The footprints of ‘Mini Kabul’

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The footprints of ‘Mini Kabul’


Board Bazaar, a famous market in Peshawar, recalls the glory of a once flourishing region

The business hub for the Afghan refugees in Peshawar offers everyday items that one can find in the markets of Kabul.

At the Board Bazaar located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial capital, the shops not only promote artisans from Afghanistan, but also exhibit sign boards in Dari and Pashto, languages that are spoken by our western neighbour.

The Afghan refugees in Pakistan have shared memories in Board Bazaar. Sabir Mangal, 53, is now living and running a cloth shop in Kabul. He lived a refugee’s life in Tajabad area while running a small shop in Board Bazaar. “During the Soviet war, our family migrated to Peshawar where I worked as a labourer in Board Bazaar,” he shared.

The Afghan national, discussing his experience in Board Bazaar on phone, said that when he relocated to Peshawar, he was only 12 years old. “I started selling water in local transport; I worked as a labourer in a tailor’s shop and then in a restaurant. In fact, I switched many jobs to feed my family.”

He was also of the view that the majority of the Afghans considered Peshawar as a ‘second home’. “When we started our second life in Peshawar, the majority of the Afghans were skilled because before the Soviet war, Afghanistan was developed and people were skilled. That’s why it was easy for us to start any kind of business in Peshawar.”


The Afghan tailor recalled that when they started preparations to go back to Afghanistan in 2016, the Board Bazaar was the only place in Peshawar to sell their furniture in a second-hand shop, which was also run by an Afghan refugee.

The citizen of Kabul on phone shared, “Whenever I am visiting my second home [Peshawar], I do visit Board Bazaar to eat Afghan cuisine and have some green tea to revive all those memories. This is the life we refugees have in Peshawar.”

The bazaar is named after the nearby office of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE), located between Hayatabad and University Town in Peshawar. The cheapest bazaar in Peshawar has more than 5,000 shops which attracts people looking for ‘authentic’ things from Afghanistan.

The Mini Kabul offers garments, food, dresses, jewellery, second-hand items and everything that symbolises the neighbouring country.

Haji Asmat, 55, is the president of a trade union in Board Bazaar. He hails from Baghlan province in Afghanistan and was displaced to Peshawar during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Asmat, recalling memories about Board Bazaar, says that there was a time when this place was merely a dusty plain.

He sheds light over the building of Board Bazaar and further said that in the beginning, those who could not find shelter in the nearby Kacha Garhi and Nasir Bagh camps started settlements. “This is now called Tajabad and Danishabad. And the incoming migrants then started opening small fruit and vegetable stalls here which later became the Board Bazaar of Peshawar.”


Asmat spoke about the reason behind Chota Kabul’s emergence, some 32 years ago, and also said that there were very few shops and stalls on the railway track. “But over time and [with] the influx of traders and refugees from Afghanistan, the Mini Kabul market has now expanded and small shops have been replaced by plazas.”

On the question of referring to Board Bazaar as Mini Kabul, the president of the trade union responded that the majority of the shops have been run by the Afghan refugees for decades. “This is where one can find everything that you want from Kabul; that’s why locals in Peshawar started calling it Mini Kabul.”

Haji Asmat concluded with a comment about Board Bazaar. “We have witnessed many transformations in Board Bazaar, from mud structures to the plaza, from narrow roads to wider roads. In fact, this whole bazaar embodies the stories of many generations who lived here and did business.”

Board Bazaar is a general shopping area and each day thousands of people including families of middle-income backgrounds visit different markets, he elaborated. “The market is also attracting a huge number of women due to specific shopping places for them in Chota Kabul. The Board Bazaar is a traditional market due to which locals call this Mini Kabul a place that [offers] everything on a budget.”

Khalid Zaman, 35, is a resident of Nasir Bagh. He claims that Board Bazaar is a good place for shopping where one can find clothes, shoes, artificial jewellery, Afghan dresses etc at cheap rates.

The attraction in Board Bazaar for Sadia Hamad, 24, is the Afghan cuisine because she found the market to be the only place where authentic Afghani delicacies like Mantu, Afghan burger, Sheer Yakh and Kabuli Pulao are served to the locals.


Taimoor Khan, 55, a resident of University Town, thinks that inside the metropolis, the public spaces are so congested and that’s why people prefer to visit the Board Bazaar. “They visit the bazaar once a week to buy fresh fruit, groceries and vegetables.”

Hamza Khan, 25, another Peshawar local, says that the Board Bazaar is polluted and the government should make a strategy for cleaning it up as well as starting a plantation drive to enhance its beauty.

Arman, 36, hailing from Nangarhar in Afghanistan, lives as a refugee in Peshawar. He adds that he often visits Board Bazaar to buy quality maal [second-hand clothes, jackets and footwear] for children and family on cheap rates.

The government statistics show that Pakistan hosts nearly 3.5 million registered Afghans who have been forced to flee their homes.

These numbers include refugees who have lived in Pakistan for more than 30 years and crossed over from Afghanistan to flee the Soviet invasion.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Peshawar.


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