165 Days

165 Days

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  • Oct, 14 , 22

 

“This man knows the back way to Miranshah,” KK says. “No army checkpoints.”

I’m conscious that we’re in a very remote area indeed. If something happens to us here, no one will know. What if the car breaks down? We have no food or water. I console myself with the knowledge that I’ve survived many a tricky situation while filming.

And I am in safe hands.

“Why don’t we film an interview with you while we’re driving?” I ask KK.

“Okay.”

We stop the car and assemble the equipment. The Colonel looks around. He seems uneasy.

“We should have some cover story. In case someone stops us. I should have brought my revolver.”

KK tries to reassure him. “Not to worry. We are here now.”

“We need a cover story,” the Colonel insists. “We say we are doing missionary work, and these two are making a film about it.”

I’m unnerved and puzzled by the uncertainty of this exchange at such a late stage in the game. I climb into the front seat with my camera and twist round to frame up on KK in the back. I signal to Saddam, and he pulls away slowly, but even at this slow speed, progress is bumpy and it’s difficult to keep KK in frame.

I give “Action” to KK and he starts to talk.

“I am here in North Waziristan, possibly the most dangerous place on earth. War is being waged between the Taliban and the Pakistan army and, just a few miles across the border, NATO troops are trying to contain the Taliban insurgents along a border so porous that people come and go between Pakistan and Afghanistan completely undetected. The government of Hamid Karzai has very little control of Afghanistan. As Madeleine Albright once said, Karzai is no more than a mayor of Kabul. All the other provinces are controlled by warlords. We desperately need to bring peace between all the different factions and put an end to the violence and the suicide bombings in this region.”

There’s a crack of gunfire. Saddam slams on the brakes and the tires skid to a halt, biting into the gravel. A man in a black hood is suddenly standing at my window, his eyes and mouth covered in black gauze. He points a machine gun at me. I keep my head very still but, from the corner of my eye, I see another gunman a few yards away. He too points his gun at me. I spot the white Toyota hatchback by the roadside, its bonnet open, the driver feigning a repair.

The gunman issues an order in Urdu. “Bahar niklo.” Get out.

 

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Above is an excerpt from 165 Days by Asad Qureshi. Asad is a British filmmaker of Pakistani descent. Asad traveled to Waziristan in 2010 to film interviews with Taliban leaders. He and his party were betrayed and kidnapped by the Asian Tigers, a Pakistani Taliban offshoot. On one hand, 165 Days is a violent and upsetting book. On the other hand, it is a brave, engaging, and enlightening first-person account of a real Taliban hostage experience, made all the more relevant by current events.

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