Pakistan: Land of the Green
In a country where alcohol is illegal, where there are no bars, clubs, or where even smoking sheesha is haram and is banned in certain cities, it was a surprise when visiting the Government Gardens in Pakistan to find weed. And not just one or two weed bushes, the paths were lined with these healthy bushy plants. It was like a stoner’s dream. The familiar scent filled the air as I brushed my fingers through the crops. The hippies had the right idea travelling through Pakistan during their hippy trail era.
Even riding through the capital city, Islamabad, the air is filled with the familiar scent of green. Weed bushes grown on Embassy lawns and in public parks adding a certain irony to the high walled barbed wire fences that surround the secure compounds.
The plant is native to Pakistan and grows in abundance everywhere in the north. The anti-narcotic laws in Pakistan are a little relaxed when it comes to hashish and marijuana and you can easily get them hassle free from a local dealer. Every city you reach promises you ‘the best in Pakistan’ claiming they are famous for the goods they produce.
It is a place where enough for $10 AUD you can get 10 grams of quality hash.
Surprisingly Pakistan is a country where ‘weed’ is rare and hash is preferred. Rather than getting the leafy greens we are used to, weed comes in the hashish form which is the concentrated resin of the female plant. It almost looks like a brown nugget of playdough, but the smell hints otherwise and when heated and mixed with tobacco it creates a rather nice joint. The strong distinctive spicy aroma of burning weed and tobacco fills the air, something perfect for a nice hike in the north.
Charas is of the lower quality, stuff that many locals won’t bother to touch. But garda is the stuff you want. It is marijuana in its most pure form, free of additives and not for the first timers. It gets a little more creative when bhang is added to the mix as well, which is made by grinding the leaves of the plant. For those with the munchies there are papards, chickpea flour cakes baked with bhang or bhang lassis which are also not for the beginners.
Unlike their neighbours in India where the Saddus smoke up all day to reach enlightenment, the Pakistanis seem to keep their usage of this plant a little more subtle. There is a social stigma surrounding its use and as many believe it is forbidden in the Koran, most of the plants lay in abundance on the side of the roads. But, in Pakistan whether or not marijuana is legal is really the last of their worries.
It seems even in the most controlled countries in the world you can’t tame the natural things in life.
Hannah Sutton is a Flint contributor, based in Perth, Australia.