Dec 01, 2023
Dec 01, 2023
The Sentimental Terrorist - 13
Mohsin, TV Hill
Shamsuddin and I continued to meet in the evenings now and again at the Chai Khana. The bolani-eating sessions became like a small ritual with us. We drank the tea in our own private mugs. I brought the bin Laden mug gifted to me by the mullah in a small cloth satchel, and Shamsuddin too brought his own mug. Unlike mine, it didn’t have any disappearing images; there was a night-time view of the holy city of Mecca. It was symbolic. He liked to think of himself as a spiritual leader and me as a soldier for Islam.
‘I have great confidence in you, Mohsin,’ Shamsuddin said, during one such sitting.
‘Why do you say that?’
‘Some of my soldiers, I worry about them. Many suicide bombers for instance start to have second thoughts just before embarking on their mission – and even during the course of the mission.’
‘You mean they lose their nerve?’
‘Either that,’ the mullah said, ‘or they are so worried that they might fail that they explode themselves before time or in the wrong place.’
‘And how are you so sure, Mullah sahib that this will not happen with me?’
‘For one thing, you are not an ordinary suicide bomber. You are a fighter. A Pashtun warrior. And you are going to launch an attack on the enemy. I can see the determination in your eyes, my son. And I even feel that you are so firm, so determined and so capable that you should be kept for some bigger assignment.’
‘A bigger assignment?’
‘You know – like what happened in September so many years ago.’
‘No, Mullah sahib,’ I said. ‘I just want to get even with those who killed my beloved sister.’
‘Inshallah,’ he said. ‘You, of all my soldiers, shall have just revenge and also not be robbed of the prize of Jannat.’
I understood what Shamsuddin meant when he spoke of suicide bombers losing their nerve. A few weeks before my own mission in Kabul I had watched the mullah indoctrinate and prepare Aftab for a suicide assignment. Aftab was one of the regular attendees at the prayers and part of the ‘inner circle’.
A VIP, a Canadian minister, was supposed to driving past a certain crossing at nine in the morning. Aftab said his morning prayers in the mosque – we were all there at the time – put on his suicide vest and with the mullah’s blessing set off for his destination.
Aftab had been provided with the colour and make of the transporting vehicle, even the number-plate and a description of the target, who would be seated inside. He was asked to exercise his judgement if there seemed to be some last-minute replacement.
On the way to his destination – it was a short walk from where he’d been dropped off by Majid, who drove a taxi – he found military vehicles patrolling the area, stopping cars and searching them for fear of a car bomber crashing into the VIP’s vehicle, and Aftab, poor Aftab, lost his nerve. And what the stupid man did next was worse than terrible. He exploded himself in a crowded market nearby, killing scores of innocent people.
* * *
Two days later, the mullah pulled me into a room near the prayer hall.
‘I have news for you, Mohsin,’ he said, ‘and you can listen to it before you go to say your prayers. Perhaps you will want to say a prayer for your mission, which is not far from now.’ He paused dramatically. ‘I have found out the identity and whereabouts of the person responsible for the death of your family members.’
I had longed for this to happen, but didn’t have any way of knowing who was to blame. And now the mullah was giving everything to me on a platter. I could have hugged him with gratitude.
‘Do you mean the aeroplane pilots who bombed the wedding?’ I stared at him.
‘Not the bombers, son. They were acting upon someone else’s instructions. I’m speaking of the man who issued advice that the bombing should take place. The helicopter pilot. He is the one to be blamed, don’t you agree?’
‘Of course.’ My head was pounding with emotion.
‘He is holed up in a guesthouse in Kabul,’ he said.
‘Who is the person responsible? Does he have a name? Do we know his name?’
I could see that Shamsuddin was getting bothered by my questioning but he was trying to exercise patience.
‘We have a description,’ he said. ‘Wait a minute.’
He went inside another room inside the masjid where he kept his papers and came out shortly, clutching a piece of paper.
‘I have the name,’ he said. ‘It is an Amrikan called . . . Kazim.’
‘Kazim?’ I asked, startled. ‘But that’s a Muslim name! Is he a Muslim?’
‘No, no, he is not Muslim. My English is not very good. Here, this is the name.’ He held out a slip of paper on which a name was written down.
Slowly I read the name of my enemy.
‘The paper is in front of you, and your English is better than mine,’ said the mullah.
‘How will I recognise him? Is there any way? There may not be time to ask him his name.’
‘Let me see.’ Shamsuddin consulted his notes. ‘Yes, we have some more information about him. This man dresses improperly.’
‘Yes, he wears shorts in the guesthouse where he lives. The place is centrally heated. And there is something more . . . He is fond of wearing clothes with naked women displayed on them.’
‘Really?’ Anger surged within me.
‘Additionally he wears a beard. A very small one, just a few hairs hanging below his chin. Not a proper man’s beard, like an Afghan’s.’ Shamsuddin stroked his own full beard.
‘A small beard, like a goat’s?’ I prompted.
‘Exactly,’ Shamsuddin laughed in amusement. ‘He has a goat’s beard, and that is how I want you to think of him. As a goat; a goat that needs to be slaughtered.’
I studied Shamsuddin’s face carefully for signs of deception. I couldn’t find any. He glanced back at me with a smile. He knew what I was looking for. He was in the clear. Now I was sure he wasn’t lying about this man, K-Jim Fellows. Somehow they’d found out who he was and where he lived.
‘You will not be alone in your mission, Mohsin,’ Shamsuddin said. ‘I have invited an important person to dinner at my house. He will help you. And you will also meet others who will work with you. I think you will not mind coming now.’
‘Not at all.’ I pressed the mullah’s hand warmly in gratitude.
More by : Rajesh Talwar