Peshawar: Canines, not always favoured by those of a religious bent in Pakistan, are apparently good business, if pet-sellers in the Peshawar Chirgano Chowk are to be believed. They say despite some folks’ aversion to dogs, others would pay good money for them – provided your pooch comes with a pedigree.
Every Friday morning, Yasir Ali visits Chirgano Chowk, the biggest open market in Peshawar city where pets are bought and sold. Holding two fluffy puppies in his, Ali waits for customers while a crowd of people mill around the bazaar, looking for pets to buy.
“If I manage to sell the puppies, I will be able to make Rs. 2000,” says Ali, 25, who comes from a village in the Peshawar’s suburb. For him, it is good money for the tiny cross- breed pups that have snuggled their snouts into his armpits, quietly dozing despite the frenzied market activity around them.
The marketplace Ali visits to sell his dogs is called mela or fair. Before the city’s government built a flyover to ease traffic flow on the congested Bacha Khan Chowk in the heart of the city, and before terrorism and its threat made public places out of bound for people, the mela used to be held at the nearby Shahi Bagh here.
The pet fair in the Chirgano Chowk – renamed as Bacha khan Chowk after the revered Pashtun freedom fighter and founder of the Red Shirts Movement against the British colonial rule in India- once dealt in dogs only and was called da spo mela or the dog fair. Of late, the mela held in one of the most crowded commercial places of Peshawar frequented by people from all over the city has been expanded to include species of birds, chickens, goats, sheep, roosters and cats.
While there are no figures to corroborate the trend, well-heeled households in the city – indeed the rest of the country – have cottoned on to the business nous of dilettante pet-sellers like Ali, keeping pedigree dogs to breed at home and sell in the open market for good money. While there is no formal marketplace for this kind of cottage industry, transactions happen through word of mouth or online E-Commerce websites, where prices range from Rs. 25000 for an Alsatian puppy to a Rs. 75000 for a pedigree pub.
However for Ali and many others who lack the business savvy of the urban population or access to internet, the place to go is Bacha Khan Chowk where different breeds of dogs are up for sale. Here he can sell directly to customers of every age and background visiting the place.
Bacha Gul, a resident of Peshawar city, has brought a bull terrier dog for sale to the mela. Bearing a fancy dog collar, the white bull terrier may be small but covets a big price: Rs.9000. Gul says buyers have offered him Rs 5000 for the puppy but his breed of dog is rare and precious.
“I trained it for dog fighting but have to sell it because I need money,” he said. “I love the dog. I spent good money when I bought it here at the fair very young for Rs.1000.”
Gul Ahmad, a dog-devotee, has been a regular at the dog fair in Peshawar for nearly fifteen years now. He is a compulsive buyer, saying when he likes a dog, he has to get it no matter what the price.
“You can’t put a price on a passion,” Ahmad told News Lens. “Raising dogs is my hobby. I have different breeds of dogs at home. They are very loyal and like members of my family. Your family and loved ones can abandon you but not your dog. That is why I like living with dogs.”
Ahmad currently has three dogs – two Alsatians and a bull terrier. He is in search of a mate for his male bull terrier, something hard to find because pedigree female dogs are in high demand, jealously hoarded by pet-sellers because they deliver babies that could be sold for good money.
He said the total expense to feed his three dogs on a daily basis amounts to Rs.1000. “I have to keep them well fed, clean and exercised by taking them for a walk to a park daily.”
Ahmad said several people were involved in the dog breeding and selling business in Peshawar and they made “enough money from the trade.”
He said there were rare, precious dogs available for sale with prices ranging from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 0.5 million.
Dog fair organizer Jandad Khan said up to 5,000 people visited the fair on Friday and Sunday to look at the dogs.
A majority of people from rural suburbs brought dogs for sale while customers mostly came from the city.
“Earlier, a huge number of buyers and sellers visited the mela but now due to fear of terrorist attacks, people avoid crowded places like markets, public places and bazaars that are soft targets for terrorists,” said Khan.
He said the fair used to have competitions like dogfights, pageants and parades with a large number of people attending.
“People used to bet on dogs but such activities are no more.”
Khan said that as an organizer of the dog fair, and representative of the Cantonment Board Peshawar that approves such fairs, he charged Rs. 20 per dog from sellers who brought their canines to the mela.
“Earlier, people used to bring pedigree dogs that claimed high prices but now the rich people rarely visit the fair and the poor do not have pure-bred dogs because they are expensive.”
Rasool Shah, an elderly man at the fair, said he had been visiting the fair regularly since the eighties.
“We used to get buyers and sellers of pets from all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, even folks from other provinces visited the fair to buy dogs but they are afraid to come here now,” said Shah.