I was good at what I did. A firm believer of what the Pakistani Army stood for; ‘Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah. A follower of none but Allah, fear for only Him and faith in struggle for the Almighty.
Like many of my colleagues, I also hailed from Punjab. From the city of Kasur. Situated a little to the south of the majestic city of Lahore.
My fascination for the Pakistani Army had started at a very young age. Ever since I, along with my father, used to attend the Retreat Ceremony at the Ganda Singh Wala border crossing in our city.
We used to sit very close to the brave soldiers. So close, that we could touch them. I remember smelling the fragrance of that sacred Khaki uniform.
Although I was in awe of that blesseduniform, I never tried to touch it. Perhaps, I felt, that I should deserve it.
After being promoted to Colonel in the Army, I joined the Inter-Service Intelligence of Pakistan, commonly known by its initials: ISI.
The three most powerful and dreaded letters in Pakistan. According to some, equally feared in the rest of the world.
My next elevation to Brigadier did not take long. Half a year after that, I made my way into the Joint Intelligence/North division. Or just, JIN. This made me responsible for everything which was even remotely related to Jammu & Kashmir.
Whether this Kashmir or that Kashmir, not even a leaf could fall from the trees without my permission. I was the administrator of the blood in our jugular vein. I was the manager of our life-line.
Previously, men in my position were called ‘Abdullah’ by the locals in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Some 8 years ago, without any specific reason, it had changed to ‘Rathore’.
Over the course of time, I have dealt with everything and everyone in Kashmir. Agents, Nationalists, Jamaatis, Informers, Renegades, double-crossers and many who are more loyal than the king himself.
And one more species. A species known by the name of ArifShahid.
This man was strange. Bulky in his appearance, yet very dynamic. Restless. Undeniably unambiguous and explicit. Highly intellectual, but paradoxically enough, also foolish.
What was he thinking? What on earth made him think that he could ask for freedom of Kashmir while living in Azad Kashmir? People across the border, in the Valley of Kashmir,think twice before uttering such a wish and this fantasizer would talk of ‘Azaadi’ while being in Pakistan?
What the hell made him believe that he could challenge me? Brigadier Rathore of the ISI?
No, he was not mere foolish. This man was blatantly insane.
Every other day, I used to get reports from my Colonels, Majors, Field Officer and Agents. This man was creating havoc. While sitting in Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Kotli, he openly said in his speeches that the ‘Freedom movement’ in Srinagar was a myth. That it was a proxy war, initiated by Pakistan for its own interests and not for the freedom of Kashmir.
Another report suggested that he questioned the Jihad in Kashmir Valley. During one of his speeches, he asked, “If Jihad is so pious and mandatory, why are the children of Generals, Brigadiers and Colonels studying in UK and USA? Why aren’t they joining the Jihad in Srinagar? Why aren’t the children of Hafiz Saeed and Qazi Hussain Ahmed joining Jihad in the Valley? Why don’t Hafiz Saeed and Qazi Hussain Ahmed go to Srinagar to liberate it and wage Jihad? Why are only children of poor Kashmiri daily-wagers, farmers and bus drivers being given a training of 10 to 15 days and then sent for Jihad?”
This man was dangerous. He was trying to poison the Kashmiris by educating them. He was snatching away their dreams of Azaadi by infusing them with facts.
This man was an Indian Agent. A Kaafir. Anti-Islam. Anti-Pakistan. Anti-Kashmir.
During one of his rallies, he stated: “My land is being occupied by Pakistan and this agency and their Generals are asking me to free the Valley. What nonsense! I should first free myself from the clutches of this occupier”.
This guy had clearly lost his mind. Even when one of my Colonels openly attended his rally, he kept spitting venom. “The Pakistani Army, ISI and all these Generals, Brigadiers and Colonels have only looted Kashmir and earned promotions by butchering us. The Major who has been able to get 10 Kashmiris killed has been promoted to Colonel. The Colonel who has achieved the target of getting 20 Kashmiris killed has been promoted to Brigadier. Then the Brigadier who got 30 killed has been elevated to General. And the one who got 40 to 50 Kashmiris slaughtered, has been given the award of becoming a Lieutenant General”.
He blamed the ISI for communalizing the Kashmir-issue and transforming it into a religious issue. He kept screaming for a Secular, United and Independent Jammu & Kashmir. He blamed us for backing theofascist groups and nourishing terrorists outfits.
This man hadto be stopped.
Apparently, ArifShahiddid not know the meaning of stopping. He was evidently the last remaining soldier of the Sudan tribe. A community which had otherwise,replaced their famed honour and ego with Riyals and Dirhams during their outflow to the Gulf.
He went on to become a bridge between Azad Kashmir and GilgitBatistan. He created an All Parties National Alliance (APNA) of more than a dozen political parties from these two areas. People in Gilgit Baltistan would have problem talking to a Kashmiri from Azaad Kashmir and now, because of this traitor, they were joining alliances and propagating an United, Independent and Secular Jammu & Kashmir.
Two Sikhs from Jammu came to visit him in Rawalpindi and despite orders from my officers, he took them to Azad Kashmir. Throwing all of them in jail did not help either. The Sikhs, before going back to Jammu, said that the Kashmir-issue was not a religious issue and joined APNA’s demand for a Secular Jammu & Kashmir.
ArifShahid was undoing our work of the last two decades.
I received intelligence that ArifShahid was planning to leave Pakistan. He had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), which prevented him from leaving the country and his passport and other identification documents had been confiscated.
Despite the fact that the Ministry of Interior told the court in 2012 that his documents had been confiscated on the recommendation of the Director-General (DG) ISI, he won the legal battle and got his name removed from the ECL.
I had to act now.
I went straight up to the DG ISI’s office and requested him to meet on short notice. “Tomorrow 10 AM”, he said before ordering me out of his office with the look in his eyes.
There were the four of us. DG ISI, Major-General Sahib, a Colonel of my division and I.
DG Sahib had been updated regularly by Major-general Sahib and me. For this meeting, I had prepared a short list of events and decided to quote some of ArifShahid’smost detrimental words to the DG. I also explained him about the court battle and the intelligence which suggested that ArifShahid wanted to move out of the country.
“Sir, we cannot allow to let him go. He will become a nightmare for us. What if he goes to the UN, EU or State Department? We need to do something, Sir. We need to do something very soon”.
The DG did not look worried. Without batting an eye, he said: “Finish him”.
Major-General Sahib was the first one to react. “Sir, with all due respect, but this could backfire. It could create problems for us here and especially in the Valley”.
DG Sahib was not impressed. “He is not being killed by the Indians. A Pakistani bullet is different from an Indian bullet. It always has been. Only Indian bullets produce Shaheeds. Our bullets don’t. Nobody will bother in the Valley.
Did they bother when we killed others like him in the Valley itself? Why would they suddenly bother about someone being killed here? They will assume that he was an Indian agent. They will find justifications for his death. They always do.
Aside from one stupid friend of his who has the same illness as this man, nobody will even issue a press release condemning his death. Nobody will care in the Valley.
In the Valley, they only care for the Valley”.
“What about his Alliance here, Sir? The Nationalists here might create problems”, Major General Sahib asked.
DG Sahib frowned. He puffed on his cigar and sternly replied, “Nationalists? In Kashmir? Have you been drinking this morning, General?
Some people will scream. Like they always do. Then they will get tired and forget. Like they always do.
As for his so-called Alliance, it will collapse as a house of cards within months. His funeral won’t be attended by more than 50 people”.
Major-General Sahib was pushing his luck; “And the international reaction, Sir?”
DG Sahib was starting to become irritated. “International reaction, my foot! This is Pakistan. And I am the DG ISI. I don’t care for international reactions. Sure, the Kashmiri Diaspora will raise their voice. A few hundred will protest on his death and with every death anniversary of his, the number will be halved”.
Major-General Sahib had nothing to say anymore.
DG Sahib extinguished his cigar in the rectangle shaped marble ashtray on his desk. We stood up and waited for him to say the two words.
“Eliminate him”, he said.
Within 72 hours, our Commando assassins accomplished the mission and Jammu & Kashmir was saved once again.
I was satisfied. Because of my and my officers’ diligence, we had succeeded in safeguarding our national interests.
That is what we do. By hook or crook.
Needless to say, all of DG Sahib’s predictions and analyses proved correct.
The ISI is always right.
Even when it is wrong.