During one of our beat meetings, I had floated the idea of doing a piece on something we likened to a ‘chips cartel’. There are some chips vendors in Aabpara, a major market of Islamabad who look very similar, and I had definitely seen some of them exchange stalls. It would be worth writing on, we agreed, that some people related to each other were controlling a major chunk of chips stalls. So I set out to talk to them, but hit a dead end very soon.

I approached the youngest of them, a boy named Javed who is not more than 15 years old. The bright smile that greeted me provided some hope, but it was unfounded. He immediately directed me to a much older man, who was on the next stall. With this man it was apparent within the first 5 minutes that the replies were well rehearsed.

I did not stop, I went to each and every one of them, 8 in total. I eventually found out that they all belong to the Aqcha district in North Afghanistan but are not related. I had never heard of the city before. However, the younger ones insist that by having migrated they now belong to Attock in Punjab. They are all in Aabpara because they learnt the trade from the same man, who still runs a stall on eastern end of the market.

So, nothing to write about.


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