BLOWBACK (Harper Collins, 2010)

Sporting the typical sandy-greenish-yellow camoflague paint commonly used by military vehicles in this area, the Army jeep thundered up. The jeep’s canopy cover was rolled forward. There were four soldiers perched in the open rear seats and two in the front cabin. The four men at the back cradled the standard POF (Pakistan Ordinance Factory) manufactured PK-7 short assault rifle in their hands. Patterned on the Heckler & Koch G3 automatic rifle, externally the fixed-stock PK-7 resembles the short-barrelled G3, however its caliber had been changed to 7.62 x 39 mm (M43) and the internal operating mechanism had been adjusted for use with a lower recoil impulse cartridge.

At the moment the weapons were placed casually between their legs, with the barrels pointing safely skywards, but neither Iqbal nor Tanaz had any doubts about the speed with which they could be brought into action by a trained soldier or the lethality of the heavy 7.62 mm slugs that they could spew out with blazing rapidity. Each of the standard magazines fitted on the PK-7 rifle cradled twenty rounds; and those eighty rounds in those four rifles could be unleashed within seconds. The deck was firmly stacked against the couple on the run; especially with Iqbal already wounded.

The jeep shuddered to a noisy, creaking halt as it came up to the stranded station wagon that was blocking most of the narrow track. A sudden silence fell upon them as the soldier behind the wheel turned off the engine; the billowing dust in its wake slowly settling down around the jeep.

‘Hello! Hello! What have we here?’ The thirty-something man who leaned out from the front passenger’s side had the bullying arrogance of the typical Army NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) etched in his tone. He was clearly irritated at being forced to stop and made no effort to hide this fact.

‘Sorry janab.’ Tanaz called out; her tone remarkably calm and even, considering the circumstances. ‘The tyre got punctured. I will just change it and clear the road in a moment.’

‘It would be much faster if you got that idiot sitting inside to help you.’ The NCO pointed at Iqbal. ‘You!’ This was said to Iqbal, in a slightly raised tone. ‘Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, sitting on your butt while you make the woman work?’
‘That’s my husband janab.’ Tanaz replied before Iqbal could open his mouth. ‘He is ill. In fact I was taking him to the hospital at Gujranwala when the tyre got punctured.’

She was still speaking when the NCO threw open the jeep door and jumped out, his metal-jacketed boots hitting the ground with a dull thump. Perhaps it was only force of habit or maybe he had noticed something that had struck a chord of suspicion in his head, but he was toting a carbine in his hand when he hit the road.

      ‘What’s wrong with him?’ The NCO said as he started walking up to the station wagon, heading for Iqbal’s side of the vehicle.
      Tanaz exchanged a rapid glance with Iqbal as the NCO approached.
      ‘What do you think?’ She seemed to ask.
      ‘We cannot take a chance!’ His eyes replied.
      ‘Go for it!’ She nodded imperceptibly. ‘I’ll take those four in the rear of the jeep. You take out the two in front.’

Under the folds of the burqa Tanaz gently and soundlessly clicked the Uzi to automatic fire mode. The NCO was still a dozen feet away when the Uzi chattered to life. Despite the awkwardness of having to deal with the burqa cloth flowing all around her, Tanaz’s opening burst almost instantly cut down the two men in the rear of the jeep on her side of the road. Perched high in the open rear of the jeep they were un-miss able targets. Both died before they knew that firing had begun. The two sitting on the opposite side of the jeep were marginally luckier. Despite the suddenness of the assault they almost managed to jump clear of the jeep before the Uzi’s lethal cargo reached them. One took the bullet straight in his head so had nothing further to contribute to the proceedings, but the other managed to get a couple of rounds off before he fell. Neither of his rounds came anywhere near Tanaz, because the impact of being hit spun him around before the bullets cleared the barrel of his rifle. The barrel of his PK-7 was arcing towards the right as he fell. That is why both bullets thumped explosively into the windscreen of the station wagon, starring the toughened glass immediately.

      Meanwhile, inside the station wagon, Iqbal was bringing up his own Uzi to fire when the barrel snagged in the shawl covering him.
      Shit!
      He clawed at it frantically, but by the time he cleared it and got the weapon up the Pakistani NCO’s carbine had begun to spit lead.

The NCO was shocked to a standstill when the Uzi in Tanaz’s hands had thundered to life. By the time his training took over and activated an appropriate response the first two soldiers in the jeep were already dead. Tanaz was realigning her weapon on to the second set of soldiers in the rear of the jeep by the time the NCO released the safety and brought his carbine into play. His short, sharp, three-round burst slammed into Tanaz just a fraction of a second after she had cut down the last of the four men in the rear of the jeep. The harsh, multiple impact of all three rounds literally lifted Tanaz in the air and threw her backwards over the embankment into the field. She hit the ground hard; her head making a dull, thunking sound as it struck the ground. Then she was still. Soon blood began to seep out and stain the folds of the burqa enveloping the still form lying on the ground.

Before the NCO could fire again hot lead from Iqbal’s weapon turned his head to pulp and he slumped lifelessly to the ground.
Iqbal even managed to get a second burst out at the soldier behind the wheel of the jeep; who was sitting transfixed with fear and shock at the sudden turn of events, when the first PK-7 round fired by Tanaz’s final victim shattered the windscreen of the station wagon. The slug slashed through the windscreen and thumped harmlessly into the upholstery of the seat beside him.

Damn! That was clos…
The thought was still forming in his mind when the second rifle bullet sliced through the already shattered windscreen and slammed into Iqbal.
The heavy 7.62 mm slug travels with tremendous power; so much so that even at a range of 4400 meters it carries almost eighty joules of energy; more than adequate to deliver a crippling blow to the human body. The bullet that smashed into Iqbal had barely traveled thirty meters. It was moving with all the lethality of an express train gone berserk. It made short work of his breastplate as it ploughed into his chest, throwing him backwards into oblivion.