Call Me:

Helplessness has its own pleasures. Painful, even poetic pleasures. Only those who have felt them, will ever know. They will have savored the taste of their own blood on their tongues in the last few moments of being alive. It feels wonderful to know life then, to feel even the tears well in your eyes. It is gratifying when your heart aches, when you’re not permitted even to gasp for breath. You feel a measure of delight when your parents are forced to clap as you’re flogged under the blazing June sun, because it’s the last you will know of the world and it’s noise. You’re not allowed to satiate your thirst in the heat, but there is joy in its pain, because it’s the last you will know of desire.

And then you’re told to wait to wait for your turn to be executed before your mother’s eyes. She is ordered not to shed tears for you. How absurd, you keep thinking. How absurd that all this pain, all this horror is woven into religion.

It was as the sun was setting on June 24, 2008, that this came together in a single, almost spectacular scene. The jihadists were electrified to sack the village of which I am speaking, and which I will refer to only as “Rome.” They were blood thirsty and marked their first approach by firing a rocket launcher. The people of Rome froze until the firing began. Then, everybody ran for their lives. It lasted for a couple of hours, the gunfire, in order to subjugate the locals. Then they made their way into the centre of that small town. The locals were herded up, rowed into the square in queues with their hands fastened behind them.

The sun had set and dark fallen. Nothing was visible except the occasional deflection of light from the trigger of AK-47s. The small children of those queued-up began to laugh as they had never seen their fathers squatting that way; it was comical to them. And the fathers let their children laugh as their own hearts broke, pretending as though they were only playing a harmless game of squatting in queues. The fingers on the trigger awaited the dictates of the highest echelon: the Shura. As we watched, their houses were set ablaze. The life-long reserves of the people were named booty and distributed. They took whatever they could lay their hands upon. A decree was issued; that they should be killed brutally. That their faces should be mutilated in order to make them a lesson for generations to come.

Fear prevailed then. Hearts trembled. No one was allowed to shed tears. No request was granted. No time was wasted. A diatribe was delivered. “They are hypocrites,” we were told. “These men are destined to hell. They must be savagely exemplified. They didn’t lead pious lives. They don’t have long hair nor have they kept beards.” The gigantic multitude applauded the sermon of their leader. What I will never forget is the wild certainty of the deliverer and the serenity that fell upon his face as he made his terrifying pronouncements.

And just like that, 24 men lost their lives on 24 June, 2008. If exemplification was the motivation, then it was achieved. When I remember the faces of those children staring, I only weep. They are friendless and penniless. They are growing up at no one’s mercy. They are still living in the shadow of that ruthless massacre.

What was surreal about the carnage, was that the victims were buried in oblivion and obscurity. No heed was paid to them or to their children. There was no media coverage. Neither was their act presented as anti-Islamic. Why? These people are completely illiterate. They can’t read, they can hardly count. They don’t know a way out, and they are not concerned about politics or who is in power. All they have heard is that Pakistan has a “badshah.” They don’t even know what that ‘badshah” looks like.

The shocking thing was that as the jihadists spread their terror, the army stood by. They became spectators. They just stood there and watched as the drama unfolded in that small theatre of South Waziristan.

The Nation’s Call Me column is an anonymous piece of writing, where writers can  relate deeply personal stories.

Any feedback must come via Letters to the Editor.  Your pieces can be sent to

and must be between

500-800 words.

All pieces will be printed anonymously, and the identity of

the writer will be protected under all circumstances.