Pakistan 1988

This continues the series of stories of the bearded stranger's encounters with political leaders.

One of my officers came to my command post and reported to me that the bearded stranger had started to walk the same route for the third time. I gave the order that he be detained. I had to be suspicious, my job depended on it. His behaviour seemed odd to me, very odd.

Sibi, you see, is a small town, only really known as the site of Pakistan’s biggest folk festival. True, it has the castle of Mir Chaga Khan, an impressive ruin, but it doesn’t generally attract foreigners outside festival period - and that had finished some weeks before.


The town is barely more than a crossroads, four long streets each with a large number of busy shops and cafes along them. The stranger had a pack on his back and had walked each of the four streets, talking occasionally to people.

What I didn’t like was the way he looked at every building, from its entrance to the rooftop. It worried me as I hadn’t enough men to cover rooftops as well as the streets.

He had just stopped to stare at a group of Afghan refugees that we had herded out of the way down a narrow side street when my officer, in plain clothes, tapped him on the shoulder. We took his passport and backpack. He checked out fine, nothing suspicious, but we kept him with two armed policemen at the back of a café for three hours.

Afterwards, I introduced myself to him as the head of security for the town. He told me he had been looking for, and failing to find a hotel to stay in. I told him most of the cafes turned into hotels after dark and therefore had no special signs to identify them.  From my point of view, I told him, I had thought he might be a sharpshooter looking for a safe and special place to conceal himself and a gun. During those three hours, you see, the President of our country had visited the town

Sibi: Castle of Mir Chaga Khan

Sibi: Castle of Mir Chaga Khan