• 28 Mar - 03 Apr, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

It was the last Sunday of May 2019, I visited the police station of Qalandarabad. I was accompanied by my friend Yousaf Bhatti. I informed the constable on duty that I wanted to meet the officer in charge. A couple of red currency notes worked very well. The constable went to the living quarters and returned after a few minutes and asked us to wait. After about ten minutes, a half sleepy person wearing a shabby dress came to the waiting area, shook hands with us and asked us to come inside. Before leaving the room, he told the constable to fetch tea for all of us. We followed him to the SHO’s office. He sat in his chair and lightened a cigarette. He then, looked at both of us and asked, ‘I am Inspector Faheem, and how may I help you?’ We were pleased to see such a polite and well mannered police officer. Though, this impression did not last for long.

I started by saying, ‘My name is Kamal and this is my friend Yousaf Bhatti.’ I also told him about my past profession and that now, I live and work in Abbottabad. I further told him, ‘I have a friend from Qalanadarabad, whose name is Iftikhar Khan. We studied together in a local school back in the seventies. He went to England about thirty years ago. He kept in touch with me but never returned back to Pakistan until March of last year. He was accompanied by his daughter Maria Khan. They stayed in Abbottabad for two weeks and kept visiting their native place here in Qalandarabad. My friend Iftikhar’s younger brother Bashir Khan Jadoon was now, in charge of the family matters here.’ I noticed the Inspector’s eyebrows rising up and his torso shifting back on the seat, when I took Bashir Khan Jadoon’s name. He was a local landlord and Inspector Faheem for sure knew him well. He interrupted me, ‘Stop narrating stories and tell me the actual problem?’ The friendly look on his face had now vanished. Ignoring his aggressiveness, I looked straight in his eyes and said in a calm voice, ‘My friend Iftikhar Khan and his daughter are British nationals and they are missing. Instead of going to the media first, I thought it would be appropriate to inquire from the local police station.’ A sign of worry appeared on Inspector’s forehead. I kept on pressing my foot, ‘If you do not want to cooperate then, I will report the matter to the media.’

Tea had arrived. Inspector waited for the constable to leave and then, he asked, ‘Since when are they missing and how do you know that they are missing? They might have gone back to England.’ I raised my shoulders up showing a gesture of ignorance. I then, continued by saying, ‘I don’t have the answer to your question and that is why, I was telling you the whole story.’ Inspector Faheem now seemed interested. The threat of media was definitely working. He put his hands on the table and while bending forward, he said, ‘You may continue the story, but keep it to the point.’ I already knew a few details and rest, I inferred from the documents that I discovered from Maria’s bag. I had brought photocopies of the same documents and secured the original in my office. While, handing over photocopies of these documents to the Inspector, I said, ‘My friend Iftikhar Khan and his daughter Maria Khan returned back to England after two weeks of their first visit. They came to Pakistan again in August, but never went back. Maria Khan was married to her cousin Tanvir Khan in September of last year.’ Inspector Faheem interrupted me, ‘Did you go to Bashir Khan and inquired about your friend?’ I was a little irritated by his interruption, ‘Yes, I did go to him and he told me that Iftikhar Khan never came to Pakistan.’ Few wrinkles appeared on Inspector Faheem’s forehead, he inquired from me in a grinding voice, ‘If Bashir Khan lied to you and you thought that your friend and his daughter are missing for the last six months. What took you so long to report the matter to police?’

Before coming to the police station, I had done all my homework. I had checked all the guest houses in Abbottabad and had found out that Iftikhar Khan and his daughter stayed at the Horizon Guesthouse for both of their trips which was located in a posh area of the city. On their first visit during March 2018, they had stayed there for 12 days. For their second visit, they had checked in on 23rd August 2018 and checked out on 18th September 2018. They vacated the guest house two days before the nikkah date which I already knew from the nikkahnama. Iftikhar Khan and Maria had probably shifted to Bashir Khan’s house in Qalanadarabad.

I had also visited Bashir Khan few days ago and inquired about his elder brother Iftikhar Khan. I had introduced myself as an old acquaintance and was interested in knowing about the whereabouts of his brother. Bashir Khan told me that Iftikhar Khan went to England in 70s and never returned back to Pakistan. It was very dubious information. He was certainly lying either to get rid of me or he was trying to hide the facts. I also launched a local female source who had found out that Tanvir Khan recently got married to a girl from Balakot who was his class fellow in Hazara University. On further probe, my female source discovered that Iftikhar Khan and his daughter Maria Khan went back to England as the marriage did not work out. Tanvir Khan was unhappy with this family arrangement. He was in a relationship with his class fellow. He had only agreed to marry Maria if he will be allowed to marry the girl of his choice as well. His father Bashir Khan had agreed to it but they both kept it as a secret from Iftikhar Khan and Maria. My female source was collecting information from the local women working in Bashir Khan’s house. She also found out that once Iftikhar Khan and Maria came to know that Tanvir will soon be marrying his class fellow, they both got shocked. Maria then, got divorced and she along with her father went back to England in the month of December 2018.

Everything in this story was correct except for the return of Iftikhar Khan and Maria to England. There were no divorce papers in the documents that I found from Maria’s bag and the presence of Maria’s passport indicated that she did not return to England. I had also requested a cousin of mine who lived in London to check on the address given on Maria’s passport. He informed me after a couple of weeks that Iftikhar Khan’s apartment was locked. He also found out from the building supervisor that the said flat is locked since August 2018. It was now evident that neither Iftikhar Khan nor Maria ever returned back to England. They were still here and most probably killed by the greed of their own blood.

I was now sitting in the police station filing the report for these missing people. Inspector Faheem had asked me a very logical question. What took me so long to report this matter? I knew that at some stage, I will be required to reveal the truth but telling about Maria’s soul and her interaction with me was not an option. So, I made up a story that I had found a bag from the roadside while coming from Mansehra to Abbottabad. I gave all the details of my personal verifications and ground checks which I had obtained through my female source to Inspector Faheem. He genuinely seemed convinced about the facts and promised me to look into the matter. He also obtained a hand written complaint from me, got copies of the identity cards of me and my friend and told me to deposit the original documents of Maria Khan in the police station as soon as possible. He also advised us not to report the matter to media, till he finds out something about this case. It was about 1 pm when we left the police station and headed for Abbottabad.

Having served in the law enforcement for 20 years, I had an ample experience of police investigations. I had delayed to report to the police for some time only because I was searching for some evidence on my own. Despite for having tried my best, I was unable to find any worthwhile clue. The only evidence, I had was the guest house record whose pictures I had taken with my phone camera. I had also discreetly recorded my audio and video conversations with the guest house staff as I was aware that when the police will start investigating then, all these evidences will disappear. I already had possession of Maria’s passport, her nikkahnama and property documents which I had placed securely in my office. I however, failed to find out the location where the nikkah ceremony was held or about the guests who were invited. My female source, whom I had sent to Bashir Khan’s house, informed me that the marriage ceremony did take place.

It must have been a private ceremony held in Bashir Khan’s house and only attended by a few trustworthy people. ‘But, why to keep it so confidential?’ This question kept popping up in my mind. I had thought over it a lot and finally concluded that probably Tanvir did not want to let his girlfriend know about his first marriage. She would have eventually found out, but after she was married to Tanvir and why did Maria agree to this arrangement by her family could be best answered by her, but my assumption was that she perhaps did not know about it. She was raised in England and was not well aware of the conspiracies which dwell in our society. Iftikhar Khan was also not aware, he could not have imagined as to what his real blood was capable of doing to him and his daughter.

Next day, I reached office in the morning as usual and got entangled in some work issues which were cropped up due to my lack of concentration on work. Maria’s case had distracted me way too much. My work as well as my personal life was seriously affected. It was the main reason that I had decided to contact the local police station not realising that no crime in this country happens without the consent or knowledge of the law enforcement agencies. Well, it is not just a perception but, it is the fact. Things have started to improve due to various government initiatives like better recruitments and strict checks, but old habits die hard. Stained blood circulating in the veins of state organs will need some time to flush out. I was surrounded by half a dozen of my office staff when I heard my office door slammed open. In the next few minutes, I was handcuffed, got seated in a police van and was headed towards Qalandarabad. Inspector Faheem had come to arrest me in the suspected abduction and killing of Iftikhar Khan and his daughter Maria Khan. He had also recovered Maria’s bag from a cupboard in my office which contained her clothing and documents including her passport, nikkahnama and property deeds. He also found photocopies of the guest house record and a USB containing audio and video recordings of my conversations with the guest house staff. They were quite a few good evidences against me.

I had thought of police destroying the evidences and making a mockery of the investigation process but, what they did was beyond my imagination. There were some sharp minds in the law enforcement agencies and I was in a serious trouble now. After recording the recovery of all the evidences from my office in front of a magistrate which the police had bought with them, they hustled me to the police van. The area had been crowded by then. Many people had worried looks on their faces but a few of my competitors were smiling. Before getting into the police van, I whispered in my peon’s ear to call Bhatti and tell him to ignite the candle.