Fakhar Zaman is one of the first few writers to set foot on the Indian soil, with a legally valid visa as a ‘writer’, in 1987, on the invitation of FOSWAL. A well known Poet and Novelist of Pakistan, Has to his credit two collections of poems in Urdu and two in Punjabi. He has written several novels in Urdu, Punjabi and English, including Sat Gawachay Lok. Zaman has been Editor and publisher of ‘Voice’ and ‘Bazzasht’. and Intellectuals (ICWAI), and Chairman of Pakistan Academy of Letters.Has represented the Government of Pakistan at various international conferences. Has been honoured with the prestigious “Sitara-i-Imtiaz” Award. Presently, Zaman is Secretary-General of International Congress of Writers, Artists

The Prisoner

The rack was placed in the main courtyard. The floggers were already in position, their half-naked bodies besmeared with oil to give their bulging muscles flexibility. They were doing practice runs, making their whips sing by swinging them through the air. One of the whips had been specially studded with shrapnels, little bits of naked-edged steel. The instructions were, “The painter’s flesh must fly about in little bits when he is whipped.” A generous award awaited the floggers if the performance was good.

The painter was brought forward and undressed. A thin bit of muslin was tied around his waist to cover his private parts. He was tied to the rack, his hands and feet threaded through metal rings to keep his body in place. Both the ‘burra’ and the ‘nikka’ sahibs, the jail doctor and some members of the staff were in attendance.

The ‘burra sahib’ nodded, a signal that the first lash should be administered. The flogger came hurtling in, stopped dead in his tracks a few feet from the victim, swung his body in a semi-circle, leapt in the air and with a wild swish landed the whip with full force across the painter’s back. His body trembled but he did not emit any sound. He had vowed to himself that he would take the punishment in silence, even if they turned him into mince – meat.

The second lash descended. Tiny bits of flesh were ripped off the painter’s back. The doctor stepped forward, felt his pulse, then shook his head, signifying that the man was still strong enough to take the punishment.

The third lash descended. The painter bit his tongue to control his pain and stifle a cry. He cut it and it began to bleed.

Then came the fourth lash. He felt as if his back had been ripped open, but no sound came from him. The ‘burra sahib’ looked furious. He had expected the victim to howl like a wild animal. He rasped at the flogger, “You bastard ! This criminal is supposed to be whipped, not caressed and mollycoddled. Skin him alive. Lash him so hard that he cries for mercy and his screams reach high heaven. “The sixth lash turned the painter’s back into red pulp, but he did not utter a word.

‘The burra sahib’ was now getting livid with rage. He hissed to his assistant, “These bastards have gone soft. I want new floggers recruited. They can’t even make this wretch of an illustrator squirm. It is a disgrace.” The ‘nikka sahib’ rose from his chair and whimpered, “Sir, give the boys a break. I’ll make them indent such a painting on the back of this mother fucker that his seventh generation will remember it.”

He whispered something in the flogger’s ear. The seventh, eighth and ninth strokes landed at a slightly modified angle, with the tip of the lash slashing the victim’s rib cage. Blood was now pouring in a steady trickle from a corner of his mouth. Much of the flesh from his back was gone. The bones were visible. The doctor had never seen anything like this in his experience. “Is the son of a bitch alive or dead?” the “burra sahib” asked the doctor. The doctor examined him and replied. “He has fainted. I don’t think he can take any more. “What are you talking about ?” the ‘burra sahib’ said, “He has had only nine. There are six to go. Give him the rest.” The doctor wanted to protest but thought better of it. The rest of the strokes were applied. His limp, unconscious body was removed from the rack, placed on a stretcher and sent to the jail hospital. The area around the rack was littered with tiny pieces of torn flesh. It made a strange, ghastly pattern on the ground.

– Excerpts from English translation of ‘Novel Bandiwan’