A lover, a teen militant, a human being

Published: December 19, 2011

My enemy was lying in front of me bleeding. PHOTO: REUTERS

I had just taken my matriculation exams when I volunteered for a first aid camp. However, this wasn’t just any first aid camp – it was located in the war-torn area of the Kurram Agency. In 2007, the situation was much the same as today; the area was under siege and conflict was on the rise between the Taliban and the security forces.

The nights were cold but the reality that I came face to face with there was even harsher. Some memories still make me shudder and cry. I witnessed a tremendous amount of blood and gore. The roaring of heavy weapons in the dead of the night scared me. Initially, I was unable to sleep. But with time I became immune to the sound of the gunfire and the sight of blood – it all became an adventure. Yet, there is one incident, which try as I may, doesn’t escape me.

One night at 12 AM, the Taliban insurgents attacked the camp and then retreated, leaving 15 dead and 37 injured.

I was asked to scour the field and look for injured people around the attacked area. I went out with a plastic sack that contained first aid material. Suddenly, I heard someone crying and moaning for help. Rushing to the site, I saw a wounded teenage boy. Normally, I would have rushed to the rescue of a wounded person. But this wasn’t just any victim of an attack. He was not one of us – he was part of the Taliban fighters.

I stood transfixed. Should I help him? Should I leave him to die? My conscience had gone haywire. “Walk away,” it said firmly. Then in the same breath, “How can you leave a man to die?”

What is happening to me, I wondered in anguish. The war has stripped us of all humanity. My enemy was lying in front of me bleeding; bleeding eyes, bleeding head, bleeding legs, bleeding hands – he was bleeding from everywhere. “What am I supposed to do?” I wondered in despair. I cannot kill him, nor can I take him with me because a sure death awaits him at the quarters.

The humanity deep within me won. I held him while he died. I placed his head on my lap, and cleaned his face. After controlling my own emotions, I started my work. I bandaged his right foot, which had no toes. One of his eyes was missing too. He was whispering and asking for water. I refused because he was bleeding and I knew that if I gave him water, he would die in no time.

I was wrong because he died the very next moment when I opened his jacket and saw the blood flowing profusely inside. I couldn’t control myself. I sobbed and screamed.

On inspecting him closely, I saw that he was holding his qamiz’s (shirt) pocket tightly. I loosened his grip and found that he was clinging to a piece of paper that had something written in Pashto on it. I took it with me. When I read the note, I couldn’t have been more surprised. Here’s a translation:

Flowers will be blossoming on my land.

But I will not be there

You! My beloved, you will be at the peak of your beauty

But I will not be there

I beg for your love but you are so cruel to give me

You will be merciful

But I will not be there

My love! Come to me before it’s too late

You will cry on my grave, so what?

I will not be there

(In the name of bewafa Jannan)

It was quite evident that the young boy was in love. In that moment, after reading the poem, I saw him as the boy which he was, and not a militant. Why, I wondered, did he ruin his life by being part of the Taliban? The answer was clear; he was bribed, brainwashed, and forced. He was probably approached by the Taliban before anyone else approached him. He had not seen anything except killing and death in his short life. A teenage mind is easy to mould and so he believed that what he was doing was right and the only truth. This is the same for the many young boys who are becoming part of the Taliban today.

We, the people of the tribal areas, are not animals. We have just not been educated about civilisation and development. It is inevitable that extremist elements in the area will approach young, vulnerable boys because they are ignored by authorities. It’s a matter of first-come first-served.

Here’s a question: when you kill a militant, what are you giving to his son to discourage him from going down the same path as his father?



Aqib Kazmi

A student studying Media and Mass Communication.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • raz

    Thank God, we have lots of hope for reviving the state of affairs…
    some employment opportunities, a godo education….and some “Correct” version of history will help the future generations for sure….

    I wish I could see that in my lifetime…Recommend

  • antony

    Too good .I think you did a service not just helping some one in need but also by writing down the emotions you had faced in that situation you had also reached out far off folks like me who shares not your religion nor your language nor your ethnicity but still can feel the humanity ..If at all one can interpret via bible what Jesus said this is it .The message of love not just at the moment of someone’s pain but also in the higher realm of human conflict (taliban vs aghanistan army or pakistan army) .Recommend

  • Khalid


    You are right. It is the matter of who reach them first. I was 13 when I was approached by militants to Join them in 1988 in Dera Ismail Khan. I was open enough with my father to discuss with him about this who convinced me using reason that this is wrong, although the guys Who approached me told me that as Jihad is a duty so we are not required to ask permission of parents. About 10 years later my younger brother was approached in Lahore for the same and my father and me have to convince him. Not everyone was lucky. A friend of mine Waheed who hailed from Mehsood tribe was not lucky. He was killed by Indians in 1992 in Kashmir. Recommend

  • http://pioussluts.wordpress.com EoH

    Excellent! That’s what I have been saying. We need proper education etc in FATA. We don’t need outdated British policies that always treated FATA as mine for the soldiers and mercenaries. and, unfortunately, Imran Khan and PTI are trying to keep people away from the civilization. So it is the time to think!Recommend

  • SAK

    I agree with you to the extent that you did the right job by giving first aid to the injured guy. But I strongly disagree with your last sentence “when you kill a militant, what are you giving to his son to discourage him from going down the same path as his father?” These militants are playing in foriegn hands to kill Pakistanis. More then 40000 people have been killed, is’nt this enough for their childs to think what their millitant father’s has done to this nation. Please don’t defend these people. They are killers and they deserved to be killed unless they disarm themselves and face a fair trail.Recommend

  • Sanna

    May I say that you’re exceptionally brave, Aqib. Recommend

  • wahab

    Excellent write. So moving..Recommend

  • Kashmiri

    Oh martyr i am coming to you…Recommend

  • http://djdurrani.blogspot.com Saad Durrani

    My friend, you should be proud of yourself. At least, you showed “humanity.” It is such a bittersweet post. I wish he could’ve survived and let this be known by himself. My respect for you and prayers for the departed and his family.Recommend

  • NA

    Brilliant piece!Recommend

  • http://www.myfrequentranting.blogspot.com Farwa Naqvi

    Excellent write-up. You’ve done good to write about this, it shows what they go through and why…it’s true, people in the tribal areas live in a small world, they have no exposure, any one can teach them anything and make them follow their commands. They should have access to good education, instead of weapons.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    If a man endangers innocent lives, I have absolutely no interest in his dukhi daastan. He may get his face off my shoulder and cry twenty tears in his grave instead, after we’ve delivered justice…because he has lost the right to my sympathetic ear.

    We cannot blame it on illiteracy and poverty alone. There are illiterate and poor people all around the world, but very few breed terrorists like we do. This is due to our inability to put our foot down and develop a no-nonsense policy to terrorism. One may not be wealthy or smart, but does one not a conscience either?

    We need to stop mumbling condolences for terrorists. I’m not saying I wouldn’t help the injured militant had I been in the author’s place (because I’m there to heal, not render my own judgement), but I would be lying if I said that contentment would not wash over me later when this lesser hominid is given the strict punishment he has earned.Recommend

  • jst fabolous………thiz artical touched my heart…u have aroused the passions of humanity quite suuccessfully..we r proud of u, youngman, jst keep writing these kind of things….GOD BLESS URecommend

  • Noise

    When you attack the innocent you deserve to die, no matter poor or in love you may be. When they kill one, they have killed us all. He was out to get you, Kazmi. He was in the wrong and was the aggressor. He reaped what he sowed. He alone is to blame for his fate.Recommend

  • M

    I am a humanitarian, but i have no sympathy for killers/terrorists. I am sorry. Recommend

  • Ashish

    The only path out from this horrible situation is employment and economic development. To achieve it , correct and fair chance of education is must. All these things are inter related. The bottom line is to change the mentality of mass towards peace , equality and co existence.Recommend

  • http://habloid.wordpress.com Habiba younis

    when you kill a militant, what are you giving to his son to discourage him from going down the same path as his father?
    BRILLIANTLY summed up, great post. Truly appreciate it!Recommend

  • Kazmi

    Thanks to all of you for appreciation. if it is the will of God i will bring up more realities about FATA. I have dedicated my life to the people of FATA because i don’t want my next generation to face what i have faced …………………….Recommend

  • Rx

    wow that an excellent piece of human emotions, a typical tribal love story, humanitarian work, etc but i wish you could give him some water ……. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Very nicely written.
    We are in this mess because the state has failed in its duties resulting in the frustration of the people. This vulnerability is exploited by the extremists using the emotional vehicle of religion to achieve their objective of gaining power and control over an area. This in a nut-shell is what is happening all over the country to a greater or lesser degree.Recommend

  • a 54321

    loved it.Recommend

  • Ambreen

    Excellent piece Aqib.I have had similar thoughts about these militants too,none a of them are mature enough or even evil to that extent.Little do they know that what they are fighting for has nothing to do with Islam .Most of the time they are innocent kids from very poor homes,lured by false promises of paradise.May ALLAH be the judge of these people and may HE save our country from those among us who are hell bent on destroying it. Recommend

  • Khushboo

    I dont have words for this masterpiece of writing…. Awsome..
    In the end Akib left us with a serious question. Recommend

  • Syed

    When you know what needs to be done to prevent all this, then you know who’s the real culprit.Recommend

  • x

    America’s war of terror has landed us in this mess and we are powerless to extricate ourselves from this. instead we are silent spectators or co-conspirators as our own people, innocent people are killed. the few extremists which existed formerly (created and trained by the cia in the soviet war) have swelled their ranks and grown to unmanageable proportions as families of the innocent victims take up arms to avenge their deaths or are lured or brainwashed by the extremists.
    it is not just education. its also about giving these people their rights and attempting to solve the issue by non-military means. when a person grows up seeing only death and desolation, then taking up arms to perpetrate senseless violence is the only approach which makes sense to him. Recommend

  • x

    what about america killing them in the name of rooting out extremists? what about a child whose father is innocent but killed and he becomes a ‘terrorist’ because he grows up seeing this senseless war killing thousands of innocents, destroying lives, homes, ruining childhoods and youth, stripping dignities, eroding security, destroying futures?Recommend

  • myra

    @Faraz Talat:
    “We cannot blame it on illiteracy and poverty alone. There are illiterate and poor people all around the world, but very few breed terrorists like we do. This is due to our inability to put our foot down and develop a no-nonsense policy to terrorism.”
    yes, because those people have not been subjected to senseless killings in the name of this so called war on terror which has killed more innocent civilians than terrorists. with everything to lose and nothing to gain, they join the terrorists and yes, their lack of education along with their psychologically scarred minds and hearts are exploited to breed hatred and inflict violence on other innocnts too.and hence, the cycle continues.
    and this is due to our inability to put our foot down and BACK OUT OF THIS WAR NR OF OUR MAKING. it is senseless, useless, in fact counter productive, immoral and a crime against humanity. Recommend

  • Noran

    They are blackmailed after recording their such video give them a way out to blow themself or if the video is made public ll be worse then such death. thanks all for sharing their thoughts


  • huma

    should we humanize them? can we demonise them? the “gray” in the black and white of war. this piece conflicts me. i cannot condone the taliban boy;s choice, but his pain and suffering hurts me too… powerfully written.Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    One solution is open restaurants, bars and discos in plenty in all these areas and strive to provide cheap entertainment to youngsters so that they may keep out of trouble.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Myra: “yes, because those people have not been subjected to senseless killings in the name of this so called war on terror which has killed more innocent civilians than terrorists”

    Oh please, spare me the self-pity!

    The whole world from Africa to India has witnessed, and continues to witness, needless loss of innocent civilians. This ardent self-victimization, and paranoia that somehow our suffering is unique and unmatched, and that half the world is conspiring against us by carrying their war in our land, is such a cliché!

    Pakistan kicked the hornet’s nest when it decided to use religious lunatics as a strategic asset in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Yes, USA created them, but we had the bright idea of sustaining and fattening them, after US and Soviet both departed from the region.Recommend

  • Cynical

    Let me get it right.
    I’m poor,uneducated and brainwashed (of my own choice), so I have earned myself the right to kill innocent people.Right?Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/ishaq.zaidi Ishaq.Zaidi

    I appreciate you’r effort @ Aqib, yes you are’ Right itx a matter of first come first serve..!!
    you pointed well..//Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Must say I am moved by your piece of writing. Isn’t it surprising that the world somehow manages to transfer all of its ugliness to people it calls criminals and then prosecutes them in the name of justice? Every criminal / terrorist is a reminder to the society that they might have failed somewhere and they can improve upon it. Systems should be improved first and people will follow automatically as a result. Recommend

  • MA

    Gog bless you Mr. Aqib Kazmi,
    may God help us all to get rid of this menace of extremism And terrorism (from groups and states), from the worldRecommend

  • Nandita.

    @Faraz Talat:
    You are bang on target.It’s a pleasure to read such comments.Recommend

  • abhi

    Only if Nehru and Patel would have helped Badshah Khan in getting independece from Pak, things would have been better for tribal people. Now no one can believe that khan lead such big non violant movement in the land which is now synonamous with violance.Recommend

  • zehra

    yes we must educate to stop young boys beocming targets for the miltants, but i really dont feel anything if a militant dies, because of them so many of the inncoent die, doi they think what will the kids do when the father doesnt return form namaz as he was killed, or the family will do when the son doesnt return form school because he was killed in a blast, what will the family do when the women of the house dont return because they were in bazar shopping for the family and got killed due to the blast, i could go on, we are bleeding, everyday innocents die because of the selfish, evil miltants, they fool the young boys with their talk and sometimes even against their will, but once he kills an innocent i dont care if he is lover, a teen or a rebel!! Recommend

  • brekhna

    Dear Kazmi, Kurram is undergoing a complex situation where the Taliban are exploiting the already existing sectarian fissures. Your name shows that you belong to one sect but were willing to help a man who was not only out to kill you but is your eternal enemy. This shows the beauty of your nature. I can assure you that there are hundreds of thousands of people like you on both sides of the divide, and because of people like you, this world is holding out. Recommend

  • http://utterlyurban.com/the-vampire-diaries-season-1-episode-11-bloodlines-songs/ Vampire

    This is SUCH a moving piece. I was close to tears. People have no idea what a bit of compassion could do to this world. It could change so much. Amazing write-up!Recommend

  • myra

    @Faraz Talat:
    pakistan is not exempt from blame. even in americas war, our leaders have sold us for dollars. nevertheless, the fact remains that america created them for its own gain, left a huge power vacuum in afghanistan after the war ended, abandoned pakistan to the extent of cutting off aid and interest so yes, i do blame america for landing us in the mess we did.
    and the pashtuns are inherently warriors, a very proud, independent clan and subjugating them is not a possibility. when you bomb their homeland, kill their people in pursuit of a few terrorists, you are committing a heinous crime and can not expect there to be no repercussions.
    an isolated tragedy or murder is different, these people see their GENERATIONS being destryed and with no prospect of change or betterment. and it is not as if someone murdered their family so they become murderers too, it is much more than that. they see a war, not of their making, which is mercilessly and callously killing people, destroying lives, and this has been going on for years and years. they see this injustice and cruelty which is their entire life and that breeds frustration, anger and violent propensities. Recommend

  • ALI

    Nice article.Might be possible there will not only teenage lovers in Taliban force but also certainly people who will have lost their families during Drone attacks.I have to say one thing our army was doing good things in UN like Somalia and other countries.Why they are doing nothing in Tribal areas after all Army consume 80% of our budget.Why they did not take steps to rebuild tribal areas rather than nothing.One teenage lover who was killed in the hands of Aqib was also son of any mother and his mother or his father will see dreams for his bright future.My request to army and so called govt. please do something.Recommend

  • http://hassanaskary.blogspot.com Hassan Askary

    very well written ! excellent work.. though it is very critical topic to discuss. , but dear writer you have done a very good job particularly the question you arose is very important for all of us…Recommend

  • http://www.centcom.mil/ur US CENTCOM

    A teenage child who has the world in front of him, a child who was in love but died in vain… so young. This child is not the enemy! The enemy is, in fact, are the ones who go after these children, brainwash them with hatred and religious extremism. These enemies of humanity have no remorse in using innocent children to fulfill their evil agenda of death and destruction. Children who should be in schools or playing a game of soccer or cricket are instead being robbed of their basic privileges and being turned into murderers and terrorists. Have we not seen terrorists use different methods to recruit children as young as six to become suicide bombers and fighters? Have we not seen numerous stories of children on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border being killed while killing hundreds in their naive hatred? When a child is killed either as a bomber and attacker or as an innocent by-stander, both are victims of terror.

    Children are the future of any nation. The enemies are out to destroy the future. No nation can survive if they do not protect, nurture and educate their children, their future.

    Maj David Nevers
    DET-United States Central Command

  • Ammar

    Brilliant .. Touching.. And trueRecommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    What you did was humane, ethically correct and morally right and applaud you for it.

    However, I feel your sympathies are misplaced. I feel sorry our youth are being destroyed. But your camp was attacked. Are you suggesting to simply eat lead and not fire back? Pretty hard to develop and educate with a gun in your face. Indeed, the Taliban have murdered even teachers and progressive clerics who stood up against them. With development and education there needs to be security.

    Let’s not act like there hasn’t been an attempt at peace or development or rehab for militant children. Hundreds of schools, clinics, NGO’s, administrators have been attacked, looted, kidnapped, etc. To stop it, we must defend society, and this entails force which kills militants, and we must follow it up by taking care of their kids as wards of the state, but even if that fails, their choice of revenge and militancy, after falling prey to these gangs and cults, does not justify the continuing criminality one bit.Recommend

  • http://Peshawar Zarmeena Ikam Babar

    Excellent write up –

    I couldn’t stop from getting emotional whilst reading the militant’s poem-
    Quite moving !Recommend

  • kazmi

    thanks. your comments are really valuable…….Recommend

  • Zain Ul Islam

    nice very nice:)
    congratulations dear….:)Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/pavanmehta Pavan

    An eye for eye would make the world blind.
    Enough Said. What the guy did was absolutely right.
    Last line when you kill a militant, what are you giving to his son to discourage him from going down the same path as his father? Sums it up all.
    Awesome Right up.
    I wish somebody comes up possible solutions to the ever increasing problem of extremism and breeding extremists.
    You did you part mate. Hats off.Recommend

  • Eminent

    Excellent these types of article can bring positive change in mind set of ppl and Moreover what u did Hatts Off to u , Thats the true spirit n hospitality of Muslim n pakis . . . If u have more Plz do share that also . . . A Well WisherRecommend

  • Sana

    This gave me goosebumps..Recommend

  • Aasim

    Dear Author,

    Your article is spot on as far as identification of the problem is concerned. You are absolutely right that its education that could get us out of misery, and I guess that is the only reason Schools are the biggest of the targets of Talibans. They have blown 100s infact thousands of schools becasue they know that education is the only agent of change. What our govt is ignorant of is the importance they need to attach to educating those people, dont kill those young boys who have become militants, catch them and bring them to some rehabilitation centres and make them socially responsible.. They can be of great service to the nation in any area, specially military as they are trained in handling sophistcated weaponry and fighting fierce gun-fights. I guess this can be the only way to put a permanent end to militancy.Recommend

  • Nafisa

    Awesome. Need to realize this story from inner eyes to solve Taliban issue.
    Good luck and keep writing like that…:)Recommend

  • Umair Ur Rehman

    Brilliant, The point made by the author is good, but is it only about getting to the child first, why did not these militant reached these or like boys before 2004 to fight against us, Pakistan? the answer is what we trying to escape from, This is due to the war we imposed on ourselves despite of being not a party to it, Due to the partnership in loss of war with America, we can fool ourselves but cannot stop the loss we are suffering from in this war, before 2004 this idealogy of Militantism was supported by very those ppl who are today claiming to be fighting against it, It was then termed as sacred Jihad, and sure it was, But why we are afraid of the same idealogy coming back on us, It is exactly what we taught them, That which is what they are teaching our children, We need to stop imposing war on tribes or we have to be patient with their Lovely ppl to turning against us, It has been long 7 years, but we are still trying to hide from the truth, Not good for us anymoreRecommend

  • SK

    nicely written ! Humanity comes first.Recommend

  • Irshad Khan

    A very good and touchy article. In my opinion this a revolt against the system. Taliban are trying to destroy all necessities of life, which have not been provided, rather refused, to them since long; neither they have been looked after and talked properly while we expected them to fight for us in order to defend us and that also without any money. But our rulers never considered that they are human beings and also deserve to have fresh water, Dams/reservoirs, Electricity, Gas, schools, Hospitals, post offices, Banks, roads, employments, Industry etc.,like many other citizens of this country. It is not too late to realize and act accordingly. Recommend