National Geographic : 1958 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine others where live birds are sold. And above the roar of the bazaar ring the cries of the hucksters peddling trinkets or cold drinks. After buying the parts for our car, I pur chased a story in the Street of the Storytellers, famous in Central Asian history. For a rupee, a wizened old man with flowing gown and skimpy beard told me a fanciful tale of Alex ander the Great, who by 327 B. C. had con quered Afghanistan. A Woman's Revenge in Babylon "To Alexander," said the old man through my interpreter, "a woman was a danger far greater than an armed man." In Afghanistan, the story continued, the beautiful Roxana danced for Alexander and overpowered him with her beauty. They were married and Roxana followed the army. But she still resented the Greeks who had conquered her country. She got her revenge one day at a great feast in Babylon, when Alexander ate and drank more than anyone else. Pointing to a pool in the garden, Roxana said, "You would not dare to swim now." Moved by wine, Alexander jumped to his feet and plunged into the cold water. From that swim he supposedly got a fever and died. "That is how," the old storyteller cackled, "an Afghan woman outsmarted the man who conquered Asia!" On the Route of Alexander the Great We would soon cross and recross the path of Alexander. But first we had to load our station wagon with its luggage, camping gear, spare parts, and-eventually our most valued ally-ordinary baling wire, with which Mer cedes effected repairs when all else failed. The days in Peshawar were oppressively hot. I saw one well-shaded thermometer that recorded 110°. Nights were little cooler. For the most part the Pakistanis slept out doors. If you pulled your car off the road at night you could always hear snores. I found only one remedy for sleeplessness in Peshawar. I stood under the cold shower in my pajamas and went to bed dripping wet. I had to do this once at bedtime and twice during the night in order to get eight hours' sleep. But it worked. Partly to escape the heat, we made a three day side trip east and north from Peshawar to the state of Swat. The entrance to Swat reminded me of our own Connecticut Valley. The river was broad and purling, the water blue and sparkling. Green fields stretched as far as I could see. Inviting side roads led off under green arches of trees to plains where farmers were transplanting rice.* Swat is a rich principality, a part of Paki stan, but it is still ruled by the Wali of Swat. He invited us to an informal dinner. The Wali, bald, stout, broad shouldered, five feet eight and in his mid-fifties, is a friendly, out going person. His English is fluent; so this night he and I covered a lot of ground. The Wali is proud of the progress he has brought to Swat. His country of more than 500,000 people now has free-though not compulsory-schools in most villages. In 1952 he established a college. The Wali is also proud of his six hospitals and the fact that all medical care in Swat is free. I turned the conversation to law. Swat's Courts Scorn Lawyers In most civil cases, the law of the Koran is the law of Swat. Should a case arise which cannot be settled by a mullah, or village re ligious leader, the aggrieved person may peti tion the Wali for permission to sue. In more serious criminal trials-such as those involv ing murder, rape, and adultery-the Wali himself sits in judgment. In a recent murder case the following facts appeared: A married woman disappeared. Her mother grew suspicious and went to the police, who found the wife's body in a well. Even tually the husband confessed that he had choked her during a fight. The Wali, invoking tribal law, ordered the man executed. It is customary in Swat for the nearest relative of the condemned man to do the killing. But the man's children were all quite young, and the Wali thought it would be unwise to wait until they had reached ma turity. So he allowed the brother of the wife to be the executioner. The police tied the defendant hand and foot to a tree. Then the brother-in-law stepped off a dozen paces and, turning, shot the man with his rifle. "How many lawyers do you have in Swat?" I asked the Wali. "None," he said. "Who represents the defendant in a civil suit, or the accused in a criminal case?" * See "Pakistan, New Nation in an Old Land," by Jean and Franc Shor, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, November, 1952.