslim equivalent of Christmas. This festival commemorates the centuries-old Muslim belief in the story of Hazart Ibrahim and his son, Hazart Ismail. Allah, "peace be upon him," as everyone here seems to say, came to Ibrahim in a dream and ordered him to take his son into the desert and slaughter him by cutting his throat with a knife. Ibrahim was tormented by these instructions, as he evidently loved his son very much.

The next morning, Ibrahim confronted his son Ismail with these instructions. Ismail insisted that his father must carry out Allah's will ("peace be upon him"). So father and son set off into the desert to carry out Allah's instructions. Ibrahim couldn’t bear the thought of killing his son, so as he placed the knife to his son’s throat, he closed his eyes before cutting.

At that moment, Allah ("peace be upon him") sent down the archangel Gabriel, who quickly replaced Ismail with a sheep.

Ibrahim had cut deeply, but when he opened his eyes to see his son dead, he saw that he had actually killed a sheep and that his son stood beside him laughing. Ibrahim's faith was only being tested.

By celebrating this festival every year, each household, after the morning mosque, slaughters a halal animal. It’s usually a sheep, but they also slaughter bulls, goats, and camels. The streets and gutters of Peshawar ran red with blood!

After skinning these animals, the hides are sold to local tanners for about $11. The money is then donated to the mosque.

Unfortunately for me, my hotel was right in the middle of the old town where most of the hides were brought to be sold. The street in front of my hotel was a hive of activity. People arrived on foot, by bike, by rickshaw, by horse-drawn cart, and even by bus; all carrying bloody animal hides to sell to the merchants here. There was blood, guts, and hides everywhere. By the time I finished my morning photo shoot of this event, I was covered in blood from head to toe too. The nauseating smell of rotting blood hung in the air outside my hotel for the next three days.

Aid Pakistan

I established with French humanitarian friends I met later in the evening, in one of the only two licensed bars in town (you need a government permit to drink in Pakistan), that around 20 million halal animals had been slaughtered in Pakistan that morning! All between 5:30 and 8:00 in the morning! That's a lot of dead animals and blood in a country with little to no sanitation!


These French aid workers had worked in war-torn countries around the world. They thrive on the adrenaline rush associated with working under fire and certainly know how to party!

I was invited to one of these parties where one of the guests might as well have been the "door mouse" from Alice in Wonderland. He was a Japanese mine clearer working in Afghanistan. He always drank vodka by the pint when he was on leave and was famous for passing out continually. He actually disappeared during the party and no one saw him for the next three days!

These French workers smoked excellent hash. It was regularly handed to them by the locals they worked with in Afghanistan. When they found out I was a writer, Jean-Claude addressed me in his best English, learned from an African in Kenya, and told me about two of the heaviest stones he ever had.

These two challenges are barroom challenges and involve ingesting venom. When someone feels brave enough to take on the challenge, everyone bursts into bets left, right, and center. Needless to say, you earn the respect of everyone if you have enough guts to do it. Jean-Claude had done both and had eyewitnesses on hand to prove it. The first was in Cambodia, the Cobra Cocktail, and the other was the Camel Spider, on the border of Sudan and Kenya. Both are like swallowing 20 capsules of mescaline, but the Camel Spider can make you sick for up to two weeks after.

Venum Drink

Once the Eid celebrations were over, it was time to get down to the task at hand. We needed to venture into the tribal areas and find out what’s going on there because that’s where most of the hash, opium, and heroin heading westward come from.


Before delving any further, it's important to understand the tribal areas and their origins as they have remained virtually unchanged to this day.

When the British established the Durand Line in 1886, thereby creating the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, they inadvertently split the Pashtun tribal nation, or Pathan people, in two.

The Pashtuns were a fierce and extremely warrior-like people who led a barbaric way of life for centuries. These tribal members formed the backbone of the Mujahideen and are virtually always the first to take up arms for Allah.

No one could tame or control these people who refused to acknowledge the new British borders or even British sovereignty itself. The British response to this situation, after many unsuccessful attempts to control the Pashtuns, was to leave them to their own devices and let them continue their own way of life. To do this, the British created six "agencies" or distinct "tribal areas" along the Afghan border. This is very much a border within a border.


These tribal areas would be independent from British-occupied Pakistan yet never recognized as part of Afghanistan or even as an independent country in its own right.

To safeguard their position, in case of kidnappings, murders, etc. in British-occupied tribal peoples who would then retreat to the relative safety of their home country, the British established border crimes regulation to monitor them.

Each agency or tribal area fell under the sole responsibility of a political agent appointed by the British governor himself and directly accountable to him. The political agent was to represent the federal government of Pakistan in each area.

The political agent had his own police force, "The Rangers," whose responsibility was to keep the main roads open and apprehend wanted men for crimes committed in British-occupied Pakistan. The Rangers are the only police force with any authority in the tribal areas. The national police of Pakistan have no jurisdiction in these areas.

camel pakistan

During one of my visits to a tribal area, my bodyguard, himself a Ranger, refused to go beyond halfway to the Afghan border. This was because the Rangers had shot three tribesmen the day before, and he feared retaliation!

No Westerner can venture into the tribal area without an armed bodyguard, as their life could literally be in extreme danger. Indeed, it is forbidden for foreigners to enter these areas without a government pass stamped by the political agent who retains your passport number and photo in case of disappearance. The prerequisite is that you take one of the Rangers as a bodyguard with you.

Prohibed foreinger

No photography is openly allowed in this area except in designated "tourist zones" along the Khyber Pass, which were open to Western visitors only a few months before my arrival.


In the tribal areas, everyone owns and carries a Kalashnikov, and they will use it at the drop of a hat. In fact, the only rule that applies to firearms here is that you can’t take your Kalashnikov to school until you’re in ninth grade (13 to 14 years old)!

Many of these people are wanted by the Pakistani police for various crimes ranging from murder to highway robbery, smuggling, or kidnapping.

As a Westerner, you represent several hundred thousand rupees, or about half a dozen of their friends or family members who would get out of jail if they managed to kidnap you and hold you for ransom. Every year, at least a few Westerners are kidnapped here. You also stand a good chance of being shot by fanatics simply because you're a Westerner and thus an "Infidel" (non-Muslim). They also don’t like journalists, and they even went as far as beating half to death (seriously half) a local guide for escorting a group of journalists into the tribal area! Doing it again would certainly get him killed.

One evening I met an English teacher who worked in the tribal areas. While he was in town for a meeting, his house was mortared by the locals and razed. His crime?... He had brought a doctor for one of his sick students against the will of the local population. These people would rather see their wife die in childbirth than call a doctor to help. If Allah can't help, then no one can!


The tribal areas are home to gun shops and hashish stores, marijuana plantations, and the trade in heroin, although most of the opium poppy is grown inside the Afghan border through which the tribes can pass unhindered.

Children start learning the trade of marijuana cultivation, hashish making, managing hashish stores, smuggling or patching and gunrunning as young as nine years old. All these professions are considered honorable here.

Ak47 shop

I made many trips to the tribal areas, both through official channels and unofficially, with a little bakshish. My goal was to get into the hash and weapon shops where neither the tribes nor the Pakistani government wanted me to end up... especially armed with my camera! Every time I entered the tribal areas, the Muslim expression "Inshallah" (God willing) became the theme of the day.

ak47 cbd

On one occasion, I was able to enter a hash store without my camera and inspect their wares. On another, they brought the hash to the car for me to photograph. The owner refused my camera in his store and insisted I stay in the car as it wasn’t safe for me in that village.

Finally, someone gave me permission to take a photo inside his shop. inshallah, I was going to get more than one.

I walked into his shop selling hash, both in slabs and in string form and turned into decorative patterns of flowers, hearts, and spools, all wrapped in plastic and hung on the walls


cbd hash

I took the first picture, then another. No one said anything, so I kept going as fast as possible. I barely noticed my driver saying "Last picture, let's go now," as I continued taking pictures.

At that point, my driver and my bodyguard, whose gun was unslung from his shoulder and whose face was beaded with sweat, were pulling me backward out of the shop. They dragged me through the crowd that had gathered outside and into the waiting car.

full melt cbd hash

It turned out that one of the spectators had suggested that I was a government agent taking pictures with the intention of causing trouble for the shop owner! This story had spread among the Tribals who had gathered outside the shop, and they were not happy. My bodyguard got me out of there before things got out of control!

The hash in these hash stores, while still very good, is mostly of lower quality compared to what I used to get from Mohammad. It was softer to the touch, darker on the outside, and when cut with a knife, it was greenish-brown on the inside. Not at all like the brown hash I used to get from Mohammad.

My driver explained to me that this hash is commercially made in large heated pans, with a little water added. The medium-quality pollen is kneaded and mixed using a large stone weight. I tried a small piece later in the evening. The taste wasn't very different from what I used to get from Mohammad. Perhaps a little waxier. This hash was also much softer to the touch than Mohammad's. I suppose that was the result of adulterants like perhaps ghee.

hash maker cbd

On my next visit to Mohammad's, I asked him to explain the difference to me. It turned out that his Mujahideen friend Izad, the village merchant, didn’t buy his hash from tribal stores. He bought higher quality pollen directly from producers and rubbed tolas himself on demand. I asked Mohammad if his friend would show me how to do it, and he said he would ask

weapon shop

Gun shops were easier to photograph, even though my presence caused a stir, and we were escorted out of the village by the entire tribe. I could see how ridiculously cheap it was to buy one of those deadly Kalashnikovs while chatting with the merchants. A Pakistani-made Kalashnikov will cost you 6,000 rupees ($170), a Chinese-made Kalashnikov costs between 8 and 9,000 rupees ($250), and a high-end Russian Kalashnikov will set you back up to 15,000 rupees ($420). .45 and 9-millimeter handguns cost about $85. It seems to me that the price of death in Pakistan is very low.

My driver told me you could get a Kalashnikov even cheaper if you were in the right place at the right time. Vendettas are common in villages on the outskirts of Peshawar, as well as in tribal areas. When someone is killed, which happens often, it's almost customary to relieve them of their weapon. The weapon is sold cheaply for quick money to escape with.


Even though firearms are banned in downtown Peshawar (although many people carry concealed pistols), in surrounding villages and tribal areas where there is no police, everyone owns a Kalashnikov. Most people carry them during the day, but no one would dare go out at night without their faithful weapon slung on their back. The reason is simple. Anything can get you shot! And why bother using just one bullet when a Kalashnikov can fire thirty four-inch cartridges in about twenty seconds. Disagreements over land, grazing areas, money, and even just being seen walking in the bazaar with someone's sister are enough to get you shot.

welcome pakistan

The eye for an eye concept is a centuries-old tradition in this part of the world. So if you shoot someone's father, his son will shoot you! And then your son shoots his son! Then his son's brother shoots your son! Then your son's brother shoots his son's brother and it can go on until entire families are exterminated, or until the village elders "The Gergar" intervene on behalf of the community and settle the dispute through diplomacy. This usually involves a financial settlement from the family that committed the initial wrong. The settlement is sealed by all parties laying their hands on the Quran, and the agreement is binding.

This system is so ingrained in tradition that even in courts, if a prisoner is held for murder, there is a Gergar room where he can negotiate a settlement. If an agreement has been reached between the parties, the Gergar will address the judge and assure him that the matter is settled. Then all parties, including the prisoner, can go home in peace! Mohammad's family was involved in one of these vendettas, and while I was there, his neighbor was hit by thirty bullets, leaving little left to bury!


Upon returning to the hotel, I received a message from Mohammad inviting me to lunch the next day. I arranged for a taxi to take me to his village on the outskirts of Peshawar.

hotel cheap pakistan

I was welcomed, and after a cup of green tea, my taxi driver and I were taken to the Hoojra (guest reception area) for lunch.

friend pakistan

Unbeknownst to me, Izad had also been invited and had brought pollen with him to rub. I could have killed myself for not bringing the right lens to take close-ups of Izad in action. I had only brought a wide angle to take a few pictures of Mohammad's family. I had to make do with what I had, but I asked Izad to leave me some pollen so I could try rubbing it myself later.

hashmaker pakistan

After lunch, Izad, who had been injured in Afghanistan and lost sight in one eye, started rolling joints one after the other. He did it by emptying the tobacco from a cigarette, mixing it with hash, and then refilling it. By the time we finished, six joints had been smoked in about half an hour!

how hash

After smoking at lunchtime, Mohammad, the taxi driver, and I bid farewell to Izad and went to visit the local villagers.

We ended up at one of his uncles' places, where we were taken to the hoojra for more green tea.

That's where I discovered the true meaning of paranoia!

Mohammad's uncle's son had been shot by a neighboring family. In retaliation, he and his four brothers had shot eight members of the neighbor's family and vowed to kill them all. (If you don't retaliate in this culture, neighboring villagers and your own family will hold you in disgrace).

family pakistan

Due to all the shootings, this family, farmers by trade, couldn't leave the hoojra to tend to their fields, for fear of being shot. They could only stay there all day, armed with Kalashnikovs, waiting for retaliation from the neighbors. I was starting to worry! I had visions of doors opening and suddenly hearing the sound of machine gun fire. Mohammad assured me there were armed lookouts in the towers around us.

I was invited to spend the afternoon with these people, but I declined the invitation, as my nerves couldn't take it anymore! After another cup of green tea, we took some photos of them and left.

meeting pakistan

Back at my hotel, I was pleased to see that another Westerner had booked. An Englishman no less!

It turned out he worked for a well-known guidebook and was here to update the information it contained. I invited him to visit me in my room later for a drink of bootleg "green" whiskey! I had already made sure he knew how to focus a camera.

When he arrived in my room, he got a bit nervous when I started covering the cracks in the door with towels and tissue paper to make sure no smell escaped into the outer hallway. I intended to have him use the close-up lens of my camera while I rubbed some good Border Afghan just to see if I could produce something of quality myself.

pakistan hash

When we finally finished, he looked like he really needed a drink! I found it very strange that people who travel to places like this to make a living often don't smoke. Having accidentally seen the inside of one of their prisons when asking permission to visit the tribal area (20 square feet with no windows, beds, toilets, or even drains, and housing about twenty-five prisoners), I can understand their reluctance. And that's not to mention the torture that sometimes occurs.

hand made hash


After a few days wandering the streets of Peshawar looking for something to do, I returned to Karachi where I caught my flight to England via Amsterdam.

The flight from Amsterdam to London was on a small 60-seater plane filled with early morning business people en route to all sorts of important meetings. And then there was this old hippie Gonzo Cannabis Reporter, Captain Scarlet T-shirt, long hair, needing a shave, with Karachi plastered all over my bags. So guess who got a customs tug?

They were trying to make me nervous by questioning me aggressively. They kept checking the palms of my hands, which turn pink and blotchy if you're nervous. They emptied everything from my bags and searched every seam of my clothes. They ran every empty bag through the X-ray machines multiple times. They punctured a bag and sent some of the cardboard dust inside to be tested. They did the same with the dust from inside the tubes of my backpack. They tested the sweat from the palms of my hands; turned my bags inside out and even took my lighter to test it. The lighter test came back positive. The test proved that my lighter had been used to light cannabis!

In the backroom, we had a good old-fashioned strip search and a bum search (twice!) before finally being released about two and a half hours later. I smoked some really excellent hash when I was in Pakistan. I wouldn't want to risk getting caught smuggling it out from there though, as I'm pretty sure the prisons there would kill a Westerner, but I'm certainly glad some people do, as it allows us to smoke some of the best hash in the world, and for that I thank them.

Pakistan is not a sun, sand, and sea holiday idea, but it's certainly an adventure. I made some very good friends in Pakistan and one day I will return to see them. "Inshallah".

Thanks to Red Eyes Zorro for his magical reporting..

Trip photo album:HERE

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