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Carol Lin: Independent spirit of Pakistani tribe

CNN's Carol Lin
CNN's Carol Lin  

DERA BUGHTI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Life has remained the same for centuries for the tribespeople in the remote town of Dera Bughti, Pakistan, in the rugged mountains 400 miles south of the capital, Islamabad.

CNN Correspondent Carol Lin traveled there recently to profile Nawab Akber Khan Bughti, one of the most powerful tribal chieftains in the region. She filed the following report via videophone:

LIN: In the last 24 hours, I and a CNN team were smuggled into this remote part of the countryside by tribesmen belonging to the Bughti tribe who are armed with automatic rifles. Three truckloads of armed guards got us through the checkpoint into what is known as a restricted area. As America strikes over Afghanistan, this is the part of Pakistan that the Pakistani government does not want a foreign journalist to see.

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We are in the heart of Dera Bughti. It is the home of the Bughti tribe. It is one of the oldest, largest tribes in Pakistan, a fiercely independent tribe with its own set of laws. They are nomadic, they are warlike, and they live as they have lived for a matter of centuries -- talking and reading by candlelight and campfires at night. Electricity and running water are extremely rare.

What is not rare is the spirit of independence here in Dera Bughti, and the tribal chief, a charismatic figure by the name of Nawab Akber Khan Bughti, leads his elders in a series of meetings every day seven days a week, where it is the tribal elders and the chief -- not the Pakistani government or the Pakistani police -- who determine the laws of the land when it comes to the Bughti tribe.

Wednesday we witnessed as they discussed matters of kidnapping, investigating crimes like murders. They investigated family matters like adultery. The penalty for a woman who cheats on her husband is that she is required to hang herself, or her family is morally obligated to kill her.

Murder is not a capital crime in Dera Bughti. Instead, if someone is found guilty of murder, they have to pay a price -- some land, some money, even some young girl that they must hand over from their family to the victim's family.

Just in the last 24 hours, we witnessed rituals like a man trying to prove his innocence by walking over a bed of hot coals, the skinning of goats as a matter of a blessing in this ritual. This is an area where people say that their tribal tradition will always supersede any edict out of Islamabad, much less Washington, D.C.

So as the Western coalition tries to build internal coalitions both in Pakistan as well as for the future of Afghanistan, what we witnessed in these tribal territories is a very independent spirit.

The Bughti tribe, which numbers 187,000 tribesmen who are armed to the teeth with semiautomatic weapons, automatic weapons as well as rocket launchers, say that they have not taken an official position on the war against terrorism, although they are saying that they are against U.S. forces being based in Pakistan, and in fact those U.S. forces are based south of here.

Would these tribesmen use their weapons and their influence against American forces if they feel that their Sunni Muslim brethren in Afghanistan simply cannot take any more civilian casualties? Right now they are not making any firm commitment.

I'm Carol Lin reporting from Dera Bughti, Pakistan.


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