Educationist Taner Koçyiğit, in the twelfth part of his memoirs based on his life in Pakistan, wrote about an incident which he personally experienced in Quetta and which is no different than a thriller. He narrated how he and his friends were threatened with death by a mafia member who cut them off on their way home from school, and how this person’s niece was later taken to PakTurk for admission.
After coming to Quetta, we had visited our school in Pashtunabad district for a few days at different times and had shortlisted the requirements in general. Later, we agreed with our colleagues there saying, “We will start working full-time by tomorrow. Let’s be ready at the school at 7.30 in the morning and we’ll be back in the evening.” There was a lot of work to be done to meet the deadlines to have the school ready for the new term.
It was our first day at school after our full-time work decision. We had arrived at the school with our formal suits and neckties. We were trying to make the final preparations before the schools opened. In the evening, we called a rickshaw to return home. However, it would not be easy to find rickshaws around our school. When we went home from school, we would ask the janitors to find and bring rickshaws. It had been 15-20 days since I had just arrived in Quetta. After a long wait, the rickshaw finally arrived. We told the driver our home address. I, the late Ali Kırkgeçit and Mehmet Emin got in the rickshaw. Not knowing that this rickshaw journey would be one of the most perilous journeys in our lives, we as three friends set off for our home.
I and Ali were sitting in the backseat and Mehmet Emin was sitting next to the driver. Since the weather was still chilly, the doors at both sides of the passenger compartment of the rickshaw were closed, but the front part, where the driver was, had no doors. We left the school that way. As soon as we turned from the first corner, about 100 meters from the school gate, we saw a car parked diagonally in the middle of the narrow lane where only one vehicle could pass. Naturally, our rickshaw came to a stop.
He pulled out his gun, loaded the bullet into the chamber and pointed the barrel at me
The doors of the vehicle in front were open and there was someone inside. First, the rickshaw driver shouted, “Come on, you have blocked the whole road, step aside so we can pass!” Despite repeating this a few times, the occupants of the vehicle in front remained undisturbed. After waiting for about 2-3 minutes, I opened the passenger door of the rickshaw and shouted loudly with a broken Urdu, “Come on, clear the way, come on!” Despite having ignored the driver’s shouts for minutes, a person sitting inside the vehicle in front suddenly came out. He was swaying as he walked. It was clear both by the way he took lopsided steps and the way he gazed but could not focus that he was not in his senses. He was probably under the influence of a narcotic substance. He entered through the door of the house he was standing in front of, came back before long and headed towards us. When he came near our rickshaw, the driver said, “Come on, step aside so we can pass!” Just as the driver was about to say that again, the person who came near noticed us three foreigners dressed in shirts with neckties inside the rickshaw. Maybe he was waiting for us there on purpose!
While our driver was telling this man something in Pashto, the man suddenly unbuttoned his jacket and put his hand on his bosom. That’s when we realized that something was wrong and that we might have gotten into trouble. Because we noticed the cartridge case with dozens of bullets lined up diagonally from the man’s shoulder to his waist. The man took his pistol from the holster under his shoulder. He inserted the magazine and opened the safety of the gun, and, with a click, he loaded the bullet to the barrel. While all this was going on, the man was also trying to say something. However, we had no idea what he was saying as he was speaking Pashto and was under the influence of a narcotic substance.
‘You Americans! You CIA agents!’
Before we knew what was going on, he shouted at the driver and said something. Apart from the driver, I was the other person who had yelled at him, so he also pointed the gun at me. I and Ali were sitting in the backseat and Mehmet Emin was in the front seat, next to the driver. We could not move anywhere; we were simply petrified in the rickshaw. As we could understand, the man kept on saying in Urdu, “You Americans! You CIA agents! You shamelessly come this far and shout at us. I’ll show you now, I’m going to kill you like chicken here and let this be a lesson to all of America!” Meanwhile, of course, since the barrel was pointed towards me, my whole life until that day flashed before my eyes and I said to myself, “I wonder if I die here, will I die a martyr? Well, my life was meant to last up to this very moment!” Meanwhile, our driver said, “No, they are Turkish, I got them from the school over there. They are all Muslims. They came from Turkey to give education to your children. Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” At that moment, of course, we were muted by the intensity of the ongoing incident; we silently thought about what could happen next and could do nothing but flow with the tide.
The man kept on first lowering the barrel of the gun and then pointing it at me. Later, while I kept on saying, “We are Muslims, alhamdulillah! We are Turkish! We are not Americans! We are teachers…”, the late Ali Kırkgeçit who was sitting next to me, started to recite Surah al-Fatiha. He continued reciting from the other suras he knew in the Holy Qur’an. We accompanied Ali, just to convince the man with the gun that we were Muslims. When the man saw that we were able to recite the Qur’an fluently, he said, “Well done! They taught you well at the CIA!” He said things like these and shouted, “I’m going to kill you here!” He pointed the barrel at us again. During that time, of course, people crowded around our rickshaw, but not many of them spoke. The man stood for about five minutes with his gun pointed at us. He finally came to the conclusion that we were Muslims. When another passer-by said to him, “These are Turkish teachers, don’t do it!” again, the man with the gun let us go. As we were leaving, he threatened us, “If I see you around here, I won’t let you live! Don’t come here again!” He then pulled his car off the lane.
‘Show us who did that to you and leave the rest to us’
We were on our way, but we didn’t know what to do. We had to come back to the school the next morning. For the next days and months, we had to travel the same lane over and over again, while going to and leaving from the school. We narrated our ordeal to the officials at the PakTurk head office. They told us to go to the police immediately and request for security measures to be taken. The next morning, we came back to the school in a bit of fear and told a local colleague about the incident. We told him to inform his brother who was the station house officer of the police station in our neighbourhood. When the police chief learned of the incident, he came to the school and fervently said, “Show us who did that to you and we’ll take care of the rest. You can come and go to the school with ease and peace, don’t worry!”
Later, we went to the scene. We told the police chief the details about that man with the gun, showed the place where his car had been parked, and the house he had entered. However, when he saw the house, the expression on the face of the police chief changed visibly and he said exactly: “This is one of the few houses in this city which we as the police are not able to touch!” When he heard the name of the person who had threatened to kill us, the police chief said, “If that person didn’t shoot you, you’re very fortunate; he’s normally a very knotty person. Use other means as much as possible and don’t mess with these people.” He said so and left. When we got such a response from the police, we were not only very surprised but also a little scared. The head of the local police station was also right, because in a place like Pashtunabad, it was not possible for one police station to deal with an armed mafia gang all by itself.
‘I know you continue despite my brother’s threats’
About a week had passed since that incident. When we came to the school in the morning, we heard that the house of the person who had stopped us and threatened to kill us had been raided by the military and that many members of his family who had been involved in criminal activities had fled to Afghanistan, never to return to Pakistan. We started to come and go to the school more easily and the academic year started shortly later. One day, as soon as all the students entered the classrooms, we noticed a commotion at the outer gate of the school. No matter who came, the guard would normally not open the gate without asking us. In particular, we did not allow those who wished to enter the compound in their personal vehicles, but the gate opened and a small convoy of three cars entered. About ten guards with long-barrelled Kalashnikov guns got out of the cars. Among those guards, a car door opened, and a man and a five-year-old girl, who he was holding by the hand, came out.
While I was trying to figure out what had happened, the father and the daughter had already come and sat in my room. Thinking that this person was a government official, I greeted him saying, “Welcome! How can I help you?” The person, whom I later realized was the girl’s father, took the floor and said: “I know you and I know when you arrived, where you stay, and what kind of education you give. I know everything. I also know that you and my brother had had some trouble during the past few weeks. I also know that you continue to come here for education despite his threats. My brother is no longer here and you can live at ease here as you wish. I also brought my child to be enrolled in the school. It’s up to you now, but I want the guards to wait in a vehicle outside the gate while my daughter is at school.” He left the school after enrolling his daughter right there and then.
We tried to guess the reasons why this man had enrolled his daughter in our school. In our opinion, he had heard that the education in our school was decent, he researched us very well and I think he also had us followed. In addition, there was no other school nearby to which he could trust for her daughter’s education; the private schools in the vicinity were both far from his home and were of low quality in his opinion. Hence, the young niece of the man who had threatened us with a gun by saying, “I’ll kill you like chicken if I see you here again!” became our student and that man’s brother became a parent of our school.
To be continued…