Pakistan, 1982

Guard duty is usually boring. It wasn’t so boring on the day when a bearded stranger fell into a hole and needed to be taken to the barracks.

I am a proud Chagai warrior. I dress smartly, I’m a good soldier - and I will defend Pakistan to my last breath. Our barracks is in Nushki, on the border with Afghanistan. Bare hills and mountains all around, a road heading for Iran, and regular security alerts from the troubles across the border.

Nushki, Chagai warrior

Bearded strangers falling into holes would be a different challenge for the Colonel to deal with.
It was Friday, our day of rest, so the Colonel had to get dressed to deal with him. Sometimes he will be really stern but, frankly, he wasn’t in the mood to be too officious with a stranger who seemed more unfortunate than suspicious. He found out that the stranger had wanted to visit the governor in his villa in the hills. It had been empty so the stranger had wandered around, found a place with a good view to read a book, and then had his fall while walking back to town along the hillsides. No broken bones. The Colonel ordered me to take the bearded stranger to the bus station and see him out of town.

I did this, orders are orders. The stranger was pleasant company, and promised to send a copy of the photo he took of me. He was on the bus when I began wondering whether we should have been more suspicious.  It was strange that he could chatter away in Farsi to the Afghan refugees he met at the bus station. He took a photo of me in front of the barracks.  Oh, and the hole he fell into was actually a well-camouflaged machine-gun emplacement with some very surprised soldiers in it.