An Excerpt from - TANZEEM (2011) - by
‘How is the old man now?’ the
Ameer asked, turning to face him.
‘Not so good.’ The doctor
hesitated before he continued, unsure what the fate of the
bearer of bad news would be. ‘He is slipping away fast.' He
looked apologetic. 'We have tried everything but there has been
too much internal damage. Maybe I could have done something if I
had the facilities of a full-fledged hospital available to me.
Right now, here . . .’ His voice trailed away.
‘I want to see him.’
‘OK.’ The doctor helped the
Ameer to his feet and began to walk him outside. Halting at the
door the Ameer rid himself of the doctor’s supporting hands,
took a deep breath, straightened his back and stepped out
unaided. He was enough of a leader to know that in this part of
the world any show of weakness was unacceptable. He was smart
enough to know that weakness was a clear invitation for the
enemy to close in for the kill; Allah knew that a man like him
had enough enemies. Commanding his body to ignore the pain he
followed the doctor to the hut across the alley.
When he reached the hut the
Ameer could hear moans of pain, and the smell of spirit and
blood assaulted him as he went inside. There were two men
hovering around the frail, elderly mullah. More than half of
Hamidi’s upper body was drenched in blood. He seemed to be just
about holding on to life. Miraculously his face had been left
untouched by the American missiles.
At a glance from the Ameer
everyone left the room, except the doctor who maintained vigil
from the door.
‘How is it going?’ There was a
trace of affection in the Ameer’s voice as he gingerly sat
beside Hamidi and took one of his hands in both his own.
‘Not so well.’ Hamidi's voice
was almost drowned out by his wheezing, rattling breath.
The Ameer had to lean forward
to catch the pain-laden whisper. ‘We will soon have you up and
about,’ he said, trying to sound encouraging.
‘No, you will not.’ The mullah
gave a weak smile.
Just then a sudden bout of
coughing seized him. Flecks of blood spotted his lips and beard.
Picking up a wad of cotton from the bedside table, the Ameer
gently wiped his mouth clean. It was an uncharacteristic gesture
from the cold, cruel warlord.
Hamidi acknowledged it with a
grateful smile. ‘But there are no regrets, my son. We have had a
long and eventful journey, have we not?’
‘Yes, we have, and by the
grace of Allah it has been a glorious one.’
‘Do you remember how it all
‘Of course I do. Can I ever
‘That’s good. Don’t ever let
go of the past. Remember that we are what we are because of what
lies behind us.’ Another burst of blood-sputtering coughing
interrupted Hamidi. After it had subsided he drew a deep breath,
and added, ‘You will remember what Allah wants from you? You
will not stray from the path, will you Jalal?’
‘Of course not.’ The Ameer’s
fingers pressed Hamidi's fragile hand reassuringly.
‘I promise you.’
‘Good. Do not let these
treacherous army bastards get away with this betrayal. Remember
that Pakistan was established exclusively so that the sharia and
the rule of Allah the Magnificent could be implemented.’
‘Ameen. And so it shall be.’
The Ameer's face was taut with anger. ‘If they think they can
play fast and loose with us they are mistaken. Don’t worry, I am
going to make the traitors pay for siding with the crusaders.’
‘You must, but be very
careful. Remember there is too much at stake. Everything we have
worked for is now almost within our grasp.’ Hamidi was tiring
fast. His breath was becoming heavier and harsher. Another bout
of coughing wracked the old man. More drops of blood sprayed out
from his mouth; the internal hemorrhaging had intensified. His
hand, clasped between the Ameer’s larger ones, betrayed the pain
throbbing through his body.
‘Can I ask you a favour?’ the
mullah murmured. ‘One final favour, for an old friend?’
The Ameer looked deep into his
eyes, a hint of sadness lining them, as though he knew what
Hamidi was going to ask for. ‘Of course,’ he replied softly..
Hamidi smiled weakly. ‘You
know me well my son.’
‘How could I not? You have
been like a father to me . . . the only father I have ever
known.’ There was an unexpected depth of affection in the glance
they exchanged. ‘Are you sure?’ the Ameer asked. Even voicing
the thought was hurtful for him.
‘Yes. I am sure.’ Hamidi’s
voice was fading. ‘There is no point in delaying the inevitable
and prolonging the agony my son. Let me go now.’
The Ameer threw a quick glance
at the doctor, desperately seeking some hope but saw none
reflected there. He turned to the mullah and gave a reluctant
nod. There was gratitude in the smile he got in return. Leaning
forward, he gently raised the old man in his arms and held him
close. ‘Sleep well. I shall miss your guidance and support.’ His
grip on Hamidi tightened briefly before he freed his right hand,
reached for the pistol stuck in his waistband, and placed it
against the dying man’s heart.
Mullah Ismail Hamidi looked
into his former student Jalaluddin's eyes, meeting death as he
had always lived his life: head-on, without flinching.
doctor manning the door winced as the solitary pistol shot
crackled through the room.
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