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Gomal University 4: Meeting with Robin Hood

Fayyaz Baqir

March 2nd, 2017

 

 

In the autumn of 1978, I was sitting in my office at Gomal University New Campus when a young man entered my office. He delivered a letter to me saying “your friend asked me to give it to you”.  I asked him if he was a student, he said no. He said that he worked with a contractor at the Campus and hailed from Khyber Agency. When my friend found out that he was heading to Gomal University he gave him the letter. The letter was sent by Robin Hood. The letter was brief. Robin Hood said, “I am living in Khyber Agency these days and miss you a lot. Come over some time to spend a few days”. It was a pleasant surprise. By the time I finished reading the letter the messenger had already left. However, Robin Hood had left directions for finding him after crossing the Jamrod Gate.

 

It is important to mention here that Khyber Agency like many other tribal areas was called “Ilaqa Ghair” those days. It meant foreign land. In practical terms, it meant that this area was out of bound of Pakistan Laws and Police Stations. These Agencies were governed by Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and administered by a Political Agent who had the status of a demigod. According to Pushtoon tradition, if anyone came under the protection of a tribal chief, the whole tribe would rise in arms to protect that person from any invader. This rule was respected by all tribal people and Political Agents. Due to this special status, many criminals sought the protection of these chiefs when they absconded from Pakistan. Dacoits, murderers, car lifters, drug dealers and smugglers all came to seek protection here. The Malak ( Tribal Chief) happily offered protection to many such outlaws in return for protection money.    

 

After a few weeks, I boarded the bus to Peshawar and changed the bus there for onward journey to Khyber Agency. Robin Hood lived there under the fictitious name Sher Khan. He had given me the name of his Malak and had asked me to look for him at his Hujra (Guest Quarters). On arrival at Jamrod’s little bazaar I inquired from a couple of people about the Malak and Sher Khan but no one happened to know them. They asked me about the description of Sher Khan and promised to check if he lived in the area. Due to security reasons perhaps, no one would straight away divulge information to a stranger even if he was giving the right names. The pace of life over there was even slower than DIK; so wait a minute could mean waiting for ages. After some time I got restless and was thinking of heading back home when someone appeared from nowhere and took me to Sher Khan. We had a warm hug and ordered a cup of tea. It was like an endless conversation. I don’t know when we finished and went to sleep.

 

Sher Khan would offer homemade wine or a joint of marijuana to his visitors but would never drink or smoke himself. I have never seen a person more sharp, clear-headed, and fearless than him in dealing with a threatening situation. There were many veteran criminals in that area but he made it sure to know their weaknesses, psychologically dominate them and be extremely vigilant. He was also a tough negotiator and never let his Malak make any undue financial demands on him. He offered me extreme hospitality and introduced me to some of his friends in the area. I stayed for a couple of days, learned about the exact location of his hideout and got introduced to his Malak as well. Sher Khan told me that he had robbed many banks but he had used his brain to evade the trap of Police. He also did not want his Malak to have a faint idea about this because it would be a violation of the contract with him, and Malak would start making extra financial demands as well. He said that the day after the robbery he would read a news item in the newspaper that Police had narrowed their circle around the culprits while sipping tea on a local tea stall, and knowing that Police had no clue of where he was staying. I asked my permission to leave and we promised to keep in touch.     

 

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