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Peshawar, the 2,000-year-old capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, was once the centre of the Buddhist Gandhara civilisation. Alexander the Great, Babar, Akbar and Maharaja Ranjit Singh have all stomped through here and left their indelible mark on the city.

Peshawar, the Wild West of Asia, is a city of contrasts. A florist and arms dealer can work alongside and not appreciate the irony.

Peshawar does not look like a part of Pakistan. There is more of Afghanistan here than Pakistan.

Men have long beards and the women, clad in salwar-kameezes and long black veils, reveal only piercing eyes. Everyone speaks Pushtu around here and the smell of fear is everywhere.

Years of war and lack of opportunities reflects a mindset filled with cynicism and despondency.

Accha mat karo, bura nahin hoga (Don’t do any good and nothing bad will happen to you),” an autorickshaw driver told me during a discussion about how things work around the city.

Text: Faisal Shariff | Design: Dominic Xavier

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