'Fighting Was Easier' for Taliban Than Upkeep of Risky Pass 對神學士而言 打仗比養護隘口容易
文/Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Yaqo
The Taliban commander's sneakers had soaked through from the melting snow, but that was the least of his problems. It was avalanche season in the Salang Pass, a rugged cut of switchback roads that gash through the Hindu Kush mountains in northern Afghanistan like some man-made insult to nature, and he was determined to keep the essential trade route open during his first season as its caretaker.
The worry about traffic flow was both new and strange to the commander, Salahuddin Ayoubi, and his band of former insurgents. Over the last 20 years, the Taliban had mastered destroying Afghanistan's roads and killing the people on them. Culverts, ditches, bridges, canal paths, dirt trails and highways: None were safe from the Taliban's array of homemade explosives.
But that all ended half a year ago. After overthrowing the Western-backed government in August, the Taliban are now trying to save what's left of the economic arteries they had spent so long tearing apart.
Nowhere is that more important than in the Salang Pass, where, at over 2 miles high, thousands of trucks lumber through the jagged mountains every day. It is the only viable land route to Kabul, the capital, from Afghanistan's north and bordering countries like Uzbekistan. Everything bumps up its slopes and down its draws: fuel, flour, coal, consumer goods, livestock, people.
After decades of war, overuse and ad hoc repairs, the highway is in poor shape and prone to calamity. Navigating it demands a certain daring.
So does the upkeep.
"The fighting was easier than dealing with this," Ayoubi, 31, said last month, before hopping in his mud-spattered white pickup truck and making his way down the road, stopping occasionally to manage clogged columns of trucks.
Accidents and breakdowns are common occurrences on the potholed and perilous journey across the pass. But the greatest fear is getting stuck in a traffic jam in one of the highway's long, pitch-black tunnels, where the buildup of carbon monoxide can suffocate those trapped within.
The centerpiece of the highway is the Salang Tunnel. Constructed by the Soviets in the 1960s, it was once the highest tunnel in the world.
Everything seems to be different in the Salang Pass this year, except for the pass itself.
Kashmir Journalists Face Forbidding Pattern: Arrest, Bail, Rearrest 喀什米爾記者面臨當局整肅新模式
After being held in jail for close to four years awaiting trial on charges of aiding militants, Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan was granted bail by the courts last week, and he thought he could finally return home to his wife and his daughter, who was just 6 months old when he was arrested.
But Indian authorities did not let him go, levying similar charges under a different law, and have since moved him to a different jail.
Sultan's case is the latest instance, rights activists say, in which Indian authorities have weaponized the legal system to limit free speech and harass journalists, particularly those in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Some have been arrested under laws that allow people to be held for extended periods without trial and that make bail terms extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.
Sultan is now being held under the stringent Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law that lets the region's authorities keep a suspect in jail for a maximum of two years — without any formal criminal charges being filed, and so without any trial and with no hope for bail — if local authorities contend that the person presents a security risk or a threat to public order.
Activists argue that the law violates international human rights, and lawyers say Indian authorities have used it to round up Kashmiris posing no threat of violence, including journalists, students and those with sizable political or economic sway in the region.
"The Public Safety Act is based on the apprehension that one may do something illegal and not that one may have done something illegal," said Shafqat Nazir, a lawyer who practices at the High Court of Srinagar, Kashmir's largest city. "Just on the basis of an apprehension, one can rot in jail for two years."
Sultan's experience — a detention extended either just after a court grants bail or just before a bail hearing — has become a pattern, applied against at least two other Kashmiri journalists arrested in recent months.
Across India, activists, writers, students, academics and journalists have complained of an increased climate of intimidation as the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in power since 2014, seeks to stifle its critics.