Night was very dark as if all the stars had decided to never to return.
Yusuf Mairaj’s life was overcastted. The night and day become sunless when a man’s only lamp is snatched from him.
“Qandeel” He had only one word on his lips and his eyes streamed all day long. He sat with his back to the pillar, missing Qandeel all the time and praying earnestly for the safety of her life and honor.
Din Muhammad had stayed with him for some time asking to be forgiven because he had been unable to protect her. What could Yusuf Mairaj say to this old man? At this bleak hour even his sister, nephew, relatives and friends had left him alone. He could only be grateful to him that he at least tried to protect her.
He was thinking about Qandeel late in the night, where would she be, had she eaten anything? Was she safe? How these men had treated her? All these questions were cutting to his heart. He couldn’t think of any way to start looking for her. Where should he go in this metropolitan? What could he do to bring her back safely? Could he get justice in a city where her daughter was kidnapped in broad daylight? Wasn’t it easy for the likes of Qaiser Lashari to close all the doors of justice in his face? All these thoughts were making him weak with grief.
Kamran Ali had called him a little while ago but he couldn’t talk to him properly. He kept on asking what was wrong but he was unable to give his grief words. And now his heart was sinking with each passing instant.
Somebody knocked on the main door and then entered. He didn’t look up on the sound. He wasn’t interested anymore who came by and who left.
“Yusuf what is wrong with you? Are you sick again?” Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali sat beside him. Yusuf Mairaj was cold all over, he was shaking badly so couldn’t respond to them.
“Sir, why are you sitting like this? Where is Qandeel?” Kamran Ali asked him. They both helped him to get up and brought him inside. He also brought water for him. When he started feeling better he told them what had happened.
“I was expecting such a thing from Qaiser Lashari and you too were aware of the outcome, Yusuf. This man can go to any lengths.” Hamza Shahid offered his opinion.
“I am only worried about Qandeel. I am afraid they’ll harm her, they are low people. They didn’t take pity on Saima and Ayesha even when they didn’t pose any threat to them. And Qandeel has impinged on their reputation by deciding to be a witness against them in the court. Qaiser Lashari will cross any boundary and would even kill her to safe his reputation and fame.” Yusuf Mairaj voiced his fears.
“They cannot harm Qandeel as long as Ilaaf is by her side.” Hamza Shahid tried to soothe him and Kamran Ali was shocked when he listened to this.
“This thought helps me to move forward but what if he’s in lock up and keeping him in dark, they try to----.” He couldn’t complete his sentence.
“Everything will be alright Yusuf. Allah will have mercy on us. You were aware of the results when you gave Qandeel freedom to act as she willed. Now have courage. Your daughter is brave just like her mother and you also have to face this situation courageously.” Hamza Shahid was assuring him.
For sometime they debated over what should be their next step. Both friends were of the opinion that an FIR must be lodged even if it’s not acted upon. Hamza Shahid discussed this situation with his son on the phone and felt better after the call.
“Get up Yusuf, we are going to DSP Mansoor. I have talked to Safeer and he’s also going to be there. Everything will be alright. Circumstances are not that worse that our daughter is kidnapped on a gunpoint and we stand like spectators. Inshallah, we’ll know whereabouts of Qndeel by morning.
They both helped him get ready to go outside.
Yusuf Mairaj’s cell phone started ringing when they were at the door. He looked at it uneasily. Before it rang, he had completely forgotten it.
“Check who is it calling, Yusuf. May be its about Qandeel.” Hamza Shahid made him attend the call.
It was an unknown number. The voice at other end had always proved to be a trumpet in his life.
“You are worried about your daughter, and certainly yearning to meet her. Don’t worry Yusuf, I am, like others, with you in this grief.” His laughter had ignited a fire in his entire body. “You are an intelligent and fearless person but sadly you cannot do anything to save your daughter’s life or honor. Nothing at all.” His tired nervous system couldn’t retort back to this sadist. “But don’t you worry, my friend. I have always been your buddy so I am thinking about your betterment this time too. Your daughter is safe in my men’s hands until you don’t make the mistake of lodging a complaint for her kidnap.” Yusuf Mairaj had to hold the pillar or he would have fallen, face down.
“Keep in mind Yusuf, if you prove to be as foolish as your daughter then only you will be responsible for the outcome. I have been ignoring both of you but this time if you trick me, your daughter will join her awaiting mother. Don’t even think I am unaware. I have surveillance over you and I will know if you try to go against me. You will find your daughter’s body in a dump or may be it will not be needed since you will not be able to even recognize her.”
At that moment he had regretted that why he had never learned to curse someone. Why couldn’t he silence this man by cursing him? But he felt like his tongue was stuck or he had become dumb.
“Your headstrong wife separated Omer from us and made a rebellion of him. You always encouraged her. And now your daughter is defaming you at your old age and you are a foolish man, you always listen to women and let them act. You are responsible for whatever is happening. At least I cannot sacrifice my reputation and son because of your daughter.”
He sat on the floor. All courage was sapped from his body. Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali came to him. They knew from his reaction to who had called.
“Your persistent daughter’s life is being spared just for you, and I am giving you a candid advice, bare your daughter’s separation silently and she will be freed once case is decided or else ready yourself to dug your young daughter’s grave. Decision is in your hand” Call had been disconnected but he held the phone to his ear. Then it slipped to the floor on its own.
There was vacuity in front of him.
He looked at Hamza then Kamran and then someone else too. It was Saima. His Saima was standing behind Kamran, looking at him.
In 22 years, he had seen her roaming this place; she had always come to assuage him, to share his happiness. She had never left him alone and so she was here now.
He saw her smile. That smile was his life’s asset.
He felt he could breathe again; there was hope, light in this life to live for.
“Yusuf, talk to me. Why don’t you speak!” Hamza shook his shoulder.
And he was brought to reality. He felt courage in him.
“Nothing will harm my Qandeel.” He said.
He told them details of the call.
“These are mere threats. He can’t do any such thing.” Hamza Shahid said.
“I don’t care what these are. I only care for my Qandeel now.”
“What then---?” Kamran Ali inquired.
“I will not lodge FIR for Qandeel’s kidnap.” He told them his decision.
“But this is not the solution.” Both friends tried to convince him. But he remained firm.
“I don’t want to expect anything from that sadist. My daughter is my responsibility and if I need to be a coward to save her, then so be it.”
Then Hamza Shahid acquiesced to his decision but Kamran Ali remained against it. It was going to make no difference anyway.
Yusuf Mairaj came to his room when they had gone. He could smell a familiar perfume their.
She was there, with him; giving him strength.
Qandeel’s bag was still lying on sofa. He touched it lovingly then went for ablution and stood for prayer.
If the weakest father in this world could do anything for his helpless daughter then it was a prayer. And he was sure that no sadist dare cross that border and hurt his Qandeel.
(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)