Back to Capital & Satgari
Back to Capital
Next Day afternoon
He left Jawar’s house and looked for a cafe. It was a careful selection; he finally settled in the corner on the carpet laid for the customers, pulled a big red pillow behind his back and settled leaning on the pillow. He rested his bag alongside and looked around for someone to attend. A man was watching him standing behind the kettle stand. Lot of kettles with boiling water sat on the red burning embers containing black tea ready to serve to the customers. A big portrait of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan was hanging on the wall. Razmak smiled. The owner seemed to have imperial mind. Razmak waved his hand to him and he hurriedly approached Razmak.
Razmak being the only customer at that hour spoke with the owner in Pashto. When he was reasonably sure about the man, he suddenly offered him a five hundred rupee note to go and fetch a taxi for him. However he did not forget to order him black tea in the meantime.
The proprietor served him with the black tea, a kettle in the small round tray with some crystalloid small pieces of sugar and glass of water and left the hotel waving him to wait until he came back.
Within fifteen minutes, the man returned along with the car. It was a white Corolla, a bit old model that yet seemed maintained.
With the RPG in the bag Razmak settled in the front seat and slowly scanned the driver’s appearance. He wanted to be sure that he would not make some stupidity while going back to Islamabad. He was satisfied and asked him to move. Rozi Khan, as the driver told his name, was a young man wearing shabby shirt over a loosely fitted trouser. He was the perfect choice for him.
“Have you been to Islamabad ever?” Razmak just started gossip to weigh Rozi Khan.
“Almost daily, sometime twice,” Rozi replied quizzically.
“Good, then you might know some good guest house around.” Razmak asked.
“Yes, many,” Rozi Khan was a typically shrewd young man like Pakistani taxi drivers. “It depends how much you can afford to pay.” He was smiling.
“That’s great.” Razmak showed his interest. “So you also might know someone for rent a car for two days without driver. I want to fetch documents from the embassy and you know they don’t allow drivers unless a good identity.” Razmak now came to the point. “I’ll pay enough.”
“You got it; I know one guest house here. His manager is my friend and very cooperative person.” Rozi excitedly revealed his friendship.
“And what about the car?”
“You can always keep this one, mine.” Rozi Khan in a sense was looking forward to a good customer with plenty of money out of this deal.
“Do you have its documents? Razmak wanted to be sure to avoid any trouble.
“Yes, it’s in my uncle’s name,” said Rozi. “But you don’t worry; he is a dead man now. I’m his only heir.”
That was a dead lead. Razmak thought and pulled out a few thousand rupee bills and handed over to Rozi Khan. “Keep this for an advance.” He knew that he was not going to stay anywhere, yet he wanted the car desperately and now he got it.
Rozi Khan took the bills and put them into his shirt’s pocket quickly. Both were satisfied.
They had already left Camp Tober Khan behind and now were crossing the intersection of GT Road on their way back to Islamabad. The morning traffic congestion was rising at that hour. Razmak already had noticed a long queue of NATO empty trawlers and oil tankers going back to their destinations. Another short queue of passenger’s buses and cars on the check post were hurling themselves for their clearance. Razmak thought the plan to be perfect a work of political catastrophe and aesthetic vengeance. Prior to his appearance on the roof of Scion Hotel Tower on 6th September, he had to go for Bano Abagull. As for Sher Ali and Sardar JS, they have to know it before they were dead.
Escape? It was not likely. However, it was matter of only half an hour drive. He had to get back soon. How long could he hide in the Jawar Khan’s house. He decided that he could survive it for a very long time once he reached back to Camp Tober Khan. He could hide there for a long time with Baba’s blessing. Only eating and drinking and watching TV and no visitor.
One year, he decided. I can live with Baba for whole one year.
He raised his head. His face was clean, his cheeks healthy with the scar of thin rubbery flesh. His hair was not perfect but it was free of dust and the curls glistened. There was no paper towel anywhere, so he extended his hand beneath the seat and found a rolled cloth. He pulled that piece of cloth from there as he knew the common habits of Pakistani taxi drivers who normally keep some cloth for cleaning their cab. He rubbed his face and hairs with perceptibly a clean corner of that cloth and smiled watching himself in the rear view mirror of the car.
Earlier he had two options, one designed by the ES to enter into the niche of army officer around the Target bearing this face as he was briefed by them. Another was to operate himself with his own game plan. The former was too cluttered and bore too many risks at the earlier stage which Razmak had no convincing edge to go with. He was always a man of his own style and was used to operate alone without any additional risks which made his successes meaningful.
“Sir, aren’t you Major Azeem Khalidi.” The voice came from the window.
Razmak froze. They had already reached the check post and one young police officer leaning over the window looking inside the car.
Razmak got out of the Corolla and stood straight relaxed with a look of pleasure to be recognised as Khalidi.
“Hope everything is going fine here,” Razmak asked the officer.
“Yes Sir,” Officer seemed impressed. “Sir, hope you are okay.”
“Why? I’m fine. Don’t you see me?”
“Sir, the whole goddamn force looking for you,” said the officer, obviously pleased now that he had made his catch of the day.
Razmak’s mind began to race through his options, like a computer speed-probing a data bank. What did this mean? Why would they searching for Khalidi? He hadn’t touched the officer yet. Had Major Boris Yaakov blown him for some reason? That made no sense at all. Yaakov’s primary mission was still untouched. Play it out. See what happens.
Razmak shook his head in annoyance. “Can’t a man meet his fiancé in peace in this country?
The officer laughed. “Sir, can I do something for you?”
“No thanks, I’m in hurry,” said Razmak in a commanding tone.
“Sir, this is my visiting card with my contacts.” Officer quickly pulled his valet from the back pocket of his trouser and gave a visiting card to Razmak in a Pakistani fashion. “I’ll come to see you someday.”
“How long have you been here,” Razmak kept the tone of a commanding officer yet with style. “Are you satisfied here?”
“Sir, I want to be posted at my village,” the officer almost begged. He never knew that such a fortune would knock his door unexpectedly.
“Okay, I’ll ask some of my friend to accommodate you.” Razmak shook hand with him.
“Now get the way clear quickly.” Razmak ordered and got back into the car.
The officer hurriedly escorted the Corolla and yelled at the man sat on the big steel barricade to lift up for clearance of this car.
“Now quickly get out of this, Rozi.”Razmak said to the driver.
Someone was on to him, already.
As they drove, he reworked his plan, laying out options, dismissing some, predicting reactions, countering them. In his mind he had lay out a timetable hour by hour sparing no seconds, placing actions into slit yet budgeting with space to manoeuvre.
Four Hours Later
The warm dark brown painted steel guardrail on the pathway of the Jacob compound had turned cold with the chill of the evening. The yellow and red bougainvillea flowers had aesthetically climbed around the old pillars reflecting drops of the dew like pearls under the compound’s white spotlight. The compound was almost deserted and the NSB security guards in dim light beneath the shed were moving like some ghosts in front of the flames and smoke of the firewood they had lit to warm their bodies. The rhythmic sound of the Squad’s steps broke the silence of the compound.
They walked across the compound, heading southwest from the SpecOp building. They crossed the education department toward the Police Station prison in the far corner of the compound. The big parking lot was nearly empty except a few cars probably for long parking held in this hour and lamps installed threw yellow light on them.
Sahel shivered as he walked. The stiff breeze that rustled cedar leaves bringing hints of an early autumn chill. Dilshad stripped off his leather jacket and draped it over Sahel’s shoulders. Sahel did not resist, concentrating on the pile of papers in his hands, squinting to see them as Dilshad briefed him while giving to him.
“This one is from the Directorate General permitting temporary transfer of the prisoner.” Dilshad pointed the white paper beneath Sahel’s thumb. “And this one is a request letter from the NSB stating that the prisoner will only be moved across the compound for interrogation. So you have better not lose him.”
“It looks like Zawri’s signature.” He said but when no reply came forward he said. “Is it?”
“Boss is no longer concerned with our methodology,” Dilshad said, escaping the issue of forgery. “He needs results.”
Sahel groaned as his toe caught a crack on the pathway. Tariq reached out for his elbow and kept him from going down.
“Be careful young man,” Shaista laughingly whispered. “Try not to break the other leg for a day or so.” She coughed from behind him.
The squad moved across the high cedars, whispering to each other beneath the great shadow of the education building in the moonlight.
Falkshair Khan was now sitting in a solitary cell below the holding pens of the police prison. He could not know that Sahel Farhaj was about to encounter him, and Sahel was not even wholly convinced that Falkshair would cooperate with him.
“There is something more,” said Dilshad. “Tell Sahel about the intercepts, Shaista.”
The old woman was already struggling with her cough and was almost breathless.
“Last night I asked our friend Farhat for the Capital’s dailies,” she said. She was coughing, a hand on her chest and the other one still holding a half burned cigarette.
“What dailies?” Sahel asked. “You mean the local newspapers.”
“No, my young fool.” She had to stop for a moment while she coughed up. “I mean the regular intercepts.”
“What kind of intercepts?” Sahel was familiar with the standard intelligence work but most of his force was not domestic and he had been out for it for some time.
“As per law NSS has a program. It is random intercepts of landlines. Every night a midnight shift transcribes the tapes onto computer and then you can run a quick search for names, times, codes… you know.”
“Well, finally they have come to our century.” Sahel said. Shaista had been doing this work for years but it had been a primitive operation.
“We had asked for last week’s files,” Shaista continued, “and put in a search for our own code names related for Razmak by our domestic and international agencies.
“Then?” said Sahel.
Shaista wiped her jaws and then continued on. “Only one thing came up. Four days back a local Pashtu speaking person got an early Christmas greeting on his phone. There was no conversation, just one side spoke and hung up.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a paper slip. Here is the name and he is not Christian.”
Sahel put the slip into his shirt’s pocket without reading it.
“One of our teams is on the way to watch this house,” said Dilshad.
“But why NSS, can’t we do it ourselves?” Tariq somehow had some professional jealousy.
“Because they are legally authorised,” said Dilshad. “But they can’t move further beyond their authorisation.”
“So you want them to do half the work, but not to take any credit afterwards.” Sahel felt sorry about them.
“And one more thing, Sahel,” said Dilshad. The team was nearing the police station prison now, so they slowed their pace and lowered their voices even further.
“Now I want you to bargain with Falkshair,” said Dilshad.
“If only, I could.”
“You can, you can make him an offer.”
“You can deal.”
Sahel thought for a moment. For the first time, someone had something to offer Falkshair, something that could persuade him to talk. Yet Sahel did not want to make false promises. In order to make him believe he had to believe his own words. Falkshair was too smart to buy his false commitments.
“Anything within reasonable part, I’ll back you.” Dilshad was confident.
“I know, you have left your pistol with Amber.”
Sahel lifted his shirt and the leather jacket. A HK P30 glittered in the pole’s light, “A donation.”
“So it’s true what they say.” Dilshad patted his shoulder. “You are a charity case.”
Sahel smiled as he began to pace again. He realized that he was proceeding alone, when Dilshad stopped him with a hiss.
“Just one more thing.”
Sahel turned. His team stood in the darkness, watching him and measuring him. They seemed a sad family with no choice but to pin their hopes on Sahel.
“Farhat has set Falkshair up for you pretty well,” Dilshad whispered, making him all clear that now Sahel was the only person who can help you. Farhat had two men with him while he was brought down from Shore-Eye.
Sahel nodded assessing his own psychological tactics.
“Good Bye and best of luck,” Dilshad said.
“Good luck,” said Tariq.
Shaista coughed and waved her hand.
Sahel turned and headed for the police station.
The motorway was well lit, but once they left the motorway from Chakri interchange towards Talagang road there were only the yellow lamps of Sahel’s Margalla. Sahel’s did not want Falkshair to know their destination. He had something else in his mind until they reached more close to Chakwal.
It was cold inside the car and both men were crouched down inside their leather jackets. For a long time, neither men spoke. Sahel had informed Falkshair quite simply that he would shoot him if he tried to escape. The warning was somewhat unnecessary as Falkshair wrists were cuffed by short connecting chain. He could not grab the steering wheel nor could he do much damage with his feet. Falkshair was sure that the man would stop somewhere and torture him. He assumed that Sahel was an NSS man who had a reputation for creative interrogation.
They had been driving since Islamabad more for than an hour and Sahel had worked hard to keep his peace. He wanted Falkshair to think and to feel the open road, a small amount of liberty to see his own cities and people. He wanted Falkshair to sense the warm proximity of his own. Sahel kept the radio off, the heater silent and windows slightly opened as not to dilute the discomfort and to let the dreams of his village fill the car.
“I know what you are thinking,” Sahel finally spoke in Urdu.
Falkshair said nothing. He continued watching the darkened shapes of unbending mountains. “I know you speak Urdu, but if you prefer I can talk in Pashtu.” Sahel said in Pashtu.
Falkshair still said nothing though he turned his head away to watch a by passer small tractor trolley with a load of villagers probably coming back from the evening wedding ceremony as both bride and groom were sitting together with young girls around them singing and drumming.
“I know what you are thinking,” Sahel repeated patiently.
“What I’m thinking?” Falkshair almost murmured.
“You are thinking just what I would be thinking in your place,”
A moment of silence, “And what is that?” said Falkshair.
“That I am taking you to some safe house where we’ll torture you and that I might shoot you and then throw you somewhere in the hills before dawn.”
Silence was still prevailing. Sahel glanced sideways and was surprised to see the patience of Falkshair. Then he looked at Falkshair anticipating some answer.
“Safe house is funny word for this part of country.” He finally spoke.
“Yes, it’s the wrong word.” Sahel said. “But still none of those things will happen.”
“Then what will happen?” Falkshair had been dealing with these people for a long time. He had no reason to believe.
“I am taking you home, Falkshair.” Sahel disclosed finally.
As he said it, he felt a sudden change in the atmosphere. He saw Falkshair’s body more stiffened, his head reaching back just slightly. For him it was a joke of the century as Sahel could read his face.
“To Satgari, your village, your home and to your people,” Sahel was reading his face. Falkshair’s eyes first became dark and then slightly glistened with longing. “This time, it’s just a visit.” Sahel leaned back on the seat and then he fired the best shot. “But I can make it permanent.”
Their eyes met and locked. Falkshair shifted in his seat. He looked at his hands cuffed and said. “I am listening.”
“First of all, I’m not an NSS man,” Sahel said. “Yet I am also not a simple analyst as I had said to you earlier in Shore-Eye.” Sahel did not want to rush it. He reached to his jacket’s pocket and pulled out pack of Rothman which reminded him of Roshna. Keeping the pack on his lap he pulled a cigarette and lit with the car lighter and offered to Falkshair who politely declined the offer.
“How can you get me off?” Falkshair whispered.
“We have just received a piece of vital information. It pertains to the Ambassador’s killing.” Sahel did not disclose the case as they all knew it by code name ISD 3355.
As it was customary with major government prosecution agencies especially Pakistani police when they went for registering a case they probably included every name they thought might be involved and then under the course of investigations they started dropping one by one even a few on their own behest. So in ISD 3355 Razmak Bilal was not only accused, as a matter of fact most of his aides were taken into account including Falkshair. However, the conviction that had sent him up for life was one of the mass murders at a bomb blast in Rawalpindi.
“We have convicted you in mass murders but actually you are still waiting conviction in Ambassador’s killing case which now through that piece of vital information which we have received only Razmak Bilal is involved in it and not you.” I know you were not involved in Ambassador’s Case but you delivered the bomb in Rawalpindi case. Am I correct?
Falkshair Froze. He imagined the tape recorders in the car, the microphones, and the gadgets might be recording all of his confessions before he reached Satgari.
Falkshair kept silent.
“Well,” said Sahel. “Our two top most agencies are convinced that you could not have done it.” Sahel waited for a moment then continued. “As you couldn’t have been in Islamabad for at least two weeks before the incident, they confirmed that you were in Kabul managing your family members return back home whom you had sent them there.
“Am I correct? Sahel said.
The handcuffs trembled. Falkshair laced his fingers together gripping them to keep his hand from shaking. He was hearing the defence that he could have never used but it was all true. He had not been even included in the initial planning of Ambassador Case
“We know this is true whether you admit or not.” Sahel pressed on.
Sahel stopped talking as the road took a sharp turn over small hilly zigzag. He concentrated, reviewing what he had just said to Falkshair. He wanted him to think now.
“Cigarette please,” Falkshair croaked.
Sahel lit a fresh one and placed in his mouth. Falkshair drew in deeply and blew out a long stream of smoke.
“So,” Falkshair said. He was not admitting anything yet the question he posed had a great deal. “Are you the Prosecuting Attorney in this case?”
“I can get you off from here, Falkshair.”
“How can you? I don’t believe it.”
“Listen carefully Falkshair, It’s not me alone. It’s my department. I’m only a messenger.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Sahel tried to convince him. “We are country’s top most security agency. I can make this deal.”
Falkshair thought for a moment. He could talk and something good might happen even if nothing happened, he could be sent back to Shore-Eye. How much did it really matter? After all just as the man said, he was only Razmak’s aide.
“What do you want?” Falkshair asked.
“Help,” said Sahel.
“What is the price?”
It was now very clear; Falkshair thought and made up his mind to speak.
“What do you want to hear?” Falkshair facial expressions softened first time.
“Razmak Bilal is among us. Sahel explained straightforwardly. He is somewhere in the country and he is running a mission. At least part of his mission is to kill a few men of our agency besides a few others.
“To kill your men? Falkshair was not buying it. “So this is only to save your people?”
“And others too.” Sahel replied.
“I don’t know exactly.”
“I don’t believe it, my friend.” Falkshair said. “Unless you give me something how could I be able to give you back?”
“Once I had tried to arrest him, but we had a set back and returned home failed.” Sahel tried to give him small piece of the information.
“In Kabul back in 2003, I suppose?” Falkshair picked up the cigarette pack with cuffed hands and pulled one and placed in the mouth. Sahel pushed the cigarette lighter for him and when it was ejected, he lit it. He took a drag and leaned back on the seat, “Hum…now I understand.”
Now it was Sahel’s turn to be silent. He was torn inside. He knew it that to gain something he had to give him some of the information. Yet every bone of him was aching at the idea of exposing an operation to the enemy.
“Was it Kabul City Centre in March 2003?” Falkshair asked again.
“Yes.” Sahel said.
Sahel turned the car sharply to the right on the side road leading to Satgari village. In a while they would come to another highway which would be taking them directly to Satgari almost a few kilometres away now, a house of his aged parents, sisters and brothers and relatives.
“Do you really know why Razmak wants you and your men?” Falkshair whispered.
“No,” said Sahel.
“Then listen carefully,” Falkshair Khan straightened up in the seat. He took a long drag of cigarette and paused for a moment. “I’m going to assume that you are an intelligence Officer, not just a man of agency as you pretend. If you will do the same for me, then we can dispense with flimsy denials for the sake of the play.”
Sahel remained silent just nodding his head once. He was gripping the wheel hard, waiting. He thought he could be facing a great truth, maybe.
“All right, you say you were trying to arrest Razmak in Kabul City Centre, whereas Razmak didn’t think so.” He paused for a while and then continued. “He says you were after him to kill. Anyway I assume that you are correct as you said. Even if this much is true as you said, you are a special team member from NSB.”
Sahel kept quiet and hard on driving wheel. He didn’t even give a gesture or expression in agreement. He was simply silent.
“If it’s true that you are man from NSB, then you already know a great deal about Razmak Bilal. However what you don’t know is the most important part. The part that might get you killed.”
Sahel realized that Falkshair was still bargaining and building his own case. He certainly had the right to do so, so Sahel kept silent, letting this man tell it in his own way.
“Razmak confused all intelligence agencies of your country and some of the western for many years. We knew that some of the agencies called him Flying Cobra. He has all the cobra instincts in him. He eats other snakes and build a cell for her female to feed her and keep her eggs grow in the nest and could never be caught easily. The victim of his bite never survived.” Falkshair paused for a while. “And my friend, he has never failed in his missions. He ended most of the small terrorists’ cells and got respect in the community. We are proud of him. He is sighted in your country and did his mission in Kabul.”
Sahel just listened. No comments at all.
“He was photographed at Nairobi by CIA in the evening and same evening he was interviewed in Kabul by one of your journalist who swore that Razmak was in Kabul since many days. That’s why he was named as Flying Cobra. Most of your country’s journalists have had him in contact and made headlines.”
Having set the stage, Falkshair smoked for a moment. Sahel felt strange pressure built in his chest. He knew it was coming yet he didn’t know what was it?
“Did you know that Razmak had a brother? Falkshair asked.
Sahel wanted to say something, but he didn’t do so. His throat was thick and his breath laboured. Yes, it was in the record that Razmak had had one brother, who had died in the refugee camp somewhere in Afghanistan.
“Gulo was his name,” Falkshair continued. In 1989, Razmak took his brother with him to Uzbekistan when he left his father after killing afghan soldier to prove himself against his father Basher Abu Razmak Bilal, who at that time was elevated as minister in Najibullah’s Government. The last Russians backed President of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. But he was afraid that his father’s men might find him someday and harm his beloved brother Gulo. He was clever enough even then. He made ‘Gulo’ die. There is a false grave near Kogon.
Sahel was a bit lost now, though temporarily relieved that Falkshair was anyway making a background for last sentence.
“So a brother,” Sahel murmured.
“Yes, Gulo was alive of course. Razmak had sent him to London. In the nineties after Razmak’s first successful blast in Rawalpindi, he began to gain a reputation in the community. Democratic Northern Alliance had started funding money to him. DNA also gave him security covers when asked. He gained power and fed Gulo for all his necessities.” Falkshair said. “Are you following me?”
Sahel nodded silently.
“We were all amazed, all of us. Gulo was four years younger than Razmak, but it did not show at all. They could have been twins. He was not a fighter, Gulo. He was just a sweet, handsome rather simple young man, a bit even literary mind. Book reading was his passion like his father.” Falkshair’s voice changed. He had fallen in the nostalgic memories with sorrow. “At first Razmak resisted the idea of this trick, but we convinced him for that. We set up a system of guarding Gulo that seemed foolproof. Razmak kept him happy. He gave him everything he needed. Gulo was living like a prince. All he had to do to show his face on occasion, on the right place and the right time.”
Sahel’s throat was dry now and he felt thirsty. He was trying to concentrate on the driving, yet his palms were now slick with sweat, the wheel slipping. He rubbed his right palm with the seat cover and pulled a small bottle of water from beneath the seat and gulped it in one go.
“But Gulo was hard to control. Razmak really loved him, let him get away with such facilities, and spoiled him. We were all careless.” Falkshair’s voice suddenly weakened. The confession of a guilty guard, rather than a convicted terrorist, was made. It got away from us in Kabul City Centre.” He bent his head to his cuffed hand and rubbed his eyes by his thumbs. “Muhammad Zahir was just a cover name.” Falkshair said as he leaned back on the seat.
“Whosoever, you are my friend. May Allah help you? It was Gulo who was killed in Kabul City Centre by you people.”
Sahel suddenly slammed the brakes and the car skidded, the rear wheels slipped in the dusty shoulder. He straightened it up with a hard grip on the wheel and stopped the car. He sat there for a while, frozen, trying to catch his breath. Yes, of course, why he hadn’t thought this all. It had to be something like that. Razmak was a professional, a stone killer. Only something so personal had driven him to such hostility. What a fool he had been. Sahel understood it now clearly that Gulo’s death though in a result of Uzbek’s firing, has driven Razmak’s vengeance against NSB and its team members. It was a conspiracy made successful by ES.
Sahel’s remorse at Zahir’s killing was always there, yet he never knew that the victim was his enemy’s brother. Sahel also understood now, why the identification was misread by them. He felt a strange pain in his heart that he loved his brother, a sorrow that joined him with Razmak Bilal. For together they have been responsible for his brother’s death. Razmak Bilal was himself driven by guilt, a truth that he could probably never flush from his soul no matter the rivers of Pakistani’s blood he flooded on their soil.
After a while, Sahel began to drive again slowly now as he did not trust himself. He drove the car amid shadows of deadly silence. Then he broke it and asked Falkshair in his shaky voice.
“Then what happened after that?”
“Well I know that you people had some difficulties,” said Falkshair. “One of you was captured by the Afghan Police.”
“Were you wounded there? Falkshair looked down at Sahel’s leg. He had noted the limp.
“A chase team shot at us.”
“Uzbeks. We used them sometimes, courtesy of ES. But I’m sure that you know that.”
“Yes, if they were your men, then who shot on Gulo from the building.”
“From the building? We never knew that,” said Falkshair. “What we had investigated later revealed that your people killed Zahir Bilal.”
“You know us well, said Sahel. “Razmak knows our limitation. We are not authorised to kill someone under Law of our country while carrying out our operations unless a fire against us. We were following Razmak since many weeks from Middle East and we wanted him to arrest live so that we could assert and prove our claims in the western and local media. Dead Razmak was of no use for us. They were never our men and you know it very well too. We never use these types of weapons. In that accident a few other by-passers were also wounded I suppose. We are trained as professional combat soldiers and we do surgical operations without hurting anybody else if we wish to. And in this case we were operating silently since long. How could we turn this arrest into a fiasco? And if we had succeeded, you people might not have witnessed Razmak’s disappearance for years, until we disclosed it publically.” Sahel paused for a moment.
This time it was Falkshair’s turn to be shocked. His face turned pale. Like Razmak and his cell, he too was convinced that NSB’s cover team had shot Gulo from the building. Falkshair was a close aide to Razmak and he knew Razmak’s vengeance after this killing although he had lost contact with Razmak but he knew Razmak since many years. They were all convinced that they wanted to kill Razmak so they had another team in the building to avoid their own direct indulgence in killing. Now the picture was clearer for Falkshair himself. He suddenly realized and felt regrets for their wrong judgement.
“What happened to Razmak after that?” Sahel asked Falkshair.
“The Russians picked him up.”
“Training.” Falkshair narration had now changed, a man with complete sorrow.
“What kind of training?”
“I don’t know,” said Falkshair. “I was not there after that and had no contact with him. They probably wanted him for something, a mission, I don’t know. The Russians planted all kind of stories about him. He’s dead, he is in Africa, and he’s in Libya. But they had him.”
“So, they have been using you,” said Sahel. “All of you in the name of Islam.”
“Unh!” Falkshair moaned; his handcuffs rattled. “And I suppose, you are not used? The Americans admire you, just because you are their ally? They give you billions because you are pretty? Every single American weapon tested by them in Afghanistan since 2001 in battle and not a drop of blood other than Pashtoons they spilled. Do you think they love you?” Falkshair would have spat, but he remembered where he was and swallowed the bile.
Now it was turn for both of them to maintain the silence yet Falkshair didn’t stop. “So we are, all of us fools,” said Falkshair. His voice protested.
They drove on in silence for a while. Up ahead, the mud walls of low village houses began to appear falling away from both sides of the road. The village of Satgari had too many orchards around.
“Go straight,” said Falkshair. “I’m at the end of the village.” The joy that should have been in his voice was simply not there.
“Why Razmak did not take you to Moscow?” Sahel asked. “Weren’t you his close aide, his second in command?”
“I was his second, his first, his best,” said Falkshair. “I was loyal to him like his dog. I don’t know why he left me. Maybe it was because of Gulo. Maybe the Russians didn’t like me.”
Now the Falkshair was evading. Maybe it was his honour or pride. Yet Sahel knew the truth, a source of great pain that Razmak had refused to allow the Russians to import Falkshair to Moscow. As a chief of Razmak’s security team, Falkshair had been responsible for Gulo’s security as well. But he had failed, choosing instead to focus on that fateful day on ensuring Razmak’s escape from Kabul to Uzbekistan. However, instead of expressing gratitude for that Razmak vented a rage that he usually reserved for enemies. And for the sake of ‘Cause’ he chose and accepted a life sentence in Pakistan where his family had already come back for the future of their children.
“You could have insisted him?” said Sahel.
“He refused and asked me to stay back for the sake of the Cause.” Falkshair had pain in his voice. “And don’t think, I was a fool, I cannot be led like a dog anymore. Your people got me, so now you have me. Sahel did not respond. “And you keep sure,” Falkshair continued. “RES did not spend a year on Razmak, so he could come over here and finish you off. Don’t be in some misunderstanding. The Russians have their own reasons; their own agenda and they don’t give a shit about Razmak, or you, or me or any bunch of pathetic lover of Bolshevik cause anymore. Razmak has a mission, something else. A man like Razmak, it must be something that would throw us all into another flurry of terror. I assure, it must be something horrific.”
The road ended, turning from black top to powdered earth. Sahel stopped the car facing a large house of high walls. There was cement porch outside the big gate. A few plants hung along the long wall thirsty for winter rains. A brown dog sat on the cement floor in front of the gate. He barked once at the Margalla weakly and sat down again. Falkshair sat on his seat staring Sahel. Sahel looked at him for a moment.
“I am going to take off the cuffs off, Falkshair,” he said. “But, please remember, I am not a very good shooter.”
The image of wild bullets flying around his old parents and family were not lost on Falkshair. He turned his wrists and lifted them as he nodded.
For more than two hours Sahel sat in one almost dark corner of the family’s common room. There was no chair, only a carpet with soft red velvet pillows lining the floor along the walls and single large low wooden polished table. There was no light, maybe some load shedding or some other reason. A small lantern threw flickering shadows across the walls. None of this was an indication of poverty. In villages, in the wealthiest house, it would have been the same.
The house belonged to his old father who had been on bed since many years paralysed. Sudden return of Falkshair at home had made him like a King. His mother and sisters cried, both his small kids around five and six years were standing silent with their mother’s leg in hesitation. They might have heard of their father yet it seemed they didn’t recognise him. They might be shying to embrace their father. His grown up cousins had come from the next house instantly on hearing some voices chatter in happiness from the Veranda of the Falkshair’s house. Sahel watched all them transformed, laughing and pushing away each other to sit beside the Falkshair. He was the only son of this family.
The word spread quickly and when too many strangers and neighbours began to knock at the front door. Sahel rose and went to Falkshair and whispered something in his ear. Falkshair nodded and gave a command in Pashto and everybody withdrew. Then Sahel waved to Falkshair. He rose and said good bye to everybody. When they both moved along, Sahel kept his right hand in his trouser, his fingers on the trigger of the pistol. He did not think that Falkshair would break and run but he knew some of the other inhabitant might be watching with their enigmatic intentions.
Sahel drove around two kilometres well out of sight of the village, before he stopped the car and cuffed Falkshair again. They were out on the highway driving fast when he spoke again.
“Whatever Razmak’s mission,” Sahel asked, “it can’t be good for the country.”
“How could it be worse?” Falkshair laughed.
“We are all fighting against the enemies of our country after all.” Sahel provoked Falkshair.
“But he wants to do something in his own way,” Falkshair seemed optimistic.
“Do you think your Razmak Bilal is going to do something for the sake of the country,” Sahel said.
“He is no longer my Razmak Bilal,” said Falkshair. It was clearly a decision he had made in solitary, though perhaps his mother’s tears had allowed him to voice it.
Sahel told Falkshair nearly everything without revealing the operational details. Falkshair listened, his eyes glittering, for some of the details were familiar. He had helped plant many of Razmak’s sleepers in various parts of the country. And although he was not privy to all the details or the final objective of any of Razmak’s future missions, he could join together parts of the puzzle.
“I can help you, but what assurance do I have?” Falkshair asked.
“You only have my word.” Sahel shrugged.
“As a Pakistani Soldier.”
“You know it; I have the credibility to say that.” Sahel smiled.
“What’s your name?”
Instinctively Sahel thought for a lie, a cover name. It was automatic the cornerstone of an agent’s training. He recalled the voice of his first instructor, yet against all the rules without a clue to why, he responded like a simple human being.
“Sahel Farhaj,” he said.
“Tell me, do you have a wife?”
“Yes.” Amber’s face appeared in his eyes.
“And do you have a child?”
“We are expecting soon,” Sahel’s eyes somewhat shined.
“That would be a son,” Falkshair smilingly predicted. “And swear on the life of your son.”
Sahel hesitated for a while. Now they were past it all, far from the game of wits and battles, treachery and vengeance. They were no longer blood enemies trying to help one another.
“If I live, said Sahel, “I swear on the life of my son that I’ll get your sentence commuted.”
“I’ll help you whatever you need from me,” said Falkshair. “But one thing more I could give you now.
“Some of my man had earlier told me that Razmak had some mission yet to accomplish code name Ace of Spade. I don’t know the exact details of Ace of Spade yet it’s some sort of assassination of someone big.” He leaned back in his seat as he watched the city of power and rule appear before his eyes leaving Sahel with a shocking breakthrough.