Your moustache or your life.

(Telegraph) — There is no finer mark of a Pakistani man than a fully oiled, waxed and twirled moustache. For 18 years, Amir Muhammad Afridi’s vast handlebar moustache, curling as high as his forehead, made him a celebrity throughout the rugged, tribal lands that border Afghanistan.

But that was until his luxuriant facial hair came to the attention of Lashkar-i-Islam, extremists who are fighting to impose hardline Sharia in the Khyber agency where Mr Afridi lived.

For the past two years he has braved death threats, intimidation and been forced to flee his home all in the name of a moustache that demands 30 minutes of grooming every morning. (It’s a highly specialised regimen involving almond oil, hairdryers and a secret wax that no amount of pleading will make him reveal.)

“They arrested me in broad daylight, put me in their car,” he told me. “They took me to a religious scholar who declared the moustache un-Islamic and ordered it removed.

“There was nothing I could do. I was surrounded by guns. If I had resisted I would be dead.”

They set about his moustache, which at that time stretched 12 inches away from his face, reducing it to what Mr Afridi described in a sorrowful voice as “ordinary”.

Since then Mr Afridi, 42, has given up his home in the town of Banna and moved his wife and 10 children to the north-western city of Peshawar where he lives anonymously running a small business importing watches. He has regrown his moustache and only now, with violence declining in Peshawar in the past year, is he prepared to speak publicly about the threat to his life.