The Washington Post
5 April 2016
By Tim Craig and Haq Nawaz Khan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Here in a city that has defined Pakistan’s struggle against Islamist extremism, thousands of people have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks. But now, if asked their greatest fear, many residents cite one of the world’s other menaces: rats.
Over the past year, according to Peshawar’s mayor, eight children have been killed by rats. At night, rodents spill out of the city’s crude sewer system, chewing through doors and walls, feasting on food supplies and overrunning hospitals and schools.
And these aren’t ordinary rats, residents say. These creatures are big — so big that residents swear they can’t be native to the area. And that gives rise to yet more conspiracy theories in a country already prone to blaming its woes on outsiders. […]
Some say the problem began after a series of floods in 2010 and 2012 flushed rats from their nests in the mountains near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Others believe the rats were bred on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and brought to Peshawar in the trucks that are withdrawing coalition supplies on Pakistani highways.
One theory is that super-size rats came in the luggage of refugees fleeing a military operation in Pakistan’s tribal belt, where rumors of huge rodents have persisted for centuries.
There have been allegations that the rats were genetically modified by a foreign power and left here to terrorize Muslims. […]