Government authorities are clamping down on Afghan resistance groups here following incidents of violence involving the heavily armed guerrilla groups that use this frontier city as a base against Soviet troops occupying their native land.
Local officials are pressuring the insurgents to move to more isolated areas of the Northwest Frontier Province. Two resistance groups already have moved most of their operations outside the city, and two others have announced intentions to relocate across the border in Afghanistan, maintaining only small liaison offices here.
Initially, some of the guerrillas feared that the authorities' moves presaged a "sellout" of Afghan refugees by Pakistan in the U.N.-sponsored indirect negotiations for a Soviet troop withdrawal. But most of the rebel leaders have come to accept the curtailment as based on legitimate local security concerns.
While the dispersals almost certainly will dilute international attention focused on the cluster of resistance headquarters here, some of the Afghan leaders say the moves will improve their image with guerrillas in Afghanistan. There, the Peshawar-based rebels often are viewed as living too comfortably.
While the provincial government has issued no formal orders to move the offices, leaders of the Afghan groups, which provide crucial support to the guerrillas, said they had been under pressure for several months to relocate. The guerrillas have been fighting Soviet and Afghan troops in Afghanistan since Soviet troops invaded in 1979 and installed a Marxist government.
Similarly, the publishers of several resistance bulletins and newsletters said they had been warned to submit their material for censorship or be closed down.
But Sayed Majroo, who publishes the Afghan Information Center monthly bulletin, said he had ignored the order without any further action by the police. Hassan Olusmal, editor of a moderate newsletter, The Mujahid, said he also had ignored the oral order.
The curtailment orders have followed an increase in clashes with police and internecine fighting within the resistance, including assassinations, bomb explosions near offices of Islamic fundamentalist resistance groups, and one shoot-out in the Peshawar bazaar between the police and Afghan refugees in which a Pakistani passer-by was killed.
Weapons have proliferated, and Afghans openly walk about carrying Soviet- or Chinese-made AK47 assault rifles and Enfield .303s.
On many Thursday nights, the University Town section of the city takes on the appearance of downtown Beirut, as rebels celebrating weddings or other festive occasions fire wildly in the air.
Moderate Afghan resistance sources said they interpret the curtailment of activities as an attempt by the Northwest Frontier Province authorities to give the Afghan groups a lower profile in densely populated Peshawar and prevent a major incident.
"We have been asked to move our headquarters beyond Peshawar, for security reasons. I think this is a valid reason, and if they insist, we have no other alternative and we will look for a place," said Mohammed Haikim Aryubi, a leader of the moderate National Islamic Front.
Abdul Haq, a leader of the fundamentalist Hezbi Islami guerrilla group, said the group's headquarters would be moved into Afghanistan in about five weeks, leaving behind only a small liaison office.
Haq denied that the intended move is a result of pressure, saying, "We want to be closer to the jihad holy war and to show the world that we are not in the hands of the Pakistanis."
He said Hezbi Islami would keep headquarters in the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia and Kandahar, which are on the Pakistani border, and that they would not be hidden.
"We couldn't hide them and still have contact with the people, so we will have to try to have tight defenses. Of course, the Russians will look for us," said Haq.
Leaders of the fundamentalist Jamiat Islami resistance group also said they would move inside Afghanistan, while other groups said they planned to relocate in refugee camps outside of Peshawar.
Pakistani authorities were reported in a Karachi Urdu-language newspaper to be preparing to deport a prominent Afghan leader, Abdul Rahman Pazwak, a former Afghan ambassador to the United Nations and in 1967 the president of the U.N. General Assembly.
However, Pazwak, who arrived here from London March 12 and applied for refugee status, said that he had received no deportation order and was awaiting a decision on his application. Pazwak has sharply criticized the Geneva negotiations and has called for the formation of a provisional government-in-exile.
Moderate Afghan resistance sources here characterized the government pressures so far as disjointed, confusing and apparently reflecting jitters of provincial authorities about the rise in violent incidents.
They conceded that some Afghan refugees, resistant to authority even in the best of times, have misinterpreted routine automobile license checks by the police as a form of pressure and have overreacted.
But they said that if the police attempted to confiscate weapons--whose possession most Afghans regard as an inherent right--tensions would be likely to rise.
Morale is said to be slipping in the Afghan community anyway, partly because for the first year since the war began the refugees have not experienced the excitement of a major spring offensive or battle by the insurgents in Afghanistan.
The guerrillas and civilian populations have been taking a pounding in Herat, near the Iranian border, and in the Shomali region north of Kabul.
Coupled with lingering fears that the Geneva talks could lead to an agreement on a Marxist government in Kabul in exchange for a phased or partial Soviet withdrawal, the savage Soviet and Afghan Army attacks have heightened some refugees' sensitivities to the recent curtailment by the Pakistan government, according to moderate leaders.
The Northwest Frontier Province authorities, they say, will have to enforce the restrictions cautiously if they do not want tensions in the refugee community to worsen.