“Mirpur is a small hamlet situated across the banks of the river dividing the line of control on frontiers of both the countries. It is situated almost equal-distant from the main border towns of the two countries that form as the life line to the supply of daily needs to the poor villagers. The road to the village is fraught with many dangerous situations.  It is hazardous to travel on this road during day time as skirmishes between the border security forces of your country and the Pakistan rangers keep taking place almost every second day on this road.  We will have to travel overnight through another torturous route that  crosses through the long mountainous range on one side and a steep downward  alight into the valley down to make it to the village”, his guide who had introduced himself as Pathan was a tall, lean man in early thirties .  He had the glow of a fresh red apple on his face. He looked almost eager to pounce upon any one who would try to fiddle with him. The no nonsense attitude adopted by him gave a serious look to his otherwise fine chiseled features. Any one meeting him for the first time will mistake him to be a film star. He had re-joined them at the birth place of the social preacher where their accommodation had been arranged by the host government in the temple itself. The government of the neighboring country wanted to make sure they stay in the group together. The government agencies did not want them to unnecessary wander around like aliens in a foreign country it was apprehensive of their picking up contacts with locals.  Pathan came over to them at the airport. He was dressed in a porters uniform, “may I take your luggage sir!” he had asked him at the transit lounge at the airport.  Ranjit resisted initially.  But he eventually handed over the trolley when the porter uttered the code given by General Durjan   “General Durjan will be too pleased to know you met your mother’s son in here”.

“I shall be too happy to hug my long lost brother” was the reply given by Ranjit.

“We will have to start immediately after you are through with your prayers. The others have been waiting for you since morning. Their flight from London had arrived early morning. They have already paid their respects at your temple”, Pathan had informed him as soon as they reached the destination.  Ranjit was not too keen to go to temple as he had never felt the need to except when he had to perforce accompany his grandmother for fear of incurring her wrath and losing his pocket money.

“None the less you must once pay your obeisance along with the group to establish your credentials” was the advice given by General Durjan. He took a quick bath and joined every one in the hall below where special thanks giving prayers were being held.

Ranjit finished his meals too very quickly at the common feast. He followed Pathan and two others gentle men to the jeep which was to take them to the small town of Mirpur. On the way Pathan was trying to give a familiarization note to Ranjit on   the major arms hot hub, from where the supplies were being managed to numerous rebel groups across the borders of different countries.

“It is an undeclared and unofficial international market for the most sophisticated arms from across all major suppliers of the arms producing nations. We will not call it a clandestine business because many a times the administrations of the legitimate governments too do their shopping from the markets of Mirpur. They may not be involved directly. They refer all their needs through the middlemen and agents. Yet in the world of dark deals nothing remains secret for too long. One fine day these toys resurface in some part of the globe. It is easier to make the connections and find out not only the source of purchase but also the source of supplies too. It is also the hub where the so called super powers of the western world unload their arsenals to be sold. In fact it is always in their interest that the unrests, revolutions, infightings, social upheavals, religious disparities amongst different dissatisfied fractions and the rebellions continue in almost all parts of the world.  Otherwise where will they find the takers for their firearms factories? They must keep not only different factions fighting, but also ensure they do not allow them to come to a compromise.  Because if it was permitted so; can you imagine the kind of unrest it will create back in their own regimes due to all the arms factories closing down”.

Ranjit was too tired to pay any attention to the sermon delivered by the Pathan. He wished this fellow would shut up for a while. He wished he could get a wink of sleep. The man sitting next to Pathan had been smoking one cigarette after the other. He seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. He suddenly came alive, “oh shut up Pathan, it is not necessary that every one who comes here has to listen to your theory of big nations and their strategy to provide employment to their burgeoning population. We need to know more about the kind of armaments that have arrived at the marketplace .we also want to know the cut you will be expecting from the deals”.

“You do not have to act as a first timer on each visit major Yusuf khan.  The ISI is well familiar about my little requirements of making both ends meet. Except this time the Israel’s demand have gone quite high as they would not like to sell any thing to your country.  Every time they have trusted you; the consignments have ended up in the Arabian world in spite of their embargo imposed on the use of such arms in the Arabian world. They are now extra cautious to deal with ISI due to the escalating enmity between the warring nations of the Arab world. Nor would they like to deal with you upfront as they are wary of annoying United States by supplying goodies to Pakistan which may find their way to the Al Qaida routes”.

“Rest assured Pathan the friend here represents neither.  In fact the agency will be too happy to know that you are helping us on a project against our permanent neighbors. Of late the big bosses of the CIA too have been worried about the growing clout between the Russians and Indians. If they can help it they are too willing to find a base some where close to the biggest democracy, to ensure they clip the growing wings of the anti US forces.  They have always supported our clandestine operations in different parts of their country because of their fear of the potential might of our neighbors. We have always been present there through the Nagas, the Ulfas and the nexalites by proxy. But the northern parts of India have always been a thorn in our plans.   We have any way found it difficult to raise a sufficient reason for dissatisfaction and distrust amongst the common people. They have always stood like a solid rock wall against all kind of aggressions and designs of foreign powers. It however appears the small unrest in the most developed state of that country may give us the required support to our designs of a break away splinters from their whole; like they had   broken our country into two parts”. Major Yusuf asked the vehicle to be stopped for a while. The gnawing cold was getting into his bones.  He felt pressure on his bladder becoming unbearable. His need was getting too urgent.

Ranjit who had dozed off for a while too came out of the jeep. He had not had a good look at the major; who had joined them on the way. He saw a man into early thirties, with beard neatly trimmed. He had a pee cap on his head to save himself from the biting cold. The smart crew cut was visible at the nape of his neck. He walked defiantly with head and shoulders held high. Each step he took convinced Ranjit that this man was still in services. He was representing ISI in official capacity. It was surprising that a government agency of foreign intelligence was officially extending all help to the sage and his men.

“It is certain that the roots of the organization headed by the seer ran too deep and wide and this was possible only if he had the sanctions and support of high and mighty powers in world politics”, thought Ranjit. He could hear Major Yusuf khan’s foot steps coming back towards them after he had relieved himself. Major Yusuf khan parked himself at the end of the ridge. He stared into the blank darkness below into the valley. He beckoned Ranjit to join him, “Do you see those lights in the distance?”  Ranjit had to strain his eyes to look at the small flecks of the lights at the distance.

“Yes there must be habitation of some villages down there”, he told the army officer then he saw the lights were moving “these are the vehicles moving. It is some kind of highway, and is that the convoy of your army”.

“No these are the military vehicles of your country in movement. If only this portion of land had been included in our territory by the British, we would have taken the entire Kashmir valley away from the Indians. And any how some day we will cut off the entire valley by destroying this highway. If your sage can succeed with his revolutionary mission and get the plains separated from the control of our enemies; we will make sure we cut off the hills too. Then only the incision of our country will be avenged. I still can not forget the humiliating surrender of thousands of our soldiers and the insults inflicted on our General Niazi, by your forces under the pretence of gaining freedom to the Mukti bahini. I wish I could rewrite the history of Muslim World to remove the blot of the defeat in eastern Pakistan. The Indian forces are too big and too mighty ferocious. We are aware that a direct fight can never be fought against the most disciplined army of the world. That is why We will do every thing to engineer a revolt in any part of our enemy country through direct or indirect support and for which reason I have been specially deputed by ISI to help you select the right kind of ammunition as can be easily used by your mercenaries to inflict the maximum damages”, Yusuf khan spat in the air below towards the caravan of the flickering lights. “We believe the jihad against the Kafirs will be a long drawn out battle. But we are prepared for many hundred years of war. I lost a grand uncle in 1965 war. Another cousin of my father had laid his life in the skirmishes that occur every day at the border on Kashmir. He was leading a band of freedom fighters detailed to cross over to occupied territory across the borders when they were way laid. But each one of them went down fighting. May be one day I will join you in your battle for freedom”.

Ranjit had been politely listening to him so far. He could take it no further and said, “I am a novice in world politics. I am also not very familiar with history. I am here like our friend Pathan had mentioned to make my both ends meet. Each one looks for his own fodder. If some of the warriors are fed on the thought of avenging a defeat, or generating a win in the war some others will surely be going with all intentions of returning rich with the exploits gathered from the vanquished territory.  Let us say I am looking for the riches”.

Pathan burst out laughing. “Very well said young man, many a times I have told Major Yusuf to look for the reasons to locate a smile in life. He is always finding the logic to shed animosity and scare.  I think you should take him with you to your country for a change in climate .that will do him good”. And then he focused on his driving again, “I suggest we move fast as we have still to cover a distance of over three hours before we hit our destination”.

Pathan told them “once our jeep arrives at Mirpur you may not be able to get any kind of rest as from there we will have to travel on the mules to get across the valley. The road to the armaments bazaar has not been allowed to be built.  The primitive conditions of the mountainous terrains are preferred to keep the civilization away from the dark valleys of insidious deals. I will suggest you take short naps while I drive the vehicle so that we can start immediately after reaching Mirpur”.

Yusuf was already snoring along with his companion.  Ranjit too closed his eyes to get a wink of sleep. The pushes and the pulls hitting the wheels of the vehicle from the unmetaled road below hardly let him snooze .They were stopped at the check post out side Mirpur. Ranjit looked at his watch. He was immediately reminded that he had not set his watch as per the local timings.  His rough estimate told him “it must be around five in the morning.  That normally used to be the time when his grand mother would wake  up and go for her morning prayers after her daily  ablutions and  bath,”  Ranjit had been conditioned all through the years to open his eyes once at least at the particular time and though he may fall asleep again after looking at his watch.

Pathan had alighted from the jeep to get the papers checked.  Ranjit too came down. He was not sure whether he should have. Two soldiers were sitting next to the small fire trying to keep the severe cold away. One of them called out to Ranjit “welcome brother you too can sit for a while close to the fire. The arduous journey of the long night must have paralyzed your body parts. The warmth of the stove will open up your hands and feet”. The soldier brought a stool for him to sit “you can rest for a while, till the paper is verified. It may take a little longer as you can see the waiting vehicles on both sides”. Ranjit extended both his numbed hands towards the flames leaping out of the bonfire. “You can order some tea from the shop”, one of the soldiers told him and before he could order one, the soldier himself called out to the small tea shop owner “Ahmad!  Sahib wants to have three cups of tea. You can bring some biscuits too”.

“You will have to pay ten rupees to the man”, the soldier told him.

“Yes I do need one right now”, Ranjit wanted to send some tea into the jeep for others too but they were fast asleep. Major Yusuf khan that is what the name he had told him had been snoring so loudly. His anger and the heap of insults on the Indian forces did disturb Ranjit for a while.  He knew he was there in a foreign country and that his job was to procure the arms for the fight the sage has started. He did not want to get into an argument with some one whom he had never met in his life before. He was reminded of Abdul who had mistreated the girl Ranjit had transported to Sharjah. It appears these tribal do not have a civilized way of expression in any thing in their life. They must be vocal, provocative and at times damn insulting in all their talks. May be they have their own reasons to, for the centuries of living in primitive conditions does leave its impact on the human behavior.

The soldiers had stood up to start another round of the barrier where the vehicles were stopped for checking of the documents.  “You can have the entire fire to yourself. Thanks for the hot tea. May be when you come back we can have one more cup together. And by the way, you must ask for Mark IV schindler guns. These are very accurate. A single gun can take care of more than one thousand kafirs in one shot. We are told the kafirs have been eliminating our brethren in Kashmir by the hundreds. They have now started the similar annihilation of your community too. This great Priest must be a reincarnation of some great god, to have taken on the mighty government of the heathens, may Allah be with you all “. The soldiers had moved away, leaving Ranjit stunned with remarks. “It seems there is nothing the secret in this country. How did these people know he was here to procure arms”? It completely baffled him. He saw Pathan coming towards the jeep, “you did not have to come out of the vehicle. It is too biting cold outside. The place is notorious for swindlers of all kinds. The soldiers themselves will rob you of whatever you have on your person. I hope you have not paid any money in the shape of bribe to them”.

“On the contrary they were extra nice to me. They had asked me to sit next to the burning fire to warm up for a while and keep the cold away. May be not all of them are the demanding type”, Ranjit had all praise for those soldiers. He found a human touch in their talks towards a stranger from the neighboring country.

“Do not be under any illusion dear friend. They will get their cut from the large booty that I had to pay at the check point. Every one here is aware that visitors come for heavy purchases of arsenal and armaments which will be transshipped to other countries illegally. The loads of arms are clandestinely traded out of this place to the burning holes of the common man’s world in various countries. Do you know the large part of the economy in this country is financed through the sale of such arms? Why would an ordinary soldier not look for his cut when the politicians and the leaders themselves are filling their coffers in banks abroad”? That answered the query going on in Ranjit’s mind about soldier’s remarks to him. “You see the moment you had got in touch with the ISI for your requirements; your profile is sent to all levels of authorities in the organization. It is expected officials at all levels will show their decency, be extra polite and helpful to you so that your business   becomes a permanent source of revenue for our country”.

Pathan stopped the vehicle outside a large building in the middle of the huge mountains. The building looked like a government guest house. He woke up the other passengers in the jeep traveling with him.  “We shall be stopping here for a while. After we have had a quick shower and an early break fast we will have to change our transport from here.  And in case any of you is not used to ride a mule or horse, I will suggest that in that case you will keep  your stomach as light as  possible .I have seen people throwing up on the tough ride of the horse back . We will have to trek eighteen kilometers on the hills before we reach the valley of the arms below “.

The sun was gradually rising from behind the hills, as Ranjit came out of the jeep to proceed to the guest house, which was situated on top of the cliff of a large mountain. He looked around and was very pleasantly surprised to see the scenic beauty surrounding him. The high rising mountains on all four sides were covered with a thick white and green pine forest. He could see the slopes of silver and blue snow shining under the golden hues of the sun rays, making him feel blind folded for a moment with the reflections of different shades. Down below at a distance he saw the river waters flowing speedily.  The sound of the running of the waters in the hilly river echoed musically and too melodiously into his ears. He had never been witness to such heavenly sight before. He saw a number of  small girls coming out of the hamlet close to the guest house, they were carrying pots and pans on their sides to fetch,  may be drinking waters from the river below. He wanted to join them to go down to the river to touch those lovely blue waters. He saw some houses on the other side of the river and wondered how far or close those people were to the cities and towns.

The inaccessible paths many a times were acting as a boon to the sublime beauty of the raw nature that benevolent had endowed this earth with. He remembered having been to the hills close to the capital town of Depalgarh once and was too disappointed and disgusted to see the filth of human excreta and disposals all over those hills. The greens were turning into grey due to lack of water in those hills. But this was a different scene.   He wanted to copy the imprint of this beautiful sight within his memory before getting back into the world of guns, maneuvers and the treacheries.

“The houses you see on the other side of the river fall into your part of the world. The river is the dividing line between two countries. If only we can have complete control over the other part you will not have to visit this beautiful place via such a longer route” Major Yusuf was at his games again.

“Yes you are right but in that case I need not come to this place at all.  You see we all are equal partners in the world of upheavals and terrors. Your need is as important as mine for I need guns to sustain the movement of freedom struggle in my part of the world as badly as you need such movements in any part of the planet to keep your rule running, so henceforth we will not refer to any thing as your or mine .  Every part of the earth is ours so long we can subject it to our evil designs,”Ranjit wanted to add laughter in his tone to convey the message that he was jokingly saying all this.  But the seriousness of the statement issued by him was not hidden from any one around.

“Very well said young man “, this was the armed expert who had joined them at the beginning of the journey and had uttered his first word after such a long time, “this business of ours make the entire world our kingdom, beginning from the Chechens of Russia, to the rebels of Spain, the Afghans in the frontiers, the Libyans and the Mossads and Shibnets of Israel and their shadows e.g.  Sachar and Isprex, the Jews and the Germans all have been colonized by the mercenaries and the gun couriers of the world. The brokers like Pathans exist in all the civilizations of the world to make the devastation negotiable. You have rightly said that every corner of the world belongs to us whether it is the bye lane of Karachi or the banks of Brahmaputra in Assam or the villages of Hyderabad wherever the ISI or some other agency like ours, be it the FBI, the CIA or the Taliban’s or even the defunct KGB is active.  The place per say belongs to us because we find outlets for huge armaments factories of the world. Even though each one of us has given a different name to our requirement, you the money, the Pathan call it earning his honest bread and Major Yusuf can name it Jihad yet we all are brothers in needs”. “We all know that ultimately it is the desire to feel the thrill of control by some of those who build up this brotherhood of annihilation and destruction, over the hapless and downtrodden billions of the world”,

“I heard you saying we will have to ride the mules to alight into the valley, will they take time to come”, Ranjit had asked Pathan immediately after they had finished breakfast, “in that case I can go into the woods for a small walk”.

‘You need not go anywhere.  the path of the ride itself is through the deep woods and you can enjoy the greens as much as you want”, the Pathan took  them to the back yard of the guest house where four mules were ready to move and virtually waiting for the riders to hop on and sit into the saddles kept ready for the climbers.

“I do need the guide to hold the reigns of the animal as I have never mounted one even in the plains”, Ranjit looked helplessly at Pathan.

“These mules here do not need any kind of guidance to reach their destination along with the load they carry. They have been fully trained to not only carry human beings but they are also entrusted the task of delivering the ammunition across the frontiers. They are fully familiar with all the routes leading to all frontiers touching our territory, be it the Russian, the Chinese, the afghan or the Indian control line. The mules have been trained to identify and distinguish between the friends and enemies and take cover whenever necessary” Major Yusuf told Ranjit. “In fact should you want to go across borders into the territory of Indian control we can have you sent across directly. Many of the young fighters have been sent across through this route on the mule’s back and the small consignments of arms are regularly sent to our friends in the fight for liberation of the occupied Kashmir”.

Ranjit sat scared on the mule’s back but having experienced no jerks and pushes even on the bad stone laden hilly route his confidence in the animal grew and soon a rapport was established between the two.

Initially it was a steep climb of two hours to reach the top of the adjoining mountain; thereafter they started the down ward climb towards the valley, after passing through a very narrow tunnel.  It was so narrow that every rider had to go in one by one. There was just space enough to allow the passing through of one healthy horse at a time; “the adjoining tunnel will be used on our way back” they were told by Major Yusuf “these tunnels are the only life line to the arms bazaar and the training camps run by different revolutionary organizations of the world unless you take the air route”.

He saw the security sentinels in the tribal dress guarding the openings of the tunnels. They were unmindful of the visitors but were ready enough to shoot and kill should they suspect any thing untoward from the visitors.      Ranjit could reach out and touch the roof and the two sides of the hill earth covering the tunnels, “this route does not get blocked in even the heaviest of the snowfalls as the hill slopes carry the snow down to the glaciers in the river”.

“The tunnels were dug by the great army of Babar to find a shorter access to the mountain ranges of Hindukush”, the arms expert told them. ‘But Hindukush will mean Afghanistan, does that mean we are close to the Taliban area; I mean are we going to visit Afghanistan”, Ranjit excitedly asked the arms expert. ´yes and no, I mean though the area falls under the Afghanistan map, is not under their control.  The warrior tribes of Hindukush exert a complete rule over this place and their grip on the terrain is so strong that till date no one has been able to subjugate them. Alexander the prince of Macedonia, had to go back from this door, even Babar had to befriend them and married one of the tribal girls to escape the roughness of this mountainous tribal terror. More recently though Russians have been able to win over the softer targets in Afghanistan   they have not been able to look towards this portion of the country for they know it is beyond them to bring this tribal belt down to its knees. The only king who ever ruled this afghan tribe was Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whose court’s brave general Hari Singh Nalwa had won many a wars against these ferocious fighters”. Ranjit felt it to be a good omen for himself, as his name too coincided with the great ruler, “my winning of the world will also begin from this”, and he told himself.

The tunnel ran deep under the mountain mist covered by thick foliage on both sides. He could hear the droplets of water falling on both sides of the tunnel yet he did not see the wetness on the floor ahead.  The water outlets were allowing the small stream to pass on its own on the sides and thus keep the tunnel’s passage dry. They could hear the hoofs of the rider ahead and make out his outline in the small light that was coming through the small openings allowed every two hundred meters. It seemed the mare in the front was the leader of the pack; as the sound of her trot fixed the speed and the pace of the lot. The moment she stopped the others will halt too, and whenever she moved the others followed likewise.

Ranjit was too amazed to see the marvel of such a great engineering feat built thousands of years ago. He wondered if the builders had the necessary tools with them or was it all a result of the labor of two hands. They had reached the middle of the burrow. The leading mare on which Pathan was riding stopped for some rest and to drink some water from the small pool built on the side.  He raised his both hands signaling others to stop too. He saw two men emerge from the sides openings to the subway carrying food baskets on their heads.  The aroma of roasted lamb, mutton chops and the naans to go with raised their already hungry appetites. They relished the offerings devouring it in no time even though it was served to them while they continued sitting in their saddles on top of the animals, as there was no space to get off the back of the mules. The men who had brought food did not utter a word and they spoke to none. The men vanished as soon as passengers travelling on the mules’ backs finished their eating. The men did not forget collecting and carrying away the refuse along with, “so that the narrow passage of the tunnel does not get clogged. The leftover food could also have attracted the other wild animals unnecessarily”, Pathan told them later.

Their journey began once again “we have to track for another an hour or so before we reach the outside world. You can wear the dark glasses hung on your side satchels before reaching the light as otherwise the glare outside will blind you until your eyes get used to the natural light again”, Pathan had called out from the top of the horse back leading in the  front. The darkness had deepened further when they put the dark glasses on, but in no time he could see his way through. “These are the infra red glasses and you can see through even in the pitch dark” Major Yusuf who has been the last to enter the tunnel called out from behind “I recommend Ranjit you must buy lots of them as you will need them to wage battle in the coming winters. These goggles will come handy in the foggy cold when you cannot see one hand from the other hand”. Complete silence had fallen on this remark of Major Yusuf. The trotting animals were making synchronized sound of their hoofs and iron shoes.

They could hear the noise of some large wheels grinding and moving somewhere nearby “You can take notice of the sound of the hydel power house that provides light to the small openings we saw every two hundred meters. The lamps are lighted to give a feel of natural day light and the natural openings. Otherwise the fear of claustro- phobia can kill the people inside. The architects of medieval years had also put up the small fans along with the lights, to provide for the natural air in side the tunnel. Imagine, the entire army of the early invaders used to pass through the tunnel, carry out their loot in our part of the world and get lost in these mountains again. Babar was the last to have used this secret passage and he ordered their closure too when he decided to settle down and make India his home. These tunnels were thereafter lost to the world until a British cavalry soldier discovered them again during Second World War.   The afghan tribal and pakhtoons have been maintaining the openings to the passage way ever since then. A secret understanding has always prevailed between the rulers on both sides to let the channels remain open for the arms deliveries and if need be the   passage is also frequently used for helping out the necessary escapes to the fugitives from the laws of different lands”.

Ranjit saw a distant round dot of light opening up.  It seemed they were approaching the end to the tunnel. The mules too had slowed down in anticipation. Pathan had covered the eyes of the mule he was riding with the wooly cover; he took out from the bag hung on the side of the animal. He advised all others to do so, “The animals need to protect their sight from sudden flashes, as their retinas still take longer to adjust to the extreme changes”. Pathan bent his body almost parallel to the back of the mule and he forewarned others to do likewise lest they banged their heads against the low ceiling of the opening which was too small on this end, “so that even if some enemy is able to come thus far into these tunnels the low height this side will not allow him to come riding high and the afghans can finish the enemy before he raises his head”.

Ranjit and other riders were helped to alight from the saddles by sturdy and hefty looking tribal. They also helped the guests balance themselves on their feet as such a long ride gave each of the riders a severe pain in the back and legs. He noticed the same tribal gave them a frisk too for any kind of weapons. That was quite strange while the place was known as the World’s arms bazaar you can not bring in your own weapons. “That this was a rule adopted for all visitors”, was explained by the arms dealer at the bazaar “The traders here have to pay a hefty tax to Afghans on each arms’ piece sold hence even a small bullet is accounted for by the tribal committee during periodical audits. You can neither bring in any of your personal arms from outside nor can you take one out from here without paying the tribal tax”.

They were led to the small office outside the tunnel, “you will have to obtain valid identity and passage passes to go to the main arms bazaar which is just below the next small hill. Your own papers, currency and identity kits if you are carrying any will be sealed in separate envelops and will be given back to you at the time of your moving out of this place, which could be either through the same route or you can use a special ferry service on World War II special spit mouth aircraft, flown by the tribal airlines. This service is available for ferrying out and not bringing in people from Pakistan. However if you want to fly towards Kabul the service operates on both sides. In fact there is no other way to reach this place except by air from Kabul. No other airline except tribal airline is allowed to fly this route. Others can not even come any where near to the place; even if any one gets into the sky by mistake, it is shot down by the anti aircraft guns fixed on all hill tops”. They all looked skywards and found the hills too high to give any indication below of any life on top of them, “yet if the afghan is saying then it must be true”.

The formality here earned them the identity numbers in terms of their uniqueness and was put up on their breast pockets in bold letters. These identity numbers glowed from a distance and distinguished them from the local tribal. The glowing numbers also signified they were not intruders but businessmen on their business calls and no one was supposed to ask them any question so long as the numbers were not covered or hidden by them. The tribal signaled them to hop on to the rickety Bedford one tunner driven by the driver whose face was completely covered by the hair growth of many years. They could see only two large eyes from behind the steering wheel. Ranjit saw the anti aircraft gun mounted on the truck too “the Russians are always on the look out for any object on the road and drop bombs without warning. The ack ack gun can fire and bring them down in no time. I have brought three of their fighter planes down in last few months.  They have thereafter been weary of coming closer to us any more”.

The one tunner Bedford drove on top of the small hill and as soon as it started its climb downwards, Ranjit was too dismayed to look at what he saw. The hills were too barren, not even a speck of grass could be seen in stark contrast to the lovely green and white mountain of the other side. In the middle of the naked hills he saw mud houses every where and the movement of people in different colored uniforms added color to the barren atmosphere. He saw what looked like training camps all over and the tribal instructors giving instructions to young boys and girls. They crossed a camp where the instructor was taking parade of the youngster’s clad in all greens. “They are being prepared for the Kashmir front and will be pushed across as soon as the snow starts melting”, the tribal driver told them. A few houses ahead he came across what looked like a contingent of Chinese young boys and girls, he asked Major Yusuf “is there any revolution on in China too”.

“They are not the Chinese, but Nagas and the boys from the Assam Liberation Front.  Some of them also have come from Yangoon and have been sponsored by NSCN through ISI. They went through the initial training in Burma and Bangladesh and have come here for advanced training in firearms”. Their truck took another turn towards right and crossed another small hillock. “They must be the afghan boys and girls “, he asked Yusuf again. “No they are from your part of the world and are the recent addition to the training camps “but General Durjan never ever discussed with me about them”, he felt annoyed. “You do not have to know every detail. The first and foremost principle of any revolutionary movement is to know only that portion of the undertaking which is assigned to you. Their command must be different from that of yours and you do not have to know what is not expected of you. Besides you should know that there is hardly any nationality that does not come here for training in subversives. Be it the Spaniards, the Tamilians of Sri Lanka, Or the Irish. The revolutionaries of the ANC have been to the same camps”, the arms expert who have been to these camps himself earlier informed him, “my advice to you is do not pay attention to what you see and simply believe that you have seen nothing here.  It keeps lots of unnecessary load off your mind”.

The truck had now entered the market place, which appeared like any other weekly bazaar of an ordinary town. They saw young girls and middle-aged  ladies in burkas covered from head to tow manning the shops with their ware of weaponry spread like vegetables on the cots and wooden tables in front of muddy shops. They were selling bullets, gun powders boxes and missiles in front of their shops.  He was surprised to see the large rocket launchers hung outside some of the shops. Many of the shopkeepers started hawking their wares in typical market style. An old lady who was covered herself by a sheet called burkha, filled her both hands with bullets came towards them, she addressed them in broken English, “absolutely fresh and deadly for your Kalashnikovs”. The next shopkeeper pointed towards what looked like Wembley and Scot revolver “this is the latest model, you will forget the big guns if you use this one “.  Still further down in the street a young boy picked up a pair of missiles in both hands, “the prize winner from afghan war. We killed Russians with these, very effective and cheap to go”. The driver of the one tunner shooed them away. He pointed towards a door, “you will get all your requirements here under one roof”. He then beckoned to an old man who walked on crutches towards them, “he is the veteran of many wars and will act as a mediator. He will make sure you get the best bargain”. Pathan spoke to the one legged lame man in pushto, the local language asking for the whereabouts of a person named Whahab Abdulla. The lame man beckoned towards the small broken door leading into a courtyard and asked them to follow him towards the row of shops inside the compound, where small guns , bullets, and grenades were displayed in majority of the shops, the size of these shops was not more than 8’x10’. Major Yusuf picked up a grenade from the lot displayed and showed the same to Ranjit, it carried Pakistan army marking.

The lame man spoke to the shopkeeper in pushto; he looked at Major Yusuf, saluted him in the regimental style and gave a warm smile to Ranjit, “Khushaamdeed! It is a rare honor to serve some one from Hindustan.  Will you please come with me”? He took them to the interior of the small shop. The stairs at the back of the shop were leading to the basement below. The room in the basement was furnished with a conference table on top of which a slide projector had been kept. He asked them to be seated around the table on the small stools. “You must have a look at the actual performance of each one of our items and ticks mark the one you will like to buy on the folder so that we restrict our discussion and negotiations to the one that interests you. That ensures faster and quicker business as you have to return in time”.

He started the slide show after he had finished the preliminaries introduction to the visitors about their limitation of time. He had first of displayed different kinds of   rocket launchers which could be mounted on the shoulders of human carrier or fitted on the carrier of a bicycle.  These rocket launchers could also be dismantled. These rocket launching machines could be   packed comfortably into a small hand bag. Next on the display were the self directed missiles of the size of a small arrow which were fired from a missile launcher. The missile thus fired had, on the slide screen, split into many heads after coming out of the launcher. The scatter of the missile heads covered a large ground equivalent to the size of a football stadium. Its splinter heads could kill hundreds of people at one shot. Then he changed over to the slide of Mark IV schindler gun.  The voice over was announcing  on the slide screen , “it can fire 1100 rounds in a split second and kill as many at one go”. The slides for aircraft split shooters were also displayed thereafter. The shot from the split shooter followed an aircraft, hit the fuel tank and burst the airplane into a fireball on the screen. The slide show displayed the tanks of all size and shapes with the gun carriers placed on different locations.

The armed expert who had been accompanying them from Pakistan advised Pathan, “We must stop here. We will immediately need the rocket launchers, Schindler Mark IV Guns and the aircraft chasers. The goods will be delivered by you at the destination  within India we will of course  specify the place where your courier will have to give us a safe delivery of each piece of armament  ”. They haggled on the price of each item till they finally got stuck on the quantities they had asked for “I do not think such a large of armaments can be delivered by any courier into the Indian Territory all at one go. We will take a minimum of three months time to deliver the quantity you are asking for “.

“Why is that so? I always thought you carry ready stock of all items here. In case you find it difficult to meet our current demand we will have to shift the entire demand to some other friends. My client wants to buy the entire lot that we are ordering here under a single contract. He wants to maintain discretion. He also has to ensure a complete secrecy of the whole deal.  He is equally worried about of the friends of the law. The government spies and the spies of the border security force who will be snooping around everywhere even at such distant place”.

“That is what precisely we are afraid of too”, the shopkeeper of the arms had pleaded, “such huge consignment of the arsenal can only be sent by a truck. Our apprehensions are that given the current situation of alert on all the borders, is impossible to cross into Indian Territory.  The only way out for us is to send the consignment through the mule carriers. The mule carriers will have to do it in parts. A single trip of a mule takes more than ten days. The entire consignment can thus be shipped in eight to nine trips spread over a period of three months”.

“We do not have that kind of time at our disposal to wait that long”, Major Yusuf had intervened.

“Could all of you please hold on for a minute?  If I understand all of you correctly what you are saying is that this consignment of arms can not be delivered by the land route.  In that case can we look for a passage through the skies then?  I understand that the regular air route can be dangerous.  but if we could find an aero plane that takes off from one of the Pakistani airports which is closest to the Indian air space and enters the Indian air space at a very low altitude it can possibly evade detection by the radars and the Indian space authorities”, Ranjit put forward the proposal which set all the members of the group thinking.

Pathan snorted his nose at Ranjit “could you please tell me what will happen once it has taken off.   Where do you propose this plane should land, in the back yards of your shrine?”

“No, in fact this aircraft does not have to land anywhere. The pilot of our aircraft will drop the material at a predetermined spot. Having dropped this consignment, he flies out of the Indian skies taking the same route on the way back too”.

“However if the aircraft is detected by the authorities, it will definitely be shot down.  Or even if it is forced to land, the pilot and the crew must be prepared to get their heads chopped off”, the arms dealer made a sign of cutting his neck from the shoulders.

The lame one legged man, who was a silent spectator to the whole discussion, banged on the table, “Bakhtiar “, he said, “Bakhtiar can do it for us. He owns a Cessna aircraft. He was running a one man airline in Afghanistan till the Russians came in. He now flies sorties in and out of the arms bazaar. Though the Russians have tried to bring down his plane many times but he loves playing hide and seek with them.  So far he has been always lucky. He has always managed to give them a slip. He was employed as a pilot with the allied forces during World War II. Thereafter he had purchased a plane from the defunct airline he worked for. Let me check if we are fortunate enough to get him”. He moved to the muddy wall. He took out the telephone receiver hanging from a hook. He spoke to the operator on the other side and gave him a telephone number. He waited till the man on the other end came on the line.

“Bakhtiar will be with us in an hour’s time. In the meanwhile a round of Kahwa will do all of us good in this dry and cold weather”. The Kahwa was brought in by two young boys. They laid the small Persian carpet on the floor and placed six low lying cushions around it. The silver samovar containing Kahwa appeared too ancient and classic so was the set of cups in which Kahwa was poured by the boys. The sweet fragrance of herbs and brewed tea filled the atmosphere with pleasant flavor. The boys mentioned them to come and sit on the cushions laid on the floor. So that they could relish the traditional Kahwa, the way the Persians used to in their own royal style.

Captain Bakhtiar possessed a huge physical figure. He   wore a large salwar and kurta on top of which he was wearing a khaki woolen jacket. The jacket proudly exhibited a Victoria Cross, stating the honors he had earned during the world war. He had a long flowing beard reaching out to his belt; he had tied on his jacket. The unkempt hair were coming out of the hurriedly tied headgear on his head ,one end of which was touching his knees on the right leg . It was difficult to believe that he was ever a part of civilized society. The unpleasant whiff of the locally prepared liquor had preceded him as he climbed down the stairs to the cellar. The lame man made the introductions, “Captain Bakhtiar “, he announced his name in a slurry voice as he shook his hands with every one around. He saluted Major Yusuf in a mock and asked him “so how you are; the famous go between the Indian revolutionaries and the ISI.  I thought you were still stuck up somewhere in Bosnia. That was a wonderful job done by you and your friends. . The poor countries will not believe that peace ever existed there due to the operations carried out by all of you. Tell me what is it now? The north east has already been put on fire by you.  Young people everywhere have been falling a prey to your fanatical antics of various interests. How many more such hellish burning holes do you want to open up in the world all over? Does Kashmir bring you here? Oh I see!”  He looked at the arms expert “it is the toy shop that brings all of you together. Tell me how I can be helpful”. He flicked the ash from his cigarette he was smoking, pulled a deep and long drag from it before stubbing it under his foot.

Pathan explained to him the plans for airlifting the arms and dropping them into the Indian Territory. “That is almost as much dangerous as it sounds easy to handle. Though this time we may not have an active surveillance yet I do not accept the onus of the safety of these arms from the armed forces of any country.   If I happen to get detected, chased or shot down across the borders. Besides it will cost you $ 50000, in advance in addition to the fuel cost. Oh yes the drop will be made at the place I show you here”. He took out a soiled map of the Indian Territory, spread it on the table and zeroed down on the small remote site in the north western part of the country. “I shall be over flying the Arabian Sea, enter western India and take a detour to make the drop near the basin of Ganges. This route will have a regular traffic on upper heights and the small aircraft on low altitude will not attract much attention”. He brought out a small bottle from his pocket “that calls for a celebrations. Will someone join me”, he took a swig of the spirit and extended the bottle of the liquor he was holding into his hands towards others, when none of them accepted he finished the entire lot in two gulps. “I will give you a complementary ride up to Mirpur”, he told Ranjit

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