International

In Pakistan's Tribal Areas, 'A Clear Dividing Line Between Right And Wrong'

Dera Bugti, Pakistan: tribal guards stand alert. (2006 file photo.) i i

hide captionDera Bugti, Pakistan: tribal guards stand alert. (2006 file photo.)

Banaras Khan /AFP/Getty Images
Dera Bugti, Pakistan: tribal guards stand alert. (2006 file photo.)

Dera Bugti, Pakistan: tribal guards stand alert. (2006 file photo.)

Banaras Khan /AFP/Getty Images

Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep came home from this recent reporting trip to Pakistan with one more story to tell, and it offers a unique look into the "tribal areas" we hear so much about because they are home to terrorists.

It's his discussion with 79-year-old first-time novelist Jamil Ahmad, a retired civil servant whose book The Wandering Falcon is, as Steve says, "a work of fiction that takes the reader all along the border" of Pakistan and Afghanistan and vividly describes an "ancient and often violent culture" that Ahmad clearly loves nonetheless.

To Ahmad, the people in the region may live brutal lives — but also know "there's a clear dividing line between right and wrong."

Novelist Jamil Ahmad. His wife, Helga, is in the background. i i

hide captionNovelist Jamil Ahmad. His wife, Helga, is in the background.

Jim Wildman/NPR
Novelist Jamil Ahmad. His wife, Helga, is in the background.

Novelist Jamil Ahmad. His wife, Helga, is in the background.

Jim Wildman/NPR

They will, for example, condemn to adulterers to death. Yet those same tribesmen will faithfully turn themselves in to authorities if they are caught committing a crime.

And Ahmad worries that in the quest to rid the region of terrorists the U.S. and Pakistani authorities are endangering the trial system. That system, he cautions, can be a force that opposes terrorism. The tribes, he argues, could be effective counterweights to the terrorists.

Take a listen:

Steve Inskeep speaks with Jamil Ahmad

For an excerpt from Ahmad's book, click here.

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