My Project "The Afghans"

 

Chapter 2      

Sardar Allah-Yar was very worried about the fate of his son- in- law Rasheed Khan. By the next morning it was clear to him that Rasheed was killed by Russian forces, in the fall of Kabul.  Allah-Yar was a close friend of Hafizullah Amin. His first priority was to protect his family. He asked his younger son Abdullah to take Bibi Gul and the young Abid and Marriam to Pakistan. 

The next morning he called every body to his office and told them that he was sending all the women and children of his household to Pakistan.

“Why? Why, Agha Jan?” Bibi Gul inquired.

“You must have heard by now that Amin is ousted by Babrik Karmal, so we all are not safe here”. He replied.

“What about Rasheed Khan, and my two sons Bilal and Saleem?”

 She started sobbing quietly. She did not want to go to Pakistan.

“I have to know the fate of my husband and my two sons. I can’t go to Pakistan, please Agha Jan do not ask this of me.”

“You do not know what you are saying Bibi Gul. You do not know the full impact of this turmoil in Kabul. The Russian Army has taken over Kabul, and has put it under curfew. They are killing people and plundering the city.   Every thing is in total turmoil.   We are now occupied by USSR. Very soon the Russians are going to come here as well. You have to leave.”

He was feeling his daughter’s pain and wanted to save her of further misery.

“What about you Agha Jan?” She asked

 “I have to stay behind to find out more about the Russian invaders and to plan how to save my people from the destruction those infidels will bring in their wake. I have to be here to find out about Rasheed Khan and my grandsons.”

“Then please let me stay Agha Jan! Let me be with you!” She pleaded.

“No! No! You all should go while there is still time.”

He started planning their route to Pakistan.

 “You can’t go through Torkham, which is the direct route to Pakistan, because it is not safe. I have asked my friend Akmal Khan to help you cross the border; he will tell you what route to take and will also provide you with escorts and transport.

 I have a feeling that you may have to take other routes, first you will be going in the cars and jeeps and then may be you have to go on horse back or on mules through the hills. Abdullah knows what to do and what routes to take, but you must hurry.” He said.

“Then come with us, I do not want to lose you as well” She was crying uncontrollably now and tears were streaming down her cheeks.

“No my place is here.  I will not go anywhere.  I am the Sardar of my tribe.  How can I leave my people in this hour of need?”

“Then I will stay with you.” Bibi Gul was repeating her self.

She could not envisage leaving Afghanistan without her husband and two of her sons.

She was the only one who could argue with her father, every-body else, even the sons were not able to talk back at him. His authority was never challenged by any one.  His people loved him and respected him too much to talk back to him.

“No! I do not want any further discussions, these are not the normal times, this is a calamity on our country, and every thing is at stake, our freedom, our independence, every thing. You have to leave; there is no discussion on it.”

Bibi Gul was still not convinced.

“But Baba you know many people in the government, you should talk to them and get their help.”

“I told you just a minute ago that my friend  President  Amin is no more in power.  I told Amin many times that he is toeing the Russian line too much but the fool would not listen to me and now look what has happened”  he said shaking his head.

“But Agha Jan you are politically very strong. Are you not?”

She could not believe that they had to run away from their own country like fugitives.

“The political environment changes very quickly. I may not have any friends left in the government.”  He said.

 Then to convince her he had to be blunt and said,

“I can’t work properly when you are here in the house. I will be thinking of your protection all the time and my work will suffer.  Please Bibi Gul go! Do not waste time. 

Abdullah will be back in a week’s time after taking you to Pakistan. We will decide about the future then.”

Bibi could not convince her father to come with her to Pakistan.  Sardar Allah-Yar wanted every woman and child of his family to take shelter in Pakistan. He wanted to be free of any encumbrance, so that he could fight with the enemies of his country, without any compromise.

Bibi Gul had to obey her father; she did not know what else she could do.  She felt miserable, and forlorn in her heart.  She felt so miserable that she thought she would die of sorrow and unhappiness.  She was thinking of Saleem and Bilal and of course of her husband.  Her thoughts returned to her elder son Saleem. She started praying for them.

Abdullah took out the Pajero Jeep from the garage.  Bibi Gul, her children and two of her aunts were going to Pakistan in this jeep.  Sardar Allah-Yar had asked one of his trusted servants to go with them.  They had food and water with them and they started out very early in the morning.  It was a cold December day with an icy cold wind and the mountains covered with thick layer of snow.  The jeep was a four wheel drive, and Abdullah hoped to reach Pakistan without any problem.  They took the road towards Pakistan hoping for the best.  They had been driving for two hours when suddenly a rugged-looking and weather-beaten man signalled them to stop.

“Yes?” Abdullah looked at the man.

“Are you going to Pakistan?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“There is a road block ahead, about a mile from here. Russian and Afghan army personnel are checking every vehicle. If you do not want to be checked then don’t use this road.”

 Abdullah got down from his jeep and asked.

 “Then where shall I go?” He was only nineteen years old and not very sure of himself. 

“Take the next turn on your right, it’s a small track which will turn into a dirt track, but if you keep going on that track, after four miles you will hit the main road, that road is still clear, you will have no problem.”

The man gave him instructions for another road; now it was up to Abdullah to believe him or not.

“Thank you very much sir for your help”. Abdullah said and asked him his name.

“My name is Alam Jan and we have scouts on all the country’s roads. We are thinking of resisting the Russian pigs. You will travel safely on that track. Go, may Allah be with you.” He smiled and shook hands with Abdullah.

“Oh! Thank you once again, Sir. My name is Sardar Abdullah; I am Sardar Allah- Yar’s son.” He introduced himself.

“Alright, but I did not ask you your name because many people are scared to tell their names these days.  So you are Malik Allah –Yar’s son, I know your father. Go in peace”.

Abdullah drove on and came to the small road on the right, he took it and as Alam Jan had predicted, it changed into a dirt track. After a few miles it led them to another main road.  They drove in silence because every body was preoccupied with their own thoughts.  They reached the Pan Sheer valley on their way to Pakistan..  Sardar Allah-Yar had many friends there.  He asked one of his friends, Akmal Khan for assistance.  Abdullah drove his Jeep to his house. Akmal was expecting them; his servants had prepared food and had heated rooms ready for them. They had their meal and after resting for a while, Abdullah asked Akmal Khan about the situation of the roads to Pakistan.

“The roads are not safe, Abdullah.  You and your party cannot leave today.  I have sent some people to see and plan the safest route for you and they have not come back yet” he said.

“Oh!” Abdullah did not know what to say.

“It’s already afternoon. Stay the night here and go in the early morning.” Akmal Khan said.

“Okay sir, then I will go and take a nap, and I will ask you about the route to Pakistan later at dinner tonight.”

“Yes, that is fine. My servant will take you to the guest room. Go and rest.”

Akmal sent somebody with him to show him his room. Abdullah was very tired: the tension and the fear had sapped all his energies. He slept for two hours and then Akmal woke him up.

“Tea is ready Abdullah, come with me. My scouts are back too. We will plan your journey over a cup of tea.”

 Abdullah went with him to an outer room known as Hujra which was exclusively for men.  There he met two young men.  They seemed to have had a rough journey.  Their clothes were all crumpled and dirty.

“This is Abdullah, Sardar Allah-Yar’s son, and this is Walait Khan and Naseer Gul, my trusted friends.”

 Akmal made the necessary introduction. They shook hands and sat down on the carpet for their tea.

“How is everything?” Akmal asked.

“Not good at all.” Naseer replied.

“Why? What is going on?” Akmal asked.

“The Russians are everywhere in huge numbers, more and more of them are crossing our borders every day.  It has been a week since the overthrow of our government, and the Russian military convoys are still coming.”

“What about Amin?” Abdullah asked.

“According to the last report, he was still in his palace. He is totally encircled by the army and I have heard that his resistance is getting weaker by the hour. I don’t know what will become of our country.”

 Naseer Gul was becoming angrier and angrier, and was slowly becoming very worked up.

“What about the roads to Pakistan? Abdullah is travelling with women and children. I do not want any mishap on the way.”  Akmal asked his friends.

He was very concerned about the safety of his friend’s family.

“The main road to Landi Kotal is being patrolled by the Russians. There are many checkpoints on it. He can’t take that road as it’s too dangerous. He can travel to my village, and from there it is four miles of a mountain climb. This will lead them to North Waziristan in Pakistan. This is the safest route for them.”

 Naseer Gul said, suggesting the route for Abdullah.

“But sir, I have my sister and her two young children, and two of my aunts with me. Will they be able to climb the mountain?” Abdullah asked.

“Yes, if they are Afghan women, they can easily make the journey.” Naseer said and then continued,

  “We will keep your jeep at my place and give you horses to ride, and on the other side a jeep like yours will be provided to take you to Peshawar. On your way back, and I hope that you return soon, your jeep will take you to your village.” He smiled.

“I hope you like my plan, is that okay?”

“Yes!” Akmal Khan was happy with the arrangement.

“Are you coming back?” Naseer Gul asked Abdullah.

Of  course!” Abdullah replied.

“My father is here, and this is my country. I will be back within a week. And then we will plan how to defend our country and how to teach the Russian invaders a lesson.”

He said with a lot of conviction.

“Yes, do come back, we need every able-bodied young man to fight these Russian pigs.” Naseer Gul said.

They had their tea.  Abdullah was introduced to many young men that day.  They were all from different tribes and some of them had their differences and disputes amongst them; but in the face of a common enemy they all had forgotten their differences and had united to fight  for a common cause.  They were Wazeers, Masood, Bangush and Afreedi tribes.

When the tea was over and Abdullah was alone with Akmal Khan, he asked him about the people he met at tea.

“Sir how come all these people are here at your place?”

Akmal smiled.

 “I am happy that you came today, I invited my friends at my place to discuss the current situation of our country. We have to know who is with the Russian and who is against them. I am happy to tell you that majority of the people are against the occupation of our land; though they call it a change of government but actually it is pure and simple Russian occupation.”

“Yes Sir I agree with you, but how can we fight a super power, whose might is hundred times more than ours.” Abdullah asked.

 “We have no choice.” Akmal Khan replied.  “You see son, we can not and will not compromise our freedom even if we all are killed in the process.”

“Yes, exactly. I feel the same way Sir.”  He agreed with Akmal Khan.

 They talked for a while and then Abdullah went to see his sister and Aunts to tell them the plan of their journey.

The next day Abdullah drove his Pajero Jeep behind Naseer Gul’s small Toyota Jeep. It was very early in the morning.  The sun had not risen yet but the sky had changed its colour from inky dark blue to a lighter shade of grey.  The roads were bad with pot holes and broken surfaces, but both the jeeps could travel with little difficulty.

Naseer Gul’s village was near the border with Pakistan. They reached there by lunch time.  Naseer had a very big house with thick boundary walls around it.  He signalled his arrival by blowing his horn with three small and one long beep and the main gate of his house swung open.  The jeeps entered the compound of the house, it was a big compound, and there were at least five more vehicles parked  there.

Abdullah and his servant Ahmed got down from the Pajero jeep, the women and children stayed in the jeep. Naseer Gul also came out of his jeep.  Two men from the house came to receive them. Naseer Gul introduced Abdullah to them. They shook hands and then asked Abdullah to take the women and children at the far end of the house. This would take them directly to the women section of the house.

Bibi Gul picked up Marriam and Abid walked beside her and they enter the house, there they were greeted warmly by women and offered lunch, and then were asked to rest for a while, but Bibi Gul wanted to reach Pakistan with out any delay.

After an hour they all mounted the horses, with Abdullah and Ahmed and four of Naseer’s men, and started riding towards Pakistan.  The horses were well trained and walked easily up the small track in the hills. Naseer’s man knew many passes between the mountains and it was not very difficult to go through them, the only problem they were facing was the extreme cold weather as it was January.  The winter of 1980 was especially very severe, and it was much colder than the average temperature of January.

Abid was riding behind Abdullah. He was feeling very cold; his hands were getting numb and he was shivering. He cried,

 “Uncle, I am feeling very cold.”

“Son get closer to me and cling to my back firmly and you will be alright in a minute.”

“Okay,” said Abid.

 And by doing that Abid felt the warmth of his uncle’s body and the cold subsided.

After a few hours they crossed the border with out any difficulty, there was nobody to check them or see what they were doing as they crossed into Pakistan because Pakistan and Afghanistan has hundreds of kilometres of unmanned border. The place where they crossed over was North Waziristan, in the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan.  They rode down the slopes of the mountain and came to a road.

 Naseer Gul’s men told them to halt. They dismounted and the long wait for the rescue team started. Marriam was very distressed and cranky and started to cry. She was also cold and hungry. They waited beside the road side for more than an hour. It was bitterly cold and the sun was setting fast.

“Do you know who these people are, and where are they coming from?” Abdullah asked

one of the men.

“No sir, we were instructed to accompany you and bring you to this place, rest is only known to Mr. Naseer Gul.

 We will wait for a little while longer and if they do not show up, we will go back.”

“Okay.”  Abdullah said with worried look.

After another ten minutes they saw two jeeps coming from the opposite direction.

“There they are?” One man said.

The jeeps stopped near them and two men jumped out, and came towards them.

“Assalam Alaikum.”One of them greeted Abdullah in the usual Islamic way.

“My name is Asif Masood and I am from the Masood tribe, and this is my friend Shahid Afreedi. We have come to take you to Peshawar.”

“Thank you.” Abdullah said.

He asked his aunts and Bibi Gul to get into the jeeps. He then turned back to the people who had accompanied him so far.

“Thank you very much; I will be back within a week. Please thank Naseer Gul on our behalf.”

“Yes we will convey your massage.” Replied the man, after saying goodbye, they rode

back towards Afghanistan.                                           

Sardar Allah-Yar was a little less worried after sending his womenfolk out of harm’s way. He called the session of his tribal council, to discuss current affairs and to chalk out the plan for the future.  Iftakher Khan was the youngest member of the council. His father had died of a heart attack a few months ago and he had to represent his family in the council of elders.  He was the first to request permission to speak. He stood up and said.

“Malik Sahib, I have a request to make.” He looked at Allah –Yar Khan.

“Yes?”  Allah-Yar replied.

“”Please leave your house for a week.”

“Why?” Sardar Allah- Yar was curious.

“Malik Sahib, this is the request of our council, please listen to me with an open mind, things are turning nasty in Kabul and our scouts are sending signals of danger. Rasheed Lala has been killed along with Hafizullah Amin.”

“When?    Allah-Yar asked and then wanted to reconfirm and said “Are you sure?”

“I am not sure, but I have heard that there was a high ranking meeting going on in the Palace and Rasheed Lala and many others were there,   The Russians surrounded the palace. The guards put up a stiff resistance, but it was a losing battle.

 Today, we received the news that they fought for two days but all of them were killed.”

Allah-Yar controlled his emotions with difficulty.  He had hoped that Rasheed was alive and would come back home, but this information confirm his death.

Iftakher said again.

“This is not the time for confrontation with the enemy. Our time will come and we will teach them a lesson, the Russians are prosecuting the faithful of the old regime.

Please Malik Sahib, I beseech you to go to Malik Ismaeel Khan‘s house.   In the meantime we will find more about our enemy and if there is no danger to your life we will immediately let you know and you can return safely”.

 “No! No I will not go and hide like a coward. I have never done that before and now in spite of my old age I will still not do it. I will face the enemy here on my own grounds and if I am killed, so be it.” Allah -Yar replied.

“No! Sir you can’t do that.” Iftakher said.

 Many from the council agreed with him. One man stood up and said.

“We all know that you are a very brave man, but we do not want to lose you. You are our Sardar, our Malik, how can we allow you to be so foolhardy. This is the council’s decision and you have to listen to us.”

“I will not listen to such a suggestion.” He said in an emotionally charged voice.

  He did not know what to do. 

Iftakher got up, removed his head gear, known as turban, from his head and laid it at the feet of Allah-Yar Khan. According to the custom of the Afghan tribe this was the gesture of unfettered obedience.

“Sir I love you like a son loves his father, and you are my Sardar, my mentor, please listen to me,” he begged.

A few other men also did the same with their turbans. Allah-Yar got up from his chair. He was moved to tears with this show of love and respect from his tribe. He, in his gruff voice which had a hint of sadness, said.

“Please do not do this to me.”

  He picked up the turbans and put them on the tribal men’s heads.

“It is a hard time for me, I have just received the news of the death of my son-in-law and I do not know the fate of two of my grandchildren. On top of that you are saying that I should not take revenge from my enemies, but instead I should run and hide from them like a mouse.”

 He could not say any more, as his voice was breaking with emotions.

“No! No sir, you are mistaken.   Your whole tribe will take revenge from the invading infidels and traitors alike. But at the moment we are facing a formidable enemy.  It can strike and wipe out the whole tribe.”

 Iftakher was a young and intelligent man.  

“We have to organize and gather our strength. We have to discuss the ways of retaliation, and that will take time.” he said.

 He paused for a moment and then continued,

 “We have news that these days they are looking for the old regime’s high-ranking officials.  We know that they will come looking for you sir.   If you are not here and nobody will tell them where you are, we will have time to find out who is with us and who our enemies are and then we will strike.”

Allah-Yar kept quiet.

Iftakher said again.

“This is not the time for emotional thinking.  Please listen to me and go to Malik Ismaeel’s house.  He has already sent his two sons to invite you to his house and they are here to take you with them.”

Two young men got up and came to him.

“We have an invitation for you Sir, from our father Ismaeel Khan. We want you to come with us tonight.”

Malik Allah-Yar looked at the brave men of his tribe and said.

 “Okay. if all of you insist that this is the right decision I will go with them, but please do not make me wait any longer than a week.”

“Yes sir, okay. Sir “

The council was happy.  They knew it was very difficult decision for Allah-Yar, for he had fought many wars and was fearless.    Today he reluctantly .accepted their decision and agreed to take this journey.  He was a Sardar in his own right and to take refuge from the enemy at a friend’s house was a very humbling experience for him.

There was no way out for Allah-Yar.  He did not know the magnitude of the Russian invasion.  It was still very early to tell what would happen.  Would they ever be able to throw out such a formidable enemy, or would the Russians also occupy Pakistan to reach the warm waters of Indian Ocean and control the access routes to the oil of the Persian Gulf..

He ordered one of his servants to pack few necessary things which he would need and left for Ismaeel’s house.  His house gave a very forlorn look. It was vacated by the owners for the first time in fifty years when it was built by Allah-Yar’s father. The servants were all there, but the owners were dispersed all over, some in Pakistan and some in other places of Afghanistan