Excerpt from The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Return of Faraz Ali

A Novel

by Aamina Ahmad

The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad X
The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2022, 352 pages

    Apr 2023, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Print Excerpt

"I was worried you might have been caught up in this mess on the streets last night."

Faraz paused; Wajid had never expressed worry about anything before, least of all about him. "We got back a while ago. Things seem under control out there now," he said. He wished for a moment he'd been hurt, that he might perform the kind of stoicism that would impress Wajid, but instead, to his surprise, he said: "I hurt some boy. I don't know who." Wajid was silent and then he cleared his throat, and Faraz knew he'd said too much, made the old man uncomfortable; he was pleased. "I left to get him help. He was gone by the time I came back."

"Most likely dusted himself off and went home, lesson learned."

"I don't know. He was in bad shape."

"Well. Needs must. I'm sure you were just doing your duty. That's all anyone can ask of you," Wajid said. Faraz was shamed, knowing that this was exactly what he wanted to hear, that he wanted absolution of some kind, that too from Wajid. "I mean, really, these boys are asking for it when you think about it." Faraz felt a loathing then for both Wajid and himself. Yesterday in Rawalpindi, police had killed a young man at a student rally. The students had gathered to hear Bhutto speak, and police orders had been to make sure that Bhutto with his roti, kapra, aur makaan nonsense should not speak. No one was supposed to get killed, but when the boy was shot, Faraz's bosses had said the same thing: He asked for it. Faraz stretched his fingers wide; had the boy he'd beaten last night asked for it? Yes, he had. Wajid had said so, and so would everyone else.

"The thing is," Wajid said, "I'm actually calling because I need help with something. I hate to ask when I know Bhutto Saab is intent on dragging you all into his circus act."

"That's fine," Faraz said. He wanted to sound poised because his father had never asked him for anything before.

"The superintendent from City Division is going to call you shortly. He'll tell you you've been posted to Tibbi Station in the walled city."

"The walled city?"

The old man was silent again. "Yes, I'm afraid so. Shahi Mohalla." A pause.

"I don't understand," Faraz said.

"Something's happened. And I need some help, I need someone I can trust."

Faraz leaned back. Wajid was trusting him with something.

"You're the last person I would send there, but I ... I think you're the only person I can rely on ... in this situation." Faraz could hardly imagine the kind of crisis in which Wajid would trust him above any of his many other lackeys and connections. "I know you're smart enough not to go wandering into ... matters from the past. I mean, your people are all gone from there, I think. But we don't want your connection to the Mohalla announced. It'll be all over town if anyone gets hold of it." He waited. "That wouldn't be good for anyone, would it?"

A breeze, and the stack of papers on Faraz's desk fluttered, awakened. "What is it you need?"

Wajid sighed, as if exasperated by all he had to do. "There was an accident in the Mohalla tonight. All a bit of a mess. And there were some people present, witnesses, who really can't get embroiled in something like this. You understand what I mean?"

"What happened? What kind of accident?"

"I don't know. Some kind of drunken brawl, that's all I know." Wajid sounded irritated.

"Who are these people? These friends of yours?"

"That's irrelevant," Wajid said. Irrelevant meant that they were important, and not only to Wajid. "They have nothing to do with this. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Terribly unlucky. When you get there, you should find the officers at Tibbi amenable to your instructions. But I need to be sure that they'll clean this up properly. No records, no paperwork. Official channels are not open on this."

"So the local officers know, but no one upstairs?"

Excerpted from The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad. Copyright © 2022 by Aamina Ahmad. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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