1632hrs: Breaking News – Explosion heard in Saddar, Peshawar. No idea about casualties. The networks scream. The red tickers go berserk. Reporters yell with reports that are incoherent. We know that it was a car-bomb.
1744hrs: An hour has passed. A man by the name of Sifwat Ghayur is our (now deceased) protagonist. The former Intelligence Bureau veteran, CCPO Peshawar and till very recently, Commandant of the battle hardy FC is reported dead. Welcome to target killing, Peshawar style.
Then, a hero is born. Media is the mother, rhetoric the midwife.
Shots of Ghayur, younger than I thought he would be, with hair that was a little too long for a cop and a body too well built for a government official, is making the rounds on every channel.
The accolades begin: Ghayur was incorruptible. He was tipped to become the IG of his province. Ghayur never took pressure from ministers and seniors to deviate from duty. He had arrested around 150 A-list terrorists. Once, in the middle of a heated gun-battle, he preferred to give his bulletproof vest to one of his men (this much is even shown in archived footage) instead of wearing it for his own protection. He always led from the front.
1755: Soft drink and telecom commercials finally wrap up the story of the afternoon. As I consume low-rate cell phone plans and high-calories that are supposedly accompanied with an invisible virility, I obsess over the last moments of Ghayur, caught on CCTV…
The footage shows Ghayur’s black sedan stop near a street corner. For the first few seconds, there is nothing but regular activity around him. Then, a hefty biker in shalwar kameez snakes his way around the curb and in front of his car.
He angles his bike in front of the sedan, three or four feet away, and puts his foot down to park his machine.
He touches something in front of his body, but it’s not visible.
Then, the white explosion.
I imagine Ghayur’s last moments. Being a go-getter, maybe he was driving himself. He didn’t seem like a backseat kind of cop. Most probably, he was in the passenger seat. Maybe he was smoking a cigarette, observing his dilapidated city’s downtown street. Perhaps he was on the phone – with his boss maybe, updating him on the latest, or even his wife, telling her he would be home soon. On the other hand, he was a good-looking man, of the modern alpha-male variety. What were the chances of him having a mistress he was text-messaging? Being a first-among-equals type of workaholic, maybe our protagonist was talking strategy with his driver, or even cracking a joke about how traffic is going to get really crazy once Ramadan rolls around?
Did Ghayur’s police instincts kick in, perhaps at the last moment, before he knew it was too late? Did he feel the heat of the blast first, or was it the impact of glass, metal and decompressed air that greeted him? Maybe it was like the Scorsese movie, where a car-bomb’s victim actually sees the flames come out of the air-conditioner vents before the vehicle totally explodes. Scorsese used slow-motion to build up that moment from his classic, Casino. Was it the same for our hero, or was it all over quickly?
The explosion puts it all to rest. No bulletproof jacket could have helped our man.
The news cycle wears itself out. It’s back to a traveling president and a flooding river.
Still, Peshawar’s top cop lives on – but only as a pixilated Hercules.