By Hemant K. Batra | Freelance Writer
Always in a pair of denim clad jeans, Abdul Malik an Afghani national was a fair complexioned and light brown eyed handsome young man. Though in his twenties, he could easily pass on as a twenty-five years old man because of his well-built. He had studied until high school in the city of Jalalabad, located in the east of Afghanistan. After finishing high school, he had relocated to Kabul where he was supported by his maternal uncle. Abdul’s uncle worked as an accountant in a local hotel, one amongst the only two luxury hotels in Kabul. With the help of his uncle, Abdul got admitted in the local government college and opted for commerce related subjects in the English medium. He was fluent in Pashto language and quite elementary in English and Arabic. But soon he chose to drop out of college. While in Kabul for just three months or little more, he met one Kurbiika Ahmadov, a Chechen girl. She was working as a receptionist in the same luxury hotel in Kabul where Abdul’s uncle worked as an accountant. Once, Abdul had gone to the said hotel to drop of a set of college documents with his uncle for verification, not finding his uncle, he left the same at the reception. So, Abdul and Kurbiika met by sheer chance of fate at the reception desk of the hotel. Both felt an instant attraction or connection. Abdul had then waited for her outside the hotel and offered to take her out for a meal. She had politely declined rather deferred her consent for the time being but did exchange notes with him.
Within next week or so, Abdul’s consistent persistence worked on Kurbiika. Their friendship grew into a strong emotional bond and physical relationship. In an affair of couple of months, they had even decided to get engaged and married in the next few months. Kurbiika was on a one year contract of employment with the hotel, more of an internship. It was to end in less than a month. She was not interested in renewing her contract despite being in love with Abdul in Kabul. She had got an irresistible offer from a hotel in Dubai. Abdul also decided to drop out of college as he did not see much of a future for him as a married man in Afghanistan.
He wanted to settle in Dubai with Kurbiika and have a family with her. On the expiry of Kurbiika’s contract with the hotel in Kabul both decided to fly out together to Dubai. Kurbiika’s resourcefulness came in handy as she managed a Dubai tourist visitor visa for Abdul. She even bought him a return air ticket.
On reaching Dubai, she arranged a single room in Sharjah for him to stay intermittently. However, for solemnizing all the legal formalities and seeking work opportunities and permits in Dubai, Abdul needed to hire an agent. Kurbiika introduced him to a Syrian origin agent, Junaid Orhan. The agent demanded 3,00,000 UAE Dirhams for securing him a porter ’s job in a five-star hotel and also work permit.
This is where Abdul’s challenge started. He explored all options to raise monies. He came from a humble background where his father ran a small grocery shop on the outskirts of Jalalabad. Abdul’s father had no means to lend that quantum of monies and not even a part of it. He had two wives and eleven children with Abdul being the eldest.
Kurbiika was a daring, beautiful young woman. She was about three years older than Abdul. She was born and brought up in severely painful and adverse circumstances in Chechnya. Hence, she was a strong woman. She introduced Abdul to some private money lenders of African origin. The person who became the focal point for Abdul was a Somalian money changer named Dahiir Nadifa. After a few meetings spread throughout two weeks, Dahiir agreed in principle to lend Abdul 3,00,000 UAE Dirhams but on some contingent conditions. The conditions were indispensable because Abdul had no security to offer for the loan. The conditions were made to appear as very casual and simple, which they were not in essence.
Abdul was told to do a drill in the form of a tour from Kabul to Burundi to Somalia to Nigeria to Macau SAR (via Hong Kong) to Bangkok. He was to carry a parcel in the form of two gadgets – a Laptop and a Bluetooth portable speaker to be delivered at the final destination. However, he was not told about the intrinsic details of this mission or assignment. Abdul was told that these appliances contained some sensitive data and vital information relating to their financial companies, and had to be delivered to an individual in Bangkok. When he asked why he could not fly directly to Bangkok from Dubai, he was told that the two gadgets were to be collected at one place and then assembled and fed with data at another place. He was also told that there was a defined route to ensure safety and confidentiality. He was assured that there was no major risk in undertaking the job in question. However, the reality was something else.
Initially, Abdul was not convinced and thought that he might get into some big trouble, but finally, the mere thought of getting married to Kurbiika and settling in Dubai led him to agree to the lending conditions. He discussed the whole proposition with Kurbiika as they slept together in Kurbiika’s studio apartment. She did not see any grave issue in going ahead and supported the assignment.
Once you are in the game of infinity, you have no choice but to follow the script.
As per the plan, Abdul returned to Kabul. In two days he boarded a flight from Kabul to Haiti with transit in Dubai. Haiti offers free visa on arrival to Afghans. At the same time one supposedly Nepali national Laxman Thakur boarded the same flight for Burundi with transit in Dubai. Laxman had two boarding passes one for Dubai and another for onward journey to Burundi as Abdul had for Dubai and Haiti. As planned, while onboard flight from Kabul to Dubai, Laxman handed over to Abdul his boarding pass to Burundi along with his Nepali passport. He took Abdul’s boarding pass for Haiti along with his Afghan passport. In other words, both exchanged their identities.
While in transit in Dubai, Abdul was also handed over another passport. This time it was an Indian passport. Abdul now had two passports. Both had photos which appeared somewhat like his with different yet deceptively similar names. The dual passports were of two different nationalities – one Nepali and the other Indian.
Burundi gives thirty days visa on arrival to the Nepali nationals. The entire trip was structured with visa on arrival destinations. With a Nepali passport, Abdul impersonating as one Nepali Laxman Thakur boarded an African Airlines with a connecting 10-hour journey to Burundi. An East African nation Burundi is bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Congo Republic.
Burundi’s capital being Bujumbura, where Abdul aka Laxman landed after halting for few hours at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia. He got 30 days visa on arrival and walked out of the airport to be received by a local young woman. She took him in local public transport to the outskirts of the capital Bujumbura. He stayed there in a small apartment for three days and was not allowed to step out. The woman stayed with him, cleaned and cooked for him. She offered to sleep with him as well, but Abdul declined politely by stating that he had a wife back home and a kid, obviously a lie to keep his honor and her respect.
He was handed over a Bluetooth portable speaker of the Japanese brand and a Laptop notebook of the American brand. The Laptop was hardly a notebook but more of a gaming machine. It was quite bulky. The woman explained the features and operating instructions of both the gadgets, just in case, he was questioned by the airport security at any destination. He was also told that these gadgets would be loaded with data in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. He now boarded another African airline and flashed his Indian passport with the deceptively similar name as Nepali name. His Indian name being Lakshman Thakkar. This was to demonstrate possession of legitimate dual passports in case, he was frisked and searched at any airport leading to the revelation of two passports.
On reaching Mogadishu via Nairobi, he declared himself as an Indian and got away with thirty days visa on arrival. When out of the airport, Abdul aka Laxman aka Lakshman was received by a seven-footer dark black man in army fatigues who was accompanied by at least six bodyguards. The man appeared to be either a high-ranking army officer or leader of some private notorious mercenary group. Abdul was frisked hurriedly and led into a small truck or SUV. He was blindfolded and taken to a place, which must have been an hour away from the airport. He was courteously led to a farmhouse, which he realized once his blinds were unfolded. His luggage was taken over by the hosts along with both the gadgets. He could sense some chemical laboratory operating in the farmhouse surrounded by dense greenery. He could also see a small mosque or shrine within the compound. He immediately felt the need and urge to pray to Allah for his safety and that of Kurbiika.
He stayed there barely for a day when time to leave loomed for him. A senior man perhaps a scientist or educationist approached him when he was to depart. He was accompanied by two people who handed over his luggage along with the Laptop and portable speaker. The senior man made Abdul sit and understand the changed nomenclature of the equipment or gadgets. He told Abdul that these gadgets were now worth a billion dollars and not a few hundred dollars. They were stuffed and armed with the world’s most powerful data and information, disclosed the man. Abdul was instructed to handle these devices with care and caution, and not to drop them or lose them. They were more precious than Kohinoor according to the elderly man. Also, Abdul was given three big tubes of cream to apply on his entire body abundantly with an advice to not to change clothes for the next few days until the delivery of these appliances in Bangkok. Abdul was also advised to apply the cream on his hands every three to four hours. It was for the first time he was told that what he was doing was not only for his economic need but something for his brotherhood and that he was a messenger of Allah. Abdul was getting a blood gust possibly adrenaline rush. Abdul was slipping into the deceit. A sane Abdul was sliding towards insanity.
Abdul was dropped back at the Mogadishu Airport of Somalia from where with all VIP handling he was made to board another Airlines to Hong Kong. The flight and transit duration accounted for twenty-six hours with two halts one at Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in the town of Ambouli, Djibouti, and another at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Turkey.
Lakshman Thakkar, so-called Indian national landed at Hong Kong Airport, and as per the script of his handlers, he proceeded to the Macau ferry terminal. One does not have to clear immigration at Hong Kong to get onto the Macau ferry. He was carrying only hand luggage and was stinking of sweat like anybody would who had not taken a shower for few days. He bought a ferry ticket for Macau and boarded the ferry with no security check at all, as there is none at that stage. At Macau outer terminal, he smoothly cleared the immigration as an Indian with visa on arrival. Ordinarily, no questions are ever asked for by the immigration authorities of Macau or customs. There is hardly any security at the Macau Ferry Terminal. Abdul aka Lakshman Thakkar stepped out and was received by one local individual who took him around the Macau old city sight-seeing trip and after a gap of a couple of hours dropped him at the Macau Airport instead of the Ferry terminal.
The equipment loaded with data and information worth millions or billions of dollars continue to be with him all this while. It is usual for tourists to visit Macau for a couple of hours look around casinos and go back to Hong Kong or other destinations.
The local man handed over an air ticket to him for Bangkok and a hotel voucher. It was a return ticket Macau to Bangkok and back to Macau. The return sector being a dummy. The Thailand Immigration authorities give thirty days visa on arrival to Indian nationals on the production of confirmed hotel reservation and return air ticket. Abdul aka Lakshman boarded a flight to Bangkok from Macau. On landing at the Bangkok airport, he cleared immigration on the Indian passport. After clearing immigration, one is required to pass through the customs channels, which is not very stringent for people traveling light. The customs are strict with people coming from African nations because of drug menace and those travelling with heavy luggage. However, tourists of any kind are entirely welcomed into Thailand.
Abdul as Lakshman cleared customs and walked out of the Airport with a big sigh of relief, in a way his journey had come to a finality with delivery of the consignment in the offing. However, who would take the delivery or where did he have to deliver the gadgets? He was clueless. Outside in the waiting area of the airport, he was shocked to find Kurbiika holding his name card along with two men, one of the two being Dahiir Nadifa, the Somalian money changer and another one being the same co-passenger Laxman or Lakshman who exchanged the passports with him. Abdul was unable to reconcile to the unfolding situation. All four got into a private sedan car being driven by Dahiir. The flock of four proceeded to a condominium on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok. It was about 11:00 PM, all four walked into an apartment on the 36 floor. A luxurious apartment with an astounding skyline view of Bangkok. Kurbiika led Abdul to his designated room after taking control of his treasurable luggage.
Abdul was asked to take a shower. Kurbiika joined him in the shower and bathed him like a small child. Kurbiika then told him to eat the dinner arranged on the dining table, and go off to sleep. He questioned Kurbiika about the way forward and return schedule to Dubai. He had given his Afghani passport to that very man – a co-passenger who was now in Bangkok. Abdul had acquired multiple identities – Afghani, Nepali, and Indian. He wanted to assume his real identity at this stage and requested Kurbiika to tell that man to return his passport. Kurbiika asked him to relax and sleep well while she was gone to deliver the consignment. Abdul was confused about Kurbiika’s role in the whole project. Why was she here? Whom was she working for? Was she here for me? Why was she taking the risk of getting involved in final dangerous delivery? So many questions rushed through Abdul’s mind.
All of them left the apartment with the consignment except Abdul. After having his food, Abdul retired to his room to find that his entire luggage was gone and that even his two passports on which he was traveling were missing. Maybe they were with Kurbiika, in her safe custody. Abdul dozed off and woke up not before 8:00 AM, the following morning. There was pin-drop silence in the apartment, Kurbiika and the two guys were still not back. Where are they? Why are they still not back? Was everything okay? Hundreds of thoughts traversed through Abdul’s mind.
Suddenly, he noticed a leather bag on the dining table. It was not there when he had food last night. It meant someone did come to the apartment when he was sleeping. He unzipped the bag to find thick bundles of US Dollars 100 currency notes. On the top of the notes, there was a big envelope containing his Afghani passport with a Thai visa on which the so call called Laxman or Lakshman had entered as Abdul Malik.
Then alongside Abdul’s passport was a letter from Kurbiika written in Arabic and Pashto mixed, which said:
`My lover, I do not know whether you risked your life for settling in Dubai or for being with me. Whatever it be, the facts of life cannot be changed. I am already married to Dahiir Nadifa for four years and blessed with a child of two years named Asad. Dahiir and I are part of a large jihadi organization where we are responsible for recruitment and courier handling. We have a pious duty towards Allah and our Martyrs. We used you through entrapment. You are not the first person I have been with outside my marriage. My role requires me to engage in tempting and seducing young men, especially of our faith so that we could use them for our objectives, which are devout. You fell for both money and skin. You are no different from others. You contributed to our movement. The consignment you carried with you and brought was of deadly nerve agents – lethal chemical weaponry. This will facilitate a series of big news shortly. Do not try to find or contact me as that would be fatal for you and your family. Return to Kabul at the earliest. Do not look back. Do not travel to Dubai or wherever you have been in the last few days. This mission should remain a secret or else you could be seriously harmed. There are US$ 90,000 in the bag. This is more than enough for starting a new business in Kabul. Be careful in carrying these with you, though you are an expert carrier now. Your love, Kurbiika’.
Abdul was numb as if some big hammer had hit him on his head, smashing all his nerves and senses.
He came back to Kabul with the bundles of US Dollars meticulously spread and hidden in the linings of his checked-in suitcases. Next few months witnessed brutal assassinations and killings by use of deadly chemicals of some renowned innocent political leaders who were fighting a war against terrorism, radicalism, and extremism.
Abdul Malik could not live with the persisting guilt and held himself wholly responsible for the deaths of many innocents by those who had entirely misinterpreted the meaning of faith and religion. Abdul shot himself at his home in Kabul after two years of those occurrences. He left a narrative tale of the whole episode as above shared in a diary.
In the end of that diary, he wrote a quote of Rumi, “Beyond the rightness or wrongness of things there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
*Copyright © Hemant Batra
**A short story inspired by events shared in the day to day life by people. It has been formulated fictionally. The description is not connected with anyone in real life or living person, and any cohesion with individuals named is purely coincidental. The story is not meant to hurt anybody’s sentiments or faith except that it does portray and declare senseless violence as an unacceptable means in humanity and cause.
***The photo used in the story is sourced from PixaBay website and has no correlation with the story characters.