From Flashman (1969)
by George MacDonald Fraser
We pushed on faster after that, west and then north-west, over the plains and great rivers of the Punjab, through the Sikh country, and up to Peshawar, which is where India ends. There was nothing to remind you of Calcutta now; here the heat was dry and glaring, and so were the people – lean, ugly, Jewish-looking creatures, armed and ready for mischief by the look of them. But none was uglier or looked readier for mischief than the governor of the place, a great, grey-bearded ox of a man in a dirty old uniform coat, baggy trousers, and a gold-tasselled forage cap. He was an Italian, of all things, with a spiky waxed moustache that you see on organ-grinders nowadays, and he spoke English with a dreadful dago American accent. His name was Avitabile, and the Sikhs and Afghans were more scared of him than of the devil himself; he had drifted to India as a soldier of fortune, commanded Dhah Sujah’s army, and now had the job of keeping the passes open to our people in Kabul.
He did it admirably, in the only way those brutes understood – by fear and force. There were five dead Afghans swinging in the sunlight from his gateway arch when we roade through, which was both reassuring and unnerving at once. No one minded them more than if they had been swatted flies, least of all Avitabile, who had strung them up.
“Goddam, boy,” says he, ‘how you think I keep the peace if I don’ keep killing the bastards? These are Gilzais, you know that? Good Gilzais, now I’ve ‘tended to them. The bad Gilzais are up in the hills, between here an Kabul, watchin’ the passes and lickin’ their lips and thinkin’ – but thinkin’s all they do just now, ‘cos of Avitabile. Sure, we pay ‘em to be quiet; you think that would stop them? No, sir, fear of Avitabile” – and he jerked a big thumb at his chest – “fear’s what stops ‘em. But if you stop hangin’ ‘em now and then, they stop bein’ afraid. See?”
I think that whilst MacDonald Fraser’s protagonist is a fictional character, his evaluation of Avitabile isn’t, and vindicates what his biographers say. There is a great deal of value to be seen in his description of now the Afghan/Pakistan border; and in his 1841 analysis of the tribes’ behaviours. How little has seemingly changed (barring the actual weaponry).
I wasn't quite whether to place this page in the History or Politic's folders.