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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Suggestions to the Indian Govt, recommending a new anti-terrorism policy

My Suggestions to the Indian Govt, recommending a new anti-terrorism policy:
1) Hang all terrorists currently on death row within the next three months and send a strong message to all terrorists. The Government would need considerable assistance from the President and the courts to achieve this deadline.
2) Frame a new tough anti-terror law after reaching a consensus between political parties, the judiciary and the civil society. Representatives of each of these sections must process the bill in a drafting committee before it goes to the standing committee of parliament at the preliminary stage.
3) The new law must be stringent and based on past or existing legislations that have worked before. It must also consider existing terror laws in US and other countries which have managed to curb terrorism to some extent in the past decade or so. The legislation must be drafted such that it is not maliciously misused by biased authorities against members of particular communities.
4) Death sentences must be liberally dished out to terrorists once it has been established that they have been involved in acts of terror. Existing laws must be amended to recommend the harshest possible punishment for those indulging in terrorist activities.
5) Strict action must also be taken on those who provide a support system for these terrorists. The authorities must act on those who provide shelter, finance and other kinds of assistance to these sadists.
6) India must halt all talks with Pakistan until we are satisfied that not a single entity in the Pakistani government, armed forces and intelligent services are involved in the promotion or support of India-centric terror.
7) India must expose Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in our country at various international forums, meetings and conventions especially at the United Nations.
8) The Govt must ban all communal political or social outfits which espouse violence against Indians based on their race, creed, caste or beliefs.
9) Police reforms and training is very essential in the fight against terror. Law enforcement agencies should be provided state-of-the-art weapons and gear to fight terrorists.
10) Citizens as individuals or in groups should assist law enforcement agents in the fight against terror in their individual capacity.
11) High rewards must be dished out to people who provide valuable information on terrorists. The reward scheme must be well publicized and commensurate with the kind of information given.
12) The NIA and RAW must be restructured and better organized to tackle the menace of terror. The new structure should be based on the Homeland Security of the US that has done a great job thus far. Terror-related information must be centralized and actionable inputs should be given as soon as possible to the various stakeholders like the state governments, local police, etc.
13) We should work with other governments and their law enforcement agencies in the fight against terror. Extradition treaties must be sought with almost every nation on this planet.
14) Our intelligence agencies must penetrate global terror networks with the aid of informants.
15) CCTVs and other anti-terror infrastructure should be available at strategic locations in major cities and towns. Each city should also have an NSG (commando) hub so that it can get speedy assistance in case of another 26/11 type of attack.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Indians in Pakistan - Now Available for the Kindle and Book Reading Apps (on PC, Tabs, laptops and smartphones)

Chutney Bhugti and the 5 Point Taliban

(Dedicated to all the classy CB Trolls and their pearls of wisdom(s))

Once upon a time there lived a best selling Baluchi writer, Chutney Bhugti, who enjoyed taking selfies with Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar of the Quetta Shura. Not joining his beloved Taliban (the Pakistani version of the Sangh Parivar) was one of the three biggest mistakes of Chutney Bhugti's life and he humbly considered himself as a five point somebody (on a scale of 100). He loved writing open letters to the likes of Bilawal Bhutto as closed letters were quite expensive. He grilled Biloo (a la mode d’Arnab Ghostswami) on heated TV debates and sarcastic news columns for being part of a corrupt legacy, his personal failings as a politician and of being a dynastic heir – but not for his lunatic rantings on Kashmir. However, Chutney Bhugti kept strangely quiet when it came to the corruption, violence and misdeeds of Nawaz Sharif and the Taliban, whom he clicked a lot of selfies with.

But Chutney Bhugti purported not to favour any political party and yet would still go on "chai pe charchas" and mutton biryani luncheons with Nawaz Sharif and his band of merry men. According to Chutney, Sharif knew exactly what young Pakistani wanted and he alone could help make Revolution 2021 happen.  CB wrote books on these themes and countless bus drivers, ragpickers and ward boys soon decided that these books were sent down from heaven. And the royalties kept pouring in like nobody's business, especially since the middle class soon realised that CB’s novels were more effective and less expensive than the best flyswatters in the market – of which CB happened to be a bigger expert than even the CAG & Finance Minister combined.

Chutney Bhugti once said in an interview: “I’m not a good writer, but a good selling one. Writing is the new caste system. People run away for miles when writers like me enter a room and the entire place gets deserted like my own Baluchi desert.  I have to write open letters to people as they wouldn’t bother to open my closed letters.  Then I manage fake FB polls which show that 49% of Pakistanis would vote for Nawaz Sharif and 50% for the Taliban and the remaining 1% for Imran Khan, PPP, etc.  My fake FB polls are free and fair (in your dreams!) Then my day begins with cheerleading for Nawaz Sharif and ends with eulogising the Taliban in a subtle sort of way. But I don’t actually support any of them since I am an impartial observer. However, the long-bearded one-eyed Mullahs, just like the pretty girls, are always right (or self-righteous).”

In another political commentary, after openly encouraging Nawaz Sharif to indulge in horse-trading (since cows were costly), CB claimed that it was better to be a deshdrohi than someone who littered. “Road Litter (not Twitter, stupid) trolls keep tossing garbage from the streets (not tweets) into my living room and creating a mess. I had invited my Indian butcher-cum chaiwalla friend, Modi aka Afzal Khan Aka Fekounter Sahib Aka Butterfly&MothsKaSaudagar to sweep my room with the golden broom gifted by his industrialist buddy & coastal landgrabber, Mukesh Adani – the same guy who closed a 100 Swiss banks accounts in twenty days during election time. Anyways, Modi laid 3 absurd conditions for sweeping my room: (1) It would only be a Photo-op session with no major sweeping activity actually getting done (2) Minimum 2 Pakistani celebrities should pose with Modi for selfies at my home (3) During the photo-op, Modi would recite cliche phrases like “May the Force be with you”, “I’m king of the world (from Titanic), and “Show me the (black) money, Ambani.” However, the Pakistani celebrities refused to pose with Modi on the grounds that he did not have influence with tax and administrative authorities there and it would be a total waste of their time.

The question now arises that why would a cold-blooded Baluchi like CB support a hawkish Punjabi politician like Sharif - and the answer was that his wife whom he had met at a top management institute at Lahore was a Punjabi and so Green (or Paki) Chutney was a supporter of not one but 2 States.  Besides, Green Chutney was an ardent fan of those who persecuted the weaker sections of society and loved to justify this persecution again under the pretence of being an impartial observer. And so this charade went on....

Then one night at a Taliban centre, CB bumped into Mullah Omar, the Half Blind chieftain. who angrily hurled abuse in Pashtun before saying something like "Deti hai todevarnakot le" or some gibberish. CB explains what followed: “I wanted to take a selfie and be best buddies with the angry Mullah Omar. He didn’t. He wanted to wrangle my neck, boil me in hot water and feed my corpse to tigers. I didn’t. I hoped it was just a dream. It wasn’t. Mullah Omar and I finally reached a compromise – we agreed to become Half Enemies.”

I have written so much about CB in this article that writing any more will be like shifting the goal post after the match is over – in the first place that’s impossible, and in the second, even if it were possible, it would be useless. But CB wouldn’t  have ended his article here. I will!

Chapter 1: Indians in Pakistan

We were not discernibly different from the other passengers on Flight PK-269. We spoke Urdu fluently just like most of them. We wore kurtas just like many of the other male passengers. There was nothing in our physical appearance that gave us away either. But we were different - we were Indians in Pakistan.

Irfan, my companion, was getting quite restless on the flight. He kept staring around at the other passengers in an extremely suspicious manner. I cursed my luck. The last person I wanted seated besides me right now was a jerk like Irfan. He kept having doubts, and I simply hated those who had doubts. We were doing this for our religion - and for the whole of mankind. When the whole world looked through our eyes then there would be nothing but peace. But till such time, there had to be some violence.


It was early March. It had been nearly a week since we left our homes in Lucknow for this jihadi mission. We had sneaked across the border into Nepal before boarding the PIA flight from Kathmandu to Karachi. The exact details of our mission had not yet been revealed to us, but we were confident that before the training got over they would give us a detailed briefing on what we were supposed to do.

‘Take it easy,’ I told my companion curtly.
‘We should never have left India, Zameer,’ Irfan complained. ‘Our jihad could have been waged over there itself without coming to Pakistan.’
‘Shhh,’ I whispered to the stupid fellow. ‘Be careful of what you speak. And talk softly, you fool.’
‘I’m sorry,’ replied Irfan, ‘but ever since we left Lucknow I’m feeling quite uneasy.’
‘We will also feel like this sometimes, you fool,’ I scolded him in an undertone. ‘This is our mission in life. This is what we do. We’re doing it for our God and for our religion. Just stay focused on the mission.’

There was a long period of silence as Irfan pondered over what I had just told him. I was angry at his stupidity, but I, too, lost focus for a while. My mind strayed back to the distant past. There was my mother asking me whether I hobnobbed with the gun-wielding militants in our area. I remember denying vehemently and stating that it was not the case. I had told her, rather untruthfully, that my friends were religious people who did not believe in violence. Then I remembered leaving home forever in a huff after a quarrel with my older brother over Kashmir. He had the temerity to insist that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Had he not been my brother and the head of my family at the time, I would surely have killed him on the spot. I hadn’t heard from my family since that day more than a decade ago.

But I had no regrets. When we fight for the glory of Islam, we need to forget our families and friends. We need to leave them behind and see the vision of the future - a world in which Islam reigns supreme over all religions and even over such evil doctrines as communism. Towards this end, we need to focus our thoughts and actions.


Irfan looked at me again. His manner was abrupt and nervous. Evidently, he had lost focus a long time ago. I wished there was some way I could keep him focused on our goals and ambitions. This reluctant rebel was straying away from us at a rapid pace.

‘How long is this flight taking, Zameer?’ he grumbled.
‘It’s not been that long since we left Kathmandu,’ I retorted. ‘It should land in an hour.’
‘Good,’ he remarked. ‘I just can’t wait to get off this plane, although I’m not too keen on stepping on Pakistani soil either.’
‘You should have stayed back home,’ I whispered, angrily. ‘Why did you come here anyway?’
‘Haroon threatened to wipe off my entire family if I didn’t volunteer for this mission.’

That’s what I didn’t like about some of these people. They forced and coerced reluctant Muslims like Irfan to join our cause. What was the use of all their actions if it didn’t come from the heart?

Haroon Rashid was a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander, covertly living in India. He had formed numerous sleeper cells of local extremists ready to perpetrate acts of violence all over the country. These sleeper cells were randomly activated at regular intervals to unleash a spate of violence whenever the Pakistani bosses gave the orders. Rashid was in charge of LeT’s operations in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Since Irfan and I belonged to that state, Rashid was the one who had approached us for this mission.

Meanwhile, Irfan became quieter as he seemed to be mulling over the pros and cons of our mission. The other passengers on the flight were oblivious to our presence. We maintained this low profile until the plane landed at Karachi Airport. Irfan and I got off along with the other passengers.

At last, we were on Pakistani soil. Honestly, I was quite thrilled to set foot on Pakistani soil. Pakistan is revered by jihadis in much the same way as America is revered by capitalists. It was indeed a dream come true for me.

Irfan, on the other hand, walked cautiously on the ground at the airport as if it were heavily mined. There was one thing I could bet my entire life on. I was absolutely certain that that jerk would never kiss the soil in reverence.

At length, we approached a small group of men standing at the exit. One of them held a placard bearing our names. We simply nodded our heads to signal our arrival. They crowded around us.

‘Welcome to Karachi,’ said a burly man. ‘I’m Lieutenant Ashraf. I will be in charge of you during your stay here. You will do what I tell you - nothing more, nothing less. If you go against my command then God alone can help you.’

‘Hi, I’m Zameer Khan,’ I introduced myself nonchalantly. ‘This is my colleague, Irfan Ahmed.’
‘Assalamu Alaykum,’ greeted Irfan, in a subdued tone.
‘I’m Commander Inzamam of the ISI,’ a tall bearded man told us. ‘I will be coordinating with the head of this entire mission. This is him.’

Commander Inzamam’s finger pointed towards a man of short stature. His round head was completely bald but it still gave him a somewhat imposing appearance. There was a distinct coldness in his eyes that seemed to be an outpouring of the coldness in his soul. I shivered a bit. Yes, I had been trained to be cold and heartless by the local jihadi group in Lucknow, but this short man succeeded in giving me the creeps as well. He introduced himself as Commander Abu Hamza of the LeT.

After the introductions had been completed, the group split into different teams. Each team left the airport in a separate vehicle. There were four of us seated in the old jeep. Lieutenant Ashraf sat besides the chauffeur while I joined Irfan at the rear. There was utter silence for a while as the jeep sped past urban structures and headed towards a range of hills on the outskirts of the city.

My mind strayed once again to the past. This time it went further back to the riots that had erupted after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I was only twelve years at the time, but I can still remember it all so vividly. My father had come to reach me to school that day. They told us that my school had been prematurely closed for the day due to the horrendous rioting that was taking place in the city. So, we turned back and headed towards our home. Suddenly, an unruly mob of rioters emerged from nowhere and charged towards us in a state of frenzy. Those crazy men were equipped with sticks and swords. They attacked my poor father, who fell helplessly to the ground. I was terrified and speechless. They walked away quietly without a sign of remorse in their cruel eyes.

I turned around hopelessly. The sight of blood streaming from my father’s mutilated body was simply horrific. I wept bitterly. My father had been such a good and pious man. All of us loved him a lot. It took me a really long time to get over the trauma of this cold-blooded murder.

Soon everybody knew me as the kid who was thirsting for revenge. It showed on my face and in my walk. I hoped and prayed for the opportunity to avenge the murder of my father. When I was just about sixteen years old, a group of fundamentalists convinced me to join their cause. They convinced me that jihad was the only way to find the peace which I was so desperately searching for. I had to join them and fight for the greater glory of Islam. Yes, that’s how I became a terrorist. Of all the militants who choose the path of violence, there are a few like me who are virtually driven to it.

All this simply shows us that communalism and terrorism are nothing but opposite sides of the same coin. They keep feeding on each other in a vicious cycle, resulting in a society full of violence, hatred, sorrow and intolerance. Every communal act is used as a justification for mindless acts of terrorism. Similarly, each act of terrorism is used as a justification for such horrible atrocities like genocide and ethnic cleansing. And, it is always the innocent people who get killed. This is the sad truth. Unfortunately, many of us realize this truth when it is too late. Some of us never do. Luckily, I realised it before the end.

The long spell of silence was finally broken by the burly lieutenant. His voice was loud and commanding.
‘Remember this. Whatever you see or do here should not be disclosed to anyone outside the camp. It is strictly confidential. If you reveal anything, you could jeopardize our cause and the whole jihad could be lost. Is that clear?’
‘Yes, sir,’ we declared in unison.
‘And remember not to mingle with each other as well,’ the lieutenant went on. ‘Just cooperate as much as possible with each other, but don’t interact with the other jihadis. This is not a place for socializing. If you want to socialize, I’ll stop the jeep right now and you can get off if you wish. Does anyone want to get off now? No, good! Remember this as well. In this camp, you will have to be serious and pious. You will have to offer namaz daily. Remember we are doing all this for our religion. The rest I will tell you when we reach our destination.’

Once again there was a long period of silence. I was quite happy that Irfan was not that irritating any more. I hoped for his sake that he was once again the master of his life. We did not need puppets to fight in the jihad. We needed men who would put their whole heart and soul into it. We needed men who were willing to make all kinds of sacrifices for the greater glory of Islam. We needed men who would even make the ultimate sacrifice for this noblest of causes. So many martyrs have laid down their lives in this global jihad in the hope that our cause will prevail. We were determined to overcome the forces of evil existing in this world.

The vehicle moved quickly on the dusty tar road. It moved westwards and I presumed that we were somewhere near the Baluchistan border. I had done a lot of research before sneaking into Nepal for this mission. I had gone through the detailed maps of our subcontinent. The other jihadis living with me in the Lucknow apartment had supplied valuable information on the geography and history of Pakistan and India. Of course, the historical versions fed to me were not that accurate. They never are!

Ali who had once trained in the famous Muridke camp gave me a thorough briefing on what to expect after I had landed in Karachi. It was Ali himself who had introduced me to Haroon Rashid after learning about the tragedy that had befallen me. Till then I had been a radical jihadi without a mission, a rebel without a clearly defined cause.

Meanwhile, the colour of the sky turned to a pale orange as the sun began to set. But the light was still good, and the chauffeur manoeuvred the jeep skilfully on the winding road. He was not a regular Lashkar operative like us but a member of the large support team that had been specially recruited for this camp.

Soon we reached a desolate hilly area that reminded me a lot of the Himalayan foothills in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, the entire terrain had reminded me of India. But I was in Pakistan and there was no remorse at all in my heart for what I intended to do. I was just paying them back in their own currency, the currency of blood.

‘We are approaching the camp,’ Lieutenant Ashraf told us in 
We were not discernibly different from the other passengers on Flight PK-269. We spoke Urdu fluently just like most of them. We wore kurtas just like many of the other male passengers. There was nothing in our physical appearance that gave us away either. But we were different - we were Indians in Pakistan.

Irfan, my companion, was getting quite restless on the flight. He kept staring around at the other passengers in an extremely suspicious manner. I cursed my luck. The last person I wanted seated besides me right now was a jerk like Irfan. He kept having doubts, and I simply hated those who had doubts. We were doing this for our religion - and for the whole of mankind. When the whole world looked through our eyes then there would be nothing but peace. But till such time, there had to be some violence.



It was early March. It had been nearly a week since we left our homes in Lucknow for this jihadi mission. We had sneaked across the border into Nepal before boarding the PIA flight from Kathmandu to Karachi. The exact details of our mission had not yet been revealed to us, but we were confident that before the training got over they would give us a detailed briefing on what we were supposed to do.

‘Take it easy,’ I told my companion curtly.
‘We should never have left India, Zameer,’ Irfan complained. ‘Our jihad could have been waged over there itself without coming to Pakistan.’
‘Shhh,’ I whispered to the stupid fellow. ‘Be careful of what you speak. And talk softly, you fool.’
‘I’m sorry,’ replied Irfan, ‘but ever since we left Lucknow I’m feeling quite uneasy.’
‘We will also feel like this sometimes, you fool,’ I scolded him in an undertone. ‘This is our mission in life. This is what we do. We’re doing it for our God and for our religion. Just stay focused on the mission.’

There was a long period of silence as Irfan pondered over what I had just told him. I was angry at his stupidity, but I, too, lost focus for a while. My mind strayed back to the distant past. There was my mother asking me whether I hobnobbed with the gun-wielding militants in our area. I remember denying vehemently and stating that it was not the case. I had told her, rather untruthfully, that my friends were religious people who did not believe in violence. Then I remembered leaving home forever in a huff after a quarrel with my older brother over Kashmir. He had the temerity to insist that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Had he not been my brother and the head of my family at the time, I would surely have killed him on the spot. I hadn’t heard from my family since that day more than a decade ago.

But I had no regrets. When we fight for the glory of Islam, we need to forget our families and friends. We need to leave them behind and see the vision of the future - a world in which Islam reigns supreme over all religions and even over such evil doctrines as communism. Towards this end, we need to focus our thoughts and actions.


Irfan looked at me again. His manner was abrupt and nervous. Evidently, he had lost focus a long time ago. I wished there was some way I could keep him focused on our goals and ambitions. This reluctant rebel was straying away from us at a rapid pace.

‘How long is this flight taking, Zameer?’ he grumbled.
‘It’s not been that long since we left Kathmandu,’ I retorted. ‘It should land in an hour.’
‘Good,’ he remarked. ‘I just can’t wait to get off this plane, although I’m not too keen on stepping on Pakistani soil either.’
‘You should have stayed back home,’ I whispered, angrily. ‘Why did you come here anyway?’
‘Haroon threatened to wipe off my entire family if I didn’t volunteer for this mission.’

That’s what I didn’t like about some of these people. They forced and coerced reluctant Muslims like Irfan to join our cause. What was the use of all their actions if it didn’t come from the heart?

Haroon Rashid was a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander, covertly living in India. He had formed numerous sleeper cells of local extremists ready to perpetrate acts of violence all over the country. These sleeper cells were randomly activated at regular intervals to unleash a spate of violence whenever the Pakistani bosses gave the orders. Rashid was in charge of LeT’s operations in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Since Irfan and I belonged to that state, Rashid was the one who had approached us for this mission.

Meanwhile, Irfan became quieter as he seemed to be mulling over the pros and cons of our mission. The other passengers on the flight were oblivious to our presence. We maintained this low profile until the plane landed at Karachi Airport. Irfan and I got off along with the other passengers.

At last, we were on Pakistani soil. Honestly, I was quite thrilled to set foot on Pakistani soil. Pakistan is revered by jihadis in much the same way as America is revered by capitalists. It was indeed a dream come true for me.

Irfan, on the other hand, walked cautiously on the ground at the airport as if it were heavily mined. There was one thing I could bet my entire life on. I was absolutely certain that that jerk would never kiss the soil in reverence.

At length, we approached a small group of men standing at the exit. One of them held a placard bearing our names. We simply nodded our heads to signal our arrival. They crowded around us.

‘Welcome to Karachi,’ said a burly man. ‘I’m Lieutenant Ashraf. I will be in charge of you during your stay here. You will do what I tell you - nothing more, nothing less. If you go against my command then God alone can help you.’

‘Hi, I’m Zameer Khan,’ I introduced myself nonchalantly. ‘This is my colleague, Irfan Ahmed.’
‘Assalamu Alaykum,’ greeted Irfan, in a subdued tone.
‘I’m Commander Inzamam of the ISI,’ a tall bearded man told us. ‘I will be coordinating with the head of this entire mission. This is him.’

Commander Inzamam’s finger pointed towards a man of short stature. His round head was completely bald but it still gave him a somewhat imposing appearance. There was a distinct coldness in his eyes that seemed to be an outpouring of the coldness in his soul. I shivered a bit. Yes, I had been trained to be cold and heartless by the local jihadi group in Lucknow, but this short man succeeded in giving me the creeps as well. He introduced himself as Commander Abu Hamza of the LeT.

After the introductions had been completed, the group split into different teams. Each team left the airport in a separate vehicle. There were four of us seated in the old jeep. Lieutenant Ashraf sat besides the chauffeur while I joined Irfan at the rear. There was utter silence for a while as the jeep sped past urban structures and headed towards a range of hills on the outskirts of the city.

My mind strayed once again to the past. This time it went further back to the riots that had erupted after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I was only twelve years at the time, but I can still remember it all so vividly. My father had come to reach me to school that day. They told us that my school had been prematurely closed for the day due to the horrendous rioting that was taking place in the city. So, we turned back and headed towards our home. Suddenly, an unruly mob of rioters emerged from nowhere and charged towards us in a state of frenzy. Those crazy men were equipped with sticks and swords. They attacked my poor father, who fell helplessly to the ground. I was terrified and speechless. They walked away quietly without a sign of remorse in their cruel eyes.

I turned around hopelessly. The sight of blood streaming from my father’s mutilated body was simply horrific. I wept bitterly. My father had been such a good and pious man. All of us loved him a lot. It took me a really long time to get over the trauma of this cold-blooded murder.

Soon everybody knew me as the kid who was thirsting for revenge. It showed on my face and in my walk. I hoped and prayed for the opportunity to avenge the murder of my father. When I was just about sixteen years old, a group of fundamentalists convinced me to join their cause. They convinced me that jihad was the only way to find the peace which I was so desperately searching for. I had to join them and fight for the greater glory of Islam. Yes, that’s how I became a terrorist. Of all the militants who choose the path of violence, there are a few like me who are virtually driven to it.

All this simply shows us that communalism and terrorism are nothing but opposite sides of the same coin. They keep feeding on each other in a vicious cycle, resulting in a society full of violence, hatred, sorrow and intolerance. Every communal act is used as a justification for mindless acts of terrorism. Similarly, each act of terrorism is used as a justification for such horrible atrocities like genocide and ethnic cleansing. And, it is always the innocent people who get killed. This is the sad truth. Unfortunately, many of us realize this truth when it is too late. Some of us never do. Luckily, I realised it before the end.

The long spell of silence was finally broken by the burly lieutenant. His voice was loud and commanding.
‘Remember this. Whatever you see or do here should not be disclosed to anyone outside the camp. It is strictly confidential. If you reveal anything, you could jeopardize our cause and the whole jihad could be lost. Is that clear?’
‘Yes, sir,’ we declared in unison.
‘And remember not to mingle with each other as well,’ the lieutenant went on. ‘Just cooperate as much as possible with each other, but don’t interact with the other jihadis. This is not a place for socializing. If you want to socialize, I’ll stop the jeep right now and you can get off if you wish. Does anyone want to get off now? No, good! Remember this as well. In this camp, you will have to be serious and pious. You will have to offer namaz daily. Remember we are doing all this for our religion. The rest I will tell you when we reach our destination.’

Once again there was a long period of silence. I was quite happy that Irfan was not that irritating any more. I hoped for his sake that he was once again the master of his life. We did not need puppets to fight in the jihad. We needed men who would put their whole heart and soul into it. We needed men who were willing to make all kinds of sacrifices for the greater glory of Islam. We needed men who would even make the ultimate sacrifice for this noblest of causes. So many martyrs have laid down their lives in this global jihad in the hope that our cause will prevail. We were determined to overcome the forces of evil existing in this world.

The vehicle moved quickly on the dusty tar road. It moved westwards and I presumed that we were somewhere near the Baluchistan border. I had done a lot of research before sneaking into Nepal for this mission. I had gone through the detailed maps of our subcontinent. The other jihadis living with me in the Lucknow apartment had supplied valuable information on the geography and history of Pakistan and India. Of course, the historical versions fed to me were not that accurate. They never are!

Ali who had once trained in the famous Muridke camp gave me a thorough briefing on what to expect after I had landed in Karachi. It was Ali himself who had introduced me to Haroon Rashid after learning about the tragedy that had befallen me. Till then I had been a radical jihadi without a mission, a rebel without a clearly defined cause.

Meanwhile, the colour of the sky turned to a pale orange as the sun began to set. But the light was still good, and the chauffeur manoeuvred the jeep skilfully on the winding road. He was not a regular Lashkar operative like us but a member of the large support team that had been specially recruited for this camp.

Soon we reached a desolate hilly area that reminded me a lot of the Himalayan foothills in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, the entire terrain had reminded me of India. But I was in Pakistan and there was no remorse at all in my heart for what I intended to do. I was just paying them back in their own currency, the currency of blood.

‘We are approaching the camp,’ Lieutenant Ashraf to
We were not discernibly different from the other passengers on Flight PK-269. We spoke Urdu fluently just like most of them. We wore kurtas just like many of the other male passengers. There was nothing in our physical appearance that gave us away either. But we were different - we were Indians in Pakistan.

Irfan, my companion, was getting quite restless on the flight. He kept staring around at the other passengers in an extremely suspicious manner. I cursed my luck. The last person I wanted seated besides me right now was a jerk like Irfan. He kept having doubts, and I simply hated those who had doubts. We were doing this for our religion - and for the whole of mankind. When the whole world looked through our eyes then there would be nothing but peace. But till such time, there had to be some violence.


It was early March. It had been nearly a week since we left our homes in Lucknow for this jihadi mission. We had sneaked across the border into Nepal before boarding the PIA flight from Kathmandu to Karachi. The exact details of our mission had not yet been revealed to us, but we were confident that before the training got over they would give us a detailed briefing on what we were supposed to do.

‘Take it easy,’ I told my companion curtly.
‘We should never have left India, Zameer,’ Irfan complained. ‘Our jihad could have been waged over there itself without coming to Pakistan.’
‘Shhh,’ I whispered to the stupid fellow. ‘Be careful of what you speak. And talk softly, you fool.’
‘I’m sorry,’ replied Irfan, ‘but ever since we left Lucknow I’m feeling quite uneasy.’
‘We will also feel like this sometimes, you fool,’ I scolded him in an undertone. ‘This is our mission in life. This is what we do. We’re doing it for our God and for our religion. Just stay focused on the mission.’

There was a long period of silence as Irfan pondered over what I had just told him. I was angry at his stupidity, but I, too, lost focus for a while. My mind strayed back to the distant past. There was my mother asking me whether I hobnobbed with the gun-wielding militants in our area. I remember denying vehemently and stating that it was not the case. I had told her, rather untruthfully, that my friends were religious people who did not believe in violence. Then I remembered leaving home forever in a huff after a quarrel with my older brother over Kashmir. He had the temerity to insist that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Had he not been my brother and the head of my family at the time, I would surely have killed him on the spot. I hadn’t heard from my family since that day more than a decade ago.

But I had no regrets. When we fight for the glory of Islam, we need to forget our families and friends. We need to leave them behind and see the vision of the future - a world in which Islam reigns supreme over all religions and even over such evil doctrines as communism. Towards this end, we need to focus our thoughts and actions.

Irfan looked at me again. His manner was abrupt and nervous. Evidently, he had lost focus a long time ago. I wished there was some way I could keep him focused on our goals and ambitions. This reluctant rebel was straying away from us at a rapid pace.

‘How long is this flight taking, Zameer?’ he grumbled.
‘It’s not been that long since we left Kathmandu,’ I retorted. ‘It should land in an hour.’
‘Good,’ he remarked. ‘I just can’t wait to get off this plane, although I’m not too keen on stepping on Pakistani soil either.’
‘You should have stayed back home,’ I whispered, angrily. ‘Why did you come here anyway?’
‘Haroon threatened to wipe off my entire family if I didn’t volunteer for this mission.’

That’s what I didn’t like about some of these people. They forced and coerced reluctant Muslims like Irfan to join our cause. What was the use of all their actions if it didn’t come from the heart?

Haroon Rashid was a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander, covertly living in India. He had formed numerous sleeper cells of local extremists ready to perpetrate acts of violence all over the country. These sleeper cells were randomly activated at regular intervals to unleash a spate of violence whenever the Pakistani bosses gave the orders. Rashid was in charge of LeT’s operations in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Since Irfan and I belonged to that state, Rashid was the one who had approached us for this mission.

Meanwhile, Irfan became quieter as he seemed to be mulling over the pros and cons of our mission. The other passengers on the flight were oblivious to our presence. We maintained this low profile until the plane landed at Karachi Airport. Irfan and I got off along with the other passengers.

At last, we were on Pakistani soil. Honestly, I was quite thrilled to set foot on Pakistani soil. Pakistan is revered by jihadis in much the same way as America is revered by capitalists. It was indeed a dream come true for me.

Irfan, on the other hand, walked cautiously on the ground at the airport as if it were heavily mined. There was one thing I could bet my entire life on. I was absolutely certain that that jerk would never kiss the soil in reverence.

At length, we approached a small group of men standing at the exit. One of them held a placard bearing our names. We simply nodded our heads to signal our arrival. They crowded around us.

‘Welcome to Karachi,’ said a burly man. ‘I’m Lieutenant Ashraf. I will be in charge of you during your stay here. You will do what I tell you - nothing more, nothing less. If you go against my command then God alone can help you.’

‘Hi, I’m Zameer Khan,’ I introduced myself nonchalantly. ‘This is my colleague, Irfan Ahmed.’
‘Assalamu Alaykum,’ greeted Irfan, in a subdued tone.
‘I’m Commander Inzamam of the ISI,’ a tall bearded man told us. ‘I will be coordinating with the head of this entire mission. This is him.’

Commander Inzamam’s finger pointed towards a man of short stature. His round head was completely bald but it still gave him a somewhat imposing appearance. There was a distinct coldness in his eyes that seemed to be an outpouring of the coldness in his soul. I shivered a bit. Yes, I had been trained to be cold and heartless by the local jihadi group in Lucknow, but this short man succeeded in giving me the creeps as well. He introduced himself as Commander Abu Hamza of the LeT.

After the introductions had been completed, the group split into different teams. Each team left the airport in a separate vehicle. There were four of us seated in the old jeep. Lieutenant Ashraf sat besides the chauffeur while I joined Irfan at the rear. There was utter silence for a while as the jeep sped past urban structures and headed towards a range of hills on the outskirts of the city.

My mind strayed once again to the past. This time it went further back to the riots that had erupted after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I was only twelve years at the time, but I can still remember it all so vividly. My father had come to reach me to school that day. They told us that my school had been prematurely closed for the day due to the horrendous rioting that was taking place in the city. So, we turned back and headed towards our home. Suddenly, an unruly mob of rioters emerged from nowhere and charged towards us in a state of frenzy. Those crazy men were equipped with sticks and swords. They attacked my poor father, who fell helplessly to the ground. I was terrified and speechless. They walked away quietly without a sign of remorse in their cruel eyes.

I turned around hopelessly. The sight of blood streaming from my father’s mutilated body was simply horrific. I wept bitterly. My father had been such a good and pious man. All of us loved him a lot. It took me a really long time to get over the trauma of this cold-blooded murder.

Soon everybody knew me as the kid who was thirsting for revenge. It showed on my face and in my walk. I hoped and prayed for the opportunity to avenge the murder of my father. When I was just about sixteen years old, a group of fundamentalists convinced me to join their cause. They convinced me that jihad was the only way to find the peace which I was so desperately searching for. I had to join them and fight for the greater glory of Islam. Yes, that’s how I became a terrorist. Of all the militants who choose the path of violence, there are a few like me who are virtually driven to it.

All this simply shows us that communalism and terrorism are nothing but opposite sides of the same coin. They keep feeding on each other in a vicious cycle, resulting in a society full of violence, hatred, sorrow and intolerance. Every communal act is used as a justification for mindless acts of terrorism. Similarly, each act of terrorism is used as a justification for such horrible atrocities like genocide and ethnic cleansing. And, it is always the innocent people who get killed. This is the sad truth. Unfortunately, many of us realize this truth when it is too late. Some of us never do. Luckily, I realised it before the end.

The long spell of silence was finally broken by the burly lieutenant. His voice was loud and commanding.
‘Remember this. Whatever you see or do here should not be disclosed to anyone outside the camp. It is strictly confidential. If you reveal anything, you could jeopardize our cause and the whole jihad could be lost. Is that clear?’
‘Yes, sir,’ we declared in unison.
‘And remember not to mingle with each other as well,’ the lieutenant went on. ‘Just cooperate as much as possible with each other, but don’t interact with the other jihadis. This is not a place for socializing. If you want to socialize, I’ll stop the jeep right now and you can get off if you wish. Does anyone want to get off now? No, good! Remember this as well. In this camp, you will have to be serious and pious. You will have to offer namaz daily. Remember we are doing all this for our religion. The rest I will tell you when we reach our destination.’

Once again there was a long period of silence. I was quite happy that Irfan was not that irritating any more. I hoped for his sake that he was once again the master of his life. We did not need puppets to fight in the jihad. We needed men who would put their whole heart and soul into it. We needed men who were willing to make all kinds of sacrifices for the greater glory of Islam. We needed men who would even make the ultimate sacrifice for this noblest of causes. So many martyrs have laid down their lives in this global jihad in the hope that our cause will prevail. We were determined to overcome the forces of evil existing in this world.

The vehicle moved quickly on the dusty tar road. It moved westwards and I presumed that we were somewhere near the Baluchistan border. I had done a lot of research before sneaking into Nepal for this mission. I had gone through the detailed maps of our subcontinent. The other jihadis living with me in the Lucknow apartment had supplied valuable information on the geography and history of Pakistan and India. Of course, the historical versions fed to me were not that accurate. They never are!

Ali who had once trained in the famous Muridke camp gave me a thorough briefing on what to expect after I had landed in Karachi. It was Ali himself who had introduced me to Haroon Rashid after learning about the tragedy that had befallen me. Till then I had been a radical jihadi without a mission, a rebel without a clearly defined cause.

Meanwhile, the colour of the sky turned to a pale orange as the sun began to set. But the light was still good, and the chauffeur manoeuvred the jeep skilfully on the winding road. He was not a regular Lashkar operative like us but a member of the large support team that had been specially recruited for this camp.

Soon we reached a desolate hilly area that reminded me a lot of the Himalayan foothills in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, the entire terrain had reminded me of India. But I was in Pakistan and there was no remorse at all in my heart for what I intended to do. I was just paying them back in their own currency, the currency of blood.

‘We are approaching the camp,’ Lieutenant Ashraf told us in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘Now relax and enjoy as much as you can. After we reach the camp, there will be no time for relaxation and enjoyment.’


Where Have All the Pigs and Cottages Gone?

“If you tossed a stone up in the air, it would fall down upon either a pig or a Pereira” was an old Bandra saying. In places like Chuim or Chimbai, the prevalent version ended with “a pig or a Fernandes.” Apparently, since there are hardly any pigs left in Bandra, the  Pereiras and Fernandes have eaten them all up. But there has been a steady decline in the number of Pereiras and Fernandes in this area as well, due to  such factors as migration, the high cost of real estate and the pressure tactics employed by unscrupulous builders. No longer do we see those beautiful cottages with their breath-taking gardens. Bandra has indeed changed a lot and mostly for the worse. 

We now live in a concrete jungle filled with malls, shopping centres, eateries and mobile stores. This concrete jungle bustles with humans but is devoid of humanity. It is a “might is right” world where kinfolk slap court cases on each other. This is a far cry from   the  Bandra  of  yore. It  is  as  if  when the old wells of Bandra were blocked, the old Bandra died and a new one, much adored by our modern teenagers and shopaholics, came into being. And  even   now   the   process   of   change  continues  as  talented  musicians  compete   with recorded music, top notch athletes  turn  into online gamers and face-to-face conversations are substituted with impersonal greetings on Facebook.

“Waterfield Road got its name from the water that collected on the paddy fields when we were school kids,” said Uncle Neville, who then provided me with a nostalgic image of the Bandra of yore. Yes, we need to lament the change that has happened to this queen of suburbs; but we also need to keep an eye on the future and somehow endeavour to cope with this change.

An Ode to a Lizard

O, pretty little lizard
Sitting on my wall,
Sometimes in my bedroom,
Sometimes in  my hall.

We don't require any pesticides
With you loitering about,
'Cause you kill all the cockroaches,
And make the ants move out.

People always admire cats and dogs
And neglect you the entire day,
But this doesn't bother you at all
As you crawl in search of prey.

My Take on the Facebook Like Button

Devastated that my friend did not "like" my Facebook post (while reading it right in front of me) and now realising that he was in the right; I, as someone who analyses the impact of social networking on modern civilisation (i.e. a social networking reformer - if it's a term) hereby recommend the replacement of the (vague) Like button on Facebook with the following three specific, relevant and user-friendly buttons:

1) Like - Because I Know You
2) Like - Because I actually like your post
3) Like - Because I expect you to like my future posts in return

Kindly share this so that the Facebook community is aware of this recommendation. BTW, I haven't thought about the Share button as yet!
(As posted by me on Facebook)

Rose Gardens and Minefields

Rose Gardens and Minefields, a  collection of my finest poems, short stories and essays was published last month. This book was published by Leadstart/Frogbooks. It's a must-read. It will entertain and enlighten you. It shreds the veil from the face of the Dark Age. No, I'm not referring to the past dark ages but the present one where people blindly follow dictators, tyrants, terrorists, other fools (politicians, religious nuts, etc), instincts, and the evil path. Yes, the earth has become more hellish than hell itself. We use our logic in a warped manner to justify horrendous acts of violence, genocide, murder, infanticide, etc and we think we are smart. For example, oh he's a poor farmer living below the poverty line...he had to kill his young daughter because he could n't afford her dowry. If you were in his place, you would understand....Understand, my foot. This is precisely the Dark Ages, I m talking about as there is a thick cloud of bigotry which distorts our thought processes. Our reasoning is more faulty than that of the cavemen who never tried to justify their acts of violence. They just called a spade a spade......That's all folks!!!

Mr Miranda's Review of my book, "Rose Gardens and Minefields"

I have been picking up and browsing, treading my way carefully through the minefields, yet taking time to smell the fragrance of the roses. I found it to be a delightful collection – a veritable ’bhel puri’, a combination of political, religious, moral values to satisfy all tastes and appetites. I was impressed by your reflections in the poems ‘Philosophy of life’, ’Pleasure’, ’Love’ ’Dreamer’, Thinking,’ and the touch of humour in, ’Trying to enter Heaven,’ and ‘The Husband’ and the note of sadness in ’Agony’ and ‘Night after Christmas’. The essays ’Sport in India’ gives a good insight into Indian sport and Indian sporting legends past and present. ’Tryst with Destiny’ gives a sweeping view of Indian history and the hopes and expectations of a nation while your ‘Mumbai for all’ reveals a true Maharashtrian-East Indian spirit and love for our culture and heritage….I could go on…however, I will conclude by saying that the book as you so well said in your introduction is a literary collection, a bhel puri to ponder, taste and enjoy.. 

(The Reviewer is an eminent East Indian and an expert on English literature). 

"Rose Gardens and Minefields" (published by Leadstart Publishing) is available at several bookstores in India and can be purchased at various online sites including amazon.com, Flipkart.com, simplybooks.co.in, rediffshopping, www.leadstartcorp.com, landmarkonthenet.com, indiaplaza.com

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmathon 2014: Modi Claus is Coming to Town....on an Adani Jet

You better watch out
For you will only cry
Better not smile,
I'm telling you why,
Modi Claus is coming to town!

He's making a fake encounter list
and checking it twice,
While CBI books online citizens
who were naughty not nice
Modi Claus will perform Ghar Vapsi in town!

Sahib spies on girls when they're sleeping,
He knows when they're awake,
He knows when Minorities are good or bad,
Remember Gujarat 2002 for Goodness Sake!

You better watch out
For you will only cry
Better not smile,
I'm telling you why,
Modi Claus is coming to town!

(We will conclude with the famous Christmas poem "T'was the night before Good Governance Day")