Monday, April 22, 2024

Saddam’s Great Iraq – 7

The next day of April, 1980 was an extra ordinary day, not only on this project but also for four years of my stay in Iraq. I was busy with my team on site. So many other teams were busy with various assignments. An unknown helper left his team, approached me walking quickly and standing face to face before me asked, “Are you Pakistani?” I said, “Yes”. Immediately he hugged me with full force of his body and started weeping bitterly, repeating over and over again ‘We didn’t mean it’. Thinking that he might have been hurt some way, I also enclosed him in my arms. After a short while he released me and wiping his tears told me, “I was a member of Mukti Bahini (Independence Army) in East-Pakistan. I made many mistakes but I never guessed that Pakistan will be broken”. With a heavy heart walking slowly he went back to his team. About an hour later an engineer of about 40 years of age approached me and hugged me weeping far more bitterly than the Bangladeshi fellow. I could very well feel the agony of his tears. These had been oozing from the depth of his heart. I consoled him and asked him the cause of his grief. He said, “My family resided in Civil Lines locality of Gujranwala city. I was 7 years old when we had to leave our beautiful house. I have never forgotten my home. I have a strong desire to get back to Gujranwala and start living there as I used to live with my parents, brothers and sisters…” This gentleman impressed me very deeply and I remained gloomy for so many days to follow. I simply could not understand the reasons that compelled him to leave his home. It was his right to be at home in Gujranwala (Pakistan). Something seriously wrong with the management qualities of the political leaders of that time.

After duty hours I used to have an evening walk for about three kilometers away from the project area. As usual I was walking away from the project area, when a well dressed Iraqi gentleman asked me to stop. He asked me for my whereabouts and, in a commanding tone, told me not to walk away from my duty place. It was first time during a year that some Iraqi person shocked me with his behaviour. I did ask him the reason for his instruction but he did not explain. I cancelled rest of my walk and returned to my cabin. Next morning before starting duty I met the project manager and told him about the incidence. He was very much surprised and told me that there was no restriction at all for having a walk away from the project area. Gentleman’s instructions kept pinching me for two to three days and ultimately I concluded, on the basis of daily news about Iraq – Iran tension, that ammunitions being stocked, at top secrecy, near Iran border was the reason. A short period later my conclusion proved when Iran was attacked my Iraqi forces. So the worst happened.

041109-M-2789C-124This few weeks job ended and I reported back to Head Office, what they called Daira. This time waiting for the next assignment was not very long. A survey project opened in Falluja Town, a small town at left bank of Faraat River, at one hour’s drive from Baghdad. The team was formed and we moved to a hired house in the town. There was another Pakistani, Mr. Karamat Sher of Ziarat Kaka Sahib, near Nosherhra (Pakistan), who had settled in the house before my arrival. I selected to share his room which he agreed to readily. I finished the positioning of my baggage to face a strong built medium height Iraqi, who tensely looked into my face with piercing eyes. He said in Arabic, “Min ho wa haza”, meaning, ‘Who is this fellow’. Mr. Karamat introduced me to him saying that I was new to the project and that I was also Pakistani. He had not taken his stair off me, returned with abrupt remark, “Ho wa ghair Pakistani”, meaning that ‘He is not Pakistani’. Later I came to know that he was an officer of the defence forces. In peace time, he was holding charge of the project. His name was Hameed Karboli. He was very well known in the entire department. He was habitual of discussing serious matters all in joking remarks and tone, and was very well known in that style.




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Category: Travel

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