Diplomats and foreign officials have always handled official American relations in Pakistan. Unofficially, however, they have been handled by Khan Afsar, bartender for the Khyber Club.
Afsar, the Muslim bartender for the club originally known as the American Club, is stepping down after his nearly 25 years of serving patrons — Americans and Pakistanis alike. The bar, located in Peshawar, Pakistan, has been at the heart of Pakistani conflicts since 1985. In the 1980s, when U.S.-funded Afghan jihadists fought the Soviets, the bar was packed with aid workers, diplomats, journalists and spies.
As Pakistani tensions with the U.S. increased approximately five years ago, the Khyber Club became a refuge for those with American loyalties. In 2010, when three U.S. troops were killed in a roadside bombing in northwest Pakistan, their deaths were mourned at the club, a U.S. diplomat told the Washington Post.
Afsar’s experience with American patrons has left him with a positive impression of Americans — a rare view in Pakistan.
“They are good people,” Afsar said to the Post. “They are helping us.”
Even though Afsar is retiring from bartending, he will continue to remember the ingredients for B-52s and Manhattans, he said, as well as the preferred drink of U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson — Johnnie Walker on the rocks.
His patrons and coworkers will remember him as well.
“For a modest fellow from a mountain village… he supervised and served the foreign lunatics with kindness, merriment and unflappable aplomb,” Stephen Masty, a former manager of the bar, wrote in e-mail to the Post.