August 1st, Wednesday
Panic in the camp. Somebody mentioned drones. A collective outburst of flailing hands, scurrying feet and screaming women, oh, that was the men. It was reminiscent of a Punjabi wedding. Outside, the leader’s voice rang over the megaphone, “RUN FOR THE HILLS!”
“These are the hills,” somebody said.
“RUN FOR THE PLAINS!”
“Stop!” shouted brother Mehsud, trying to calm everyone down. “It’s a false alarm!”
The leader breathed a sigh of relief, shot a glance of approval then let out a fart of contempt. “WHAT MORON WAS RESPONSIBLE!”
The responsible moron was duly found and beaten. I didn’t understand what was going on, so when things calmed down a bit, I asked brother Faisal. He was incredulous, “You don’t know what a Mujahid fears most?”
“An electric shaver?”
No. He showed me a picture of the thing from a newspaper clipping. It was worse. It was an electric shaver with wings!
August 2nd, Thursday
Prayers, then breakfast, then prayers that we survived breakfast. These were followed by our first suicide drills. “Does this suicide vest make me look fat?” asked brother Faisal standing in front of the mirror.
“No, but the five chins and love handles do.”
Suicide training proved successful, in fact one recruit was so successful we were still picking up pieces of him by the evening.
August 4th, Saturday
Brother Faisal and I were discussing drones.
“Just imagine, ruthless things with no thoughts of their own killing without regard for innocent lives,” he said.
“But that sounds like us!”
“We’re different. We can’t fly.”
These were certainly cowardly tactics from the Americans. Bravery was twenty kilos of C4 strapped to your chest. Why couldn’t they come down here and face us like men. War had become too impersonal. Brother Faisal reminisced about the days when your enemy had the courtesy to kill you in person, piss on your corpse and sell your women and children into slavery.
Auguest 6th, Monday
Training continued. There were only eight of us now, not counting the goats. Mehsud was despondent over our scant numbers. “A few years ago the entire camp would be full of young, hopeless faces. They came from all corners of the country. Now look at us,” I looked at us. We were a sorry sight indeed. Suicide bombers seemed to be a dying breed.
August 7th, Tuesday
Today was beard inspection day. Experts were called in from all over the region to examine our facial grooming. Brother Faisal had been at his with rollers, mousse and pink butterfly clips all morning. He was laughed at prodigiously.
My ten years on a deserted island look garnered some praise but the best beards were all over a meter long.
One of the brothers had eggs in his, where a bird had made a nest. He came second. But the winner was a brother Wahab from Bajaur. The judges wrote a glowing review for him in the evening papers.
“A magnificent specimen. Falling down to the ankles in a curtain of thick hair. Impervious to light, heat and small firearms. The texture is a pashthani juniper with smatterings of animal fur and swamp weed. Streaked with henna, mud and stray drops of urine, the rustling suggests it plays home to a small colony of beetles. Indeed, life blooms inside the dense foliage, by April we expect to see flowers.”
Later, we found out that he’d pulled the proverbial wool over the judge’s eyes. That wasn’t his beard, he’d just been standing behind a bush!
August 8th, Wednesday
Our first training mission, we were to fire on a bus full of religious minorities. Why, what had they done?
“Mustn’t have paid their fares,” opined brother Faisal.
We were to be accompanied by a man with ten years of field experience, nine of them on a farm. His face was scarred from shrapnel and in place of his left hand was a mangled stump. “It’s dangerous work, ploughing,” he explained of his disabilities. His name was Tahir but we called him Bashir.
I wrote to my mother to tell her the exciting news,
I am going to kill my first infidel today,
“That’s nice dear, don’t forget to wash afterwards,” she wrote back.
August 9th, Thursday
We traveled to some eastern mountains and prepared an ambush on the assigned route, hiding behind rocks on either side of the path. Then we waited. After a while, we waited some more. Two hours of intense waiting later we were greeted by the sight of even more waiting.
Next morning, a rug seller came riding on the back of a mule.
“Let’s shoot the donkey,” said brother Faisal.
“But what will we do with the mule?”
Buses in this country, I told them, never on time. We were crestfallen, defeated, everyone but Bashir decided to go home. What commitment. What dedication. What lunacy! There’s still a white haired, one handed man sitting behind a rock somewhere with a clogged gun, and arteries.
August 10th, Friday
Brother Mehsud came up to me while I was tending the dirt. “The leader wants to see you.”
“Well if he looks out the window I’m sure he’ll catch a glimpse of me.”
I was taken to the mosque, brother Faisal was already inside, looking solemnly at the ground.
“UTTER DISASTER. YOU WERE ON THE WRONG ROAD, AT THE WRONG TIME, AND YOU FAILED TO KILL A SINGLE HEATHEN.”
“Look at it this way, sir, we saved a fortune in bullets,” I offered.
I was to be let off lightly with a punishment of just seventy lashes.
Seventy lashes! Where would I put them all? I only had two eyes. Seventy! This was more punishing for the one counting them.
Only the first lash hurt. By the second I’d fainted. When I woke up my back was a wreck of pain and agony. I’d been sleeping on the floor.
August 13th, Monday
After last week’s debacle, I was assigned on lookout duty. It was an early warning system to evacuate camp at the sight of drones and travelling salesmen.
“I heard you got the night watch,” said a morose brother Faisal.
“Yes, it can tell the time after dark.”
“Don’t start with me, I’m on toilet duty for the next month.”
“That’s what they call being knee deep in shit.”
August 14th, Tuesday
Was woken up by the sound of a runaway washing machine. Wait, we didn’t have a runaway washing machine. Drones! Soulless instruments of death and destruction, unmanned, like a eunuch. But this was no time to be waxing lyrical.
Boom! Went the ammunitions trench. Boom! Went the mosque. Boom! Also went the kitchen where the cook was experimenting with a dangerous recipe of beef casserole.
Seeing my brothers caught out without the slightest warning, I did the brave thing and ran quietly for the caves. Soon I was joined by the others.
“Fuck off and find your own hiding place!” I greeted them warmly.
“Look!” brother Faisal pointed to the camp, our Jihad instructor had walked out of his shack, stretched himself in the clearing and stood there, nonplussed, scratching his balls.
“He’s deaf,” somebody explained.
Boom! He was also dead.
August 15th, Wednesday
In the aftermath of the massacre the idea somehow got into people’s head that it was all my fault.
“DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY IN YOUR DEFENCE?” shouted the leader, who’d been badly injured trying to untangle himself from his blanket.
“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to fall asleep on the job,” that was true, I meant to fall asleep on the bed.
“DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE PUNISHMENT FOR FALLING ASLEEP IS?”
“Being woken up?” It wasn’t. It was another seventy lashes. At this rate I could start my own beauty salon.
August 16th, Thursday
We were still clearing the rubble when brother Mehsud walked up. He made a grave face. Freshly dug. “We have to move camp.”
But we’d just gotten cable!
“Our location has been compromised.”
Yes, life was full of these little compromises. We were going further West, or further East, depending on how you held the map. We were headed deeper into the war zone. Before we left I had to do a complete stock of our casualties.
“I have good news and bad news,” I told Mehsud.
The cook had died in the attacks.
“What’s the bad news?” he asked.
We’d lost another instructor.
August 17th, Friday
We travelled to the outskirts of Miranshah.
“Hehe, you said skirts,” said brother Faisal summing up the apprehension we all felt inside.
August 18th, Saturday
The new camp was close to a village, a Jihad outfit was already encamped in the area. Their leader was a tall, frail man who looked like he’d been in a bad mood all his life.
We exchanged resources, they gave us weapons and intelligence, we gave them vehicles and stupidity in return.
August 19th, Sunday
We were to clear a small cluster of hills for making camp. I picked up a strange disc shaped object from the ground. “Mine!” shouted brother Saeed. So I gave it to him. Sadly, brother Saeed is with us no more.
August 20th, Monday
Reports came in about our neighbouring Mujahids. They were engaged with the enemy. “Already! But they’ve only known each other a few months!” I was ignored as usual.
“They’re attacking an American outpost on the other side of the border,” explained Mehsud. “There have been many casualties…”
Subhanallah! Rang a chorus of brothers.
”…all on our side.”
A collective ‘ah, shit’.
August 22nd, Wednesday
To raise troop morale, the great Muslim cleric Sheikh Yerbouti was flying in from Saudi to perform hymns. His saintliness, whose very farts we were not worthy of smelling, was to be treated with the utmost reverence and servility. We were to keep our heads bowed, not talk to him or even breathe loudly in his presence.
There was a great hullabaloo when he walked in.
“Where is he?” I asked, straining my neck to get a look.
“There!” pointed brother Faisal.
“What, behind the buffalo?”
Oh. He was the buffalo.
His saintliness was a veteran of twenty battles, twelve of them in the court against his many wives. By the time he got clear of the adoring public, what stood for his neck was adorned with garlands, and what stood for his face was adorned with petals. Much bowing, gesturing, hand-shaking and nose-picking followed.
Then he was put on stage. The plan worked, after hearing him sing for two hours we were ready to embrace martyrdom. He concluded to a loud ovation of snores. After the performance, he was offered a bunch of dates, he took all the public holidays. Bastard.
August 24th, Friday
The leader deemed it was customary for the village nearby to pay their respects, some forty thousand rupees a month to be exact. It was also customary for them to send volunteers for our war effort.
They sent a boy of sixteen with scarcely any hair on his face. Frustrated for years, the brothers looked at him with lust in their eyes and a firm grip on their unmentionables. I took it upon myself to protect his chastity and virtue. We gathered for the afternoon sermon.
“ABSTINENCE BRINGS GREAT REWARD AFTER LIFE.”
But indulgence brought great reward after a few minutes! I feared for the boy, and his unmentionables.
August 25th, Saturday
Things were heating up on the war front. Much of the fighting was taking place against our own government, which was in collusion with the infidel armies of the west.
“They’re all puppets of the empire,” explained Mehsud.
“But they look so life like.”
“They push their heathen, secular agendas, but in the end, victory will belong to the faithful.”
Ah, we had a new player on the table, but who was this faith fool.
“As long as we’re prepared to lay down our lives for the great cause, nothing can stand in our way.”
We now had what I like to call a difference of opinion. I was of the opinion that we should live on longer to fight the good fight, he was of the opinion that I was a coward and a bastard.
August 26th, Sunday
News came over the radio. Brother Faisal came over the news. A lone Mujahid had shot a disbelieving, agenda pushing governor. Jubilation! Wild celebrations ensued. A truckload of alcohol was brought in from the city and set ablaze.
Brother Faisal took off his shirt and danced in front of the fire. It was a sight none of us would forget, though many tried.
(Next week, everyone dies)