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Secular, Pak-style

Mohen lal is a Hindu. He was born and brought up in Peshawar; his grandfather moved here ages ago. He's married a local Hindu girl, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2004 00:27 IST

Mohen lal is a Hindu. He was born and brought up in Peshawar; his grandfather moved here ages ago. He's married a local Hindu girl. Mohen is a man who won’t find it hard to pass the Tebbit test — he plans to cheer wholeheartedly for Pakistan in the ODI match here on Friday.

"I'm Pakistani through and through," says Mohen, a staffer of a local hotel's housekeeping department.

"Yes, tell them how much we beat you here,” laughs a colleague while Mohen beams. "I love it here," he says. "We are a big community, we have our temple in Karimpura, we have no problems with the Muslims and we celebrate Holi and Id together. Peshawar is a land of peace."

Peshawar has thousands of Hindus like Mohen, alongside about 80,000 Sikhs, many of them traders in the famous Karkhana Bazaar on the city's outskirts (you get everything from fruits to weapons, though drugs are passé).

The road to the dirty, bustling market, described as the place where you get goods smuggled across the nearby Afghan border, leads you past half-empty camps made up of the mud huts of Afghan refugees. Beyond the market is where the tribal Khyber Agency begins with the road to Torkham, the border checkpoint. The tribal agencies have their own rules.

Back in the market, however, there’s Hari Singh, a cloth trader in Chinese silk and a fourth-generation Peshawari, who's bought a precious ticket to cheer Pakistan. "The world has a very different impression of Peshawar," he says in Punjabi, switching to Pushtu when a potential customer approaches. "We have a gurdwara in Karimpura too and we are not mistreated. We are as Pakistani as any Muslim here and identify with the Pakistani team."