She was barely sixteen. Liza was a teenage girl from the ancient Pakistani town of Peshawar. Her father, a poor rickshaw puller, had abandoned her. Facing extreme poverty and dire living conditions, she had been sold off as a sex slave to the Afghans. She would now be a muse for some Afghan warlord in Taliban.
She was on her way to Kabul and then to Kandahar to be with the man who had paid a handsome price of 5 lakhs to buy her off from her poor and impoverished family. This was going to be a long journey to the rugged terrain of the Kandahar valley and the little girl was very apprehensive about her final fate. She prefers to sleep and keep her eyes closed so as to let fearful thoughts go away. The handler by the name of Anees, a well-built Pathan with a huge tough black beard, knew that this girl would reap him rich profits. She would be sold off as a sex slave while also cooking and doing other chores for her master in return for food, clothes and protection. As such she had no other rights, she would be treated as a subhuman and would have to have sex with her master at any time of day. This was going to be her hell and she had to prepare herself for it mentally.
They travelled by road for five days by huddling up on the back of trucks and on top of buses. Liza tugged at her luggage and belongings as the bus stopped over for food and water. The dusty rural roads made the journey even more arduous as the bus had to slow down over potholes and broken tarmac. But at least they had started their drive to Kabul. This was where the final payment for the girl would be made and she would be handed over to be taken to Kandahar. The Taliban have been buying girls from rural areas in Pakistan for years to satisfy the needs of their soldiers, especially the commanders. Therefore, these girls are essential for the war effort and also for cooking and cleaning homes.
She was on a nomadic journey through the mountain pass and then by road to Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. From there, it was another trek to Kandahar where her master Baksh waited for her as if like a butcher waiting for his prized lamb. “You will have to clean the house and all the pots and pans. Also, fill water from the well and make food for me. I will keep you here with me. That corner next to the wall is where you will sleep.” He made the rules of the house clear to Liza and made sure she knew he was in charge. “You will not go out much on the road or the footpath and if you have to go to buy food, you will go wearing this.” He drew an orange hijab at Liza which was to be her robes if she ever ventured out of the home. “It is very beautiful, very soft. I will wear it always. May he protect me and save me.” She said a prayer to Allah and then touched the hijab to her eye and forehead as if to pay respects.
She knew this will be her new life. She had to shed her old clothes for the new hijab and adapt to her new life with her master. Baksh was a high-level Taliban commander and had fought many battles. He was an expert with the AK47 and dynamites. He made his money repairing old army vehicles and ammunition dumps. He was keen to have this young fair girl at his disposal. She was still ripe and with her soft skin, Liza looked attractive especially her hair which shined brown when the sunlight fell on them.
She worked hard all day cleaning, making the bed and then cooking. At night, Baksh would have sex with her in the traditional Islamic way and then fall off to sleep. It was just a need for him and Liza had started to oblige him happily. She would wear her hijab at times when she ventured out in the bare markets of the city. That is as her only freedom in a life condemned as a slave, she thought. But Baksh had been gentle with her except for his odd ways in bed. Liza managed to smile at times especially when she saw the birds fly and when the rain fell through the window of her room.
She would often stare at the barren ground in front of her window where street kids and local urchins gathered to play cricket. Liza knew the game well as she had seen and even played it in the gully of Peshawar. “Arrey, the local Afghanistan cricket team has been invited to go to Kyrgyzstan. They are shooting for a big Indian Bollywood film there.” He sounded excited and said all this in one breath. Liza knew that she was about to go on another adventure. “They need girls also to encourage the cricketers. So I told them you would like to go.” He then sat down on the cot as Liza handed him some milk. “Ok, I will go but I will be free and allowed to talk to people.” She wanted to go but on her terms. Baksh nodded as Liza packed her bags to shoot for this Bollywood film. A journey that would change her life forever. This was her ticket to explore the world and break free from her slavery. Baksh had been foolish to let her go. After all, he only suggested it to the local administrator and Maulana. The entire team was to depart in a bus and a jeep caravan where they would be flown into Bishkek by flight from Kabul airport. Liza was at her best in her orange hijab. She had also put some kajal in her eyes just so that she would stand out of the crowd of other actors. This was her chance, she had to grab it. The chance to taste freedom again.