To Ashraf – My Neighbour’s Son


You were no Islamic fundamentalist

Your beard was not a fistful

And you did not carry the mark of the sijdah on your forehead

In Ramadan

You did not spend your days in fasting

Nor your nights in prayer

And you flirted with the neighbourhood girls

With a mischievous innocence in your eyes

Then why did you go to Afghanistan

And die of suffocation along with thirty-two of your comrades

While being transported in a tin container

By the Americans

From Kandahar to Kabul?

I have asked myself this a million times

And each time I have received the same answer

In my youth I too could have died

In the Casbah of Algiers

In the olive groves of Palestine

In the rice fields of Vietnam

And in the apartheid ridden settlements of Africa

But I did not

For I did not love life with the intensity that you did.


Karachi, September 2003

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