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As the saying goes, durr ke dhol suhaney (distant drumbeats sound melodious). In the same sense, ideological propaganda is based on stories of far off, unseen lands where the great historic struggle for Sharia is being fought and the pangs of birth of a new egalitarian society is being heard. All the flowery adjectives are heaped on the struggle for new societies or great Arab springs and the jihad whether in Russia, Algeria, Palestine, Kashmir, Philippines, Chechniya or Afghanistan. It was only later that we realised the failings, human suffering, rapes and mass killings from these far off mystic lands that woke us up from dreaming of revolutions in our own country.
The misery of the Rohingyas, Chechens is highlighted to inspire people for an Islamic revolution in Pakistan. The workings of our jihadis in Pakistan is least inspiring, and evokes only disgust looking at the butchering of soldiers, attack on mosques and school girls, blowing up of school buildings and sufi shrines, suicide attacks in busy bazaars, and the Shia killings. It is only the fables of distant lands that can inspire the general public about blessed revolutions. The Taliban’s rise to power is also attributed to lawlessness, brutality, corruption and the moral degradation of mujahideen commanders. The rape of two Kandhari girls and the marriage of a local commander with a boy are quoted as the reason for the birth of the Taliban. The myth of a peaceful and sovereign Afghanistan under the Taliban never mentioned the mass killings of Hazaras, Heratis and the destruction of the remaining 75 per cent of Afghanistan that was left by the Russians.
During the Afghan jihad of the 80s, the only news available to Pakistanis was either from the mouth of Azhar Lodhi at 9 ‘clock Khabarnama or the newspapers that were cleared by the Press Information Department. The aura of the Afghan Mujahideen was deliberately built as Allama Iqbal’s purisrar banday and ghazis. The holy warriors who are fighting the soviets military war machine only with their courage, bravery and old Enfield rifles (momin hai toh betaigh bhi larta hai sipahi) and 95 per cent of Afghan territory was under their control (sounds familiar). But evil is the design of fate as I had a brush with two commanders who were contrary to the description of what was instilled in the youth of Pakistan.
I was in the National college of Arts in Lahore when major students strike against a vigilante group gripped the college. The scheme was to merge NCA with Punjab University. Students who were against the merger were attacked and quite a few of them were injured very badly. The students knew what would be the fate of college once it became a department of PU during the height of Zia’s marshal law. It was probably the only successful student strike that forced Zia to accept the demand of NCA as a separate mini university. The students were very suspicious of the activities of the group. One day a shady looking character was seen in our hostel, who was staying with my friend (lets call him Irfan) whom I knew before college and was a member of the student forum during the strike.
The suspicious character was a mujahideen commander who didn’t come out during the day and was seen going out only at night. He reappeared after a month and was again staying at the hostel with my friend. I confronted my friend and asked him who he was and what he was doing here. Irfan told me that he was his friend and an Afghan commander and would leave in a few days. Sometime later, when we were sitting in a relaxed mood, and he told me, Yaara! He is not a mujahid, he is an Afghan and joins one of seven mujahideen groups based in Peshawar, crosses over to Afghanistan, comes back to Pakistan from Quetta, sells his Kalashnikov and goes to Karachi, enjoys himself in the red light of Karachi, and then comes back to Lahore on his way to Peshawar. I was a bit taken aback and the myth of ghazis and purisrar banday came crashing down, never to be repaired.
A few years later, my brother was getting married in Peshawar, and my younger brother who was had friends all over Peshawar wanted to celebrate this first wedding in family with style. He arranged a few dancers from Lahore for a mujra night. That was quite a tricky thing as it is not the mujra but the attendants who get rowdy and need to be controlled. Two maternal cousins, Lala and major sahib, who roamed about with body guards were given the duty to police the event. The bearded bodyguard of major sahib was showering notes on the dancer. After some small fights, the mujra concluded peacefully and I was asked to show the major and his bodyguards their rooms, biathaks (drawing rooms) borrowed from neighbours. I could only remember the ferocious and violent eyes of the bodyguard as he swayed back to his room. When I entered the room I saw empty bottles that explained his blood shot red eyes. He seemed a strange character, to be the bodyguard of major sahib but he acted as his friend and equal.
I asked my cousin Lala about major sahib’s bodyguard, and he told me that he is an Afghan commander. What! He was drunk like anything and was mostly in the centre dancing with the girls and then firing into the air. It turned out that he was close to Mullah Rocketi of Quetta. Mullah Rocketi earned this name because of his specialty in stinger missiles and selling them back to the Americans. He had links all over Pakistan from Quetta to Peshawar and had access to all places where he could find evidence of stinger missiles and then broker deals with the Americans.
When I asked my cousin what kind of mujahid commander is was. He laughed heartily and said, anyone can become a commander in Afghanistan. All he has to do is to arrange a few young men and some Kalashnikovs, dig in two spikes across the road, put a chain in between and start collecting taxes from passing vehicles. If you can arrange a few fellows and Kalashnikovs, viola! You too can become Commander Sabir Nazar!
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