Written by: T.S.
"I've been looking forward to this very moment, in fact since I came here."
"Looking forward to what? The moment of your own execution?" he asked bitterly.
"Not exactly! Not execution… the moment of my death. This job is risky, as you know."
"Yet execution is different, Zakwan."
"If that's in my destiny, then let it be," I said, emotionlessly.
"Doesn't it make any difference to you that people who once loved you won't even look at you now owing to the case against you? You've lost almost all of your friends."
"Presence or absence of friends has never mattered to me."
"Not so much. I've been a lonely person from my childhood. A particularly lonely fellow."
"Isn't that odd?"
"Your hollow laughter, the sadness hidden in your smiles. What's all that?"
"It is called nature. It is being mature."
"People have abandoned you, those who liked you once..."
"No one liked me ever. They needed me. We mostly respect and care for others due to our needs attached to them."
"Spare me from the lectures on psychology for the time being at least!"
I gave an involuntary chuckle.
"Okay! Okay! Came out spontaneously. Without much thought."
"Because your head is already stuffed with such stuff."
"That could be a tongue twister, Kaify."
"You've been charged with disloyalty. Grave disloyalty against your nation, your country, your country men, your organization. Do you have anything to say in your defense?" One of the senior officers of the jury inquired harshly.
"No, Sir," I said.
"And are you fully aware that you deserve a grave punishment?"
"Certainly! Have you any objection?"
"Finalized!" The officer took a deep sigh of relief.
A sudden silence swept the whole room. All heads turned in my direction.
"Now what?" The same officer hissed.
"I want to say something."
"Sure. We'll listen to what you have to say. The last favour we can do for a fine young man cum traitor."
"I want to present something before all of you. But before that I have a request," I purposely fell silent for a moment.
"Go on. We don't have time for riddles."
"My request is that after I've presented my proof, my punishment will..."
"We'll see what kind of proof it is. Your punishment won't be extenuated until and unless we analyze your so-called evidence. You'll remain in custody until cleared of all charges."
"Excuse me, Sir. I do not want my punishment to be extenuated in any case. That's all I wanted to say."
"I can understand. Guilt and conscience doesn't let a wrongdoer live till they meet their right end."
I kept my head bowed.
"Present your evidence before the jury," another officer with graying hair and hoarse voice spoke up.
I looked up towards the two guards at the door at my left. They let in a man with his hands bound at his back, followed by two more officers. They made him stand just next to me.
"Who're you?" The gray headed officer asked.
Some people already knew him. Apparently, the questioning officer didn’t.
"Sir, I'm Aalam. Aalam Taymur. I work as an assistant to Sir Zakwan," he stopped and looked nervously at me.
"There’s no need to be afraid of anyone. No one's going to harm you here. Tell us the truth."
He started again, "Some people from the office were not happy with him."
"Why?" The former officer demanded. "Because, they thought Sir Zakwan was an extraordinarily honest officer. The apple of the officers' eyes as well as the staff’s. Hindrance for them. Sir Zakwan wouldn’t let anyone cross their limits or break any laws. They felt ruled. Subjected. This jealousy and hatred caused them to remove him out of their way. They hatched a plan so that he stood no chance of coming back" he stopped for a moment.
"Sir, those people plotted to get Sir Zakwan trapped in a case of disloyalty. To prove he's a traitor in guise. For this, they used me. Being his assistant I knew all about his important documents. I stole a file after he left his office last Monday. I knew where it was."
"You had the keys to his drawer?"
"No, sir. Sir Zakwan never gives me the keys. I broke the lock. The following day, when the documents were found missing and he was accused of being a traitor. The plotters spread rumors that Sir Zakwan had given away important papers to the enemy. That's it, sir."
"Zakwan!" Sir Yunus addressed me.
"How did you find out that Aalam was the culprit?"
"Sir, no one comes to my office. Only he knew where I kept my files. Besides, if he were found entering my office after my departure or taking any file with him, no one would suspect him as I could have asked him to do so. That day, he had asked me for a leave of two hours saying his wife was sick and he needed to go home urgently. He left before me. The guard outside reported that Aalam had returned exactly two and a half hours later that is to say half an hour after my departure. The guard questioned him but he told him that he had come to fetch his wallet which he had forgotten in the office. That was strange as I knew he never used a wallet. He always kept his money in his office bag."
"So you suspected him and caught him? But how and when? You were arrested immediately."
"In those first two days of my suspension, I had tracked him. The orders for my arrest were issued on the third day of this incident.
I was waiting for this day, so he could be presented before all of you and you could hear for yourself the truth about my innocence."
"The documents? Where are they?"
"Were with Aalam, in his house. Currently, in safe hands. With our officers."
"Sir, I have a request." For the first time, I looked directly into Sir Yunus' eyes.
"Whatever punishment you decide for Aalam, please spare him and give that to me. He has a family to support whereas I am alone. He committed a crime but his family is innocent. Why should they suffer? I'm ready for any punishment you decide to mete out."
"Yes, punishment will undoubtedly be given to Aalam for plotting a cheap conspiracy against a respectable officer. To Zakwan, for sheer heedlessness and failing to protect highly confidential papers. The punishment you both will be given is 'Forgiveness'."
Aalam was staring at Sir Yunus in disbelief. One of the officers untied his hands.
"And that is only because Aalam, you spoke the truth. The black sheep will be arrested and they'll have to face court trials."
Several faces darkened at this.
"However, be careful in future both of you. The meeting is over."
Suddenly, young men came running to me from all sides. They were my colleagues.
"We were ordered not to speak to you or contact you in any way."
"I trusted you, believe me."
Different voices met my ears.
"It's okay, buddies. You proved you were loyal to your country, to your organization. Giving preference to loyalty over friendship was one of the boldest things you could have done. Well done!"
In the end, Kaify gave me a thumbs up and left. The crowd around me dispersed.
"I'm very sorry, Sir," Aalam was truly ashamed.
"Don't be. I'm thankful to you, you helped me in proving my innocence to the world. I owe you a lot," I shook hands with him.
Just then, Sir Yunus came up to me.
"I have a complaint."
"Why did you say losing you won't matter to anyone? It matters a lot… to me… to this organization… to this nation. You are not alone. Young, sincere and loyal men like you do not support a family, they support seventeen, eighteen crore people. You are my pride. I knew you would never let me down."
"Thank you, Sir," I said with wet eyes.
"Not ‘Sir’. You are my son. The Son of Pakistan," he gripped my hand in a warm handshake.