If you have not read Part I yet, please read it here.
Lt. General Wasim, commander of the Artillery division, spoke next “I graduated two batches after General Khan and knew that the most inventive person was the one to get the best postings upon graduation.”
Lt. General Hafeez, Corps Commander – Peshawar, said, “PMA was a dream of mine, but I was not able to clear the examination and interview process to get admission. I spent fifteen years earning my command, serving in various divisions across the military.”
Lt. General Siddu, an instructor at the War College in Nowshera, told about the value of listening and building relationships with my instructors. “When you are in college, you don’t want to be seen as being close to the instructor, but that is not the case at PMA. Your instructor today could be your commanding officer tomorrow. Relationships at an early stage are extremely important to assure that you are promoted quickly and to the right postings. Without the proper postings, you will spend a lifetime running around in circles, ending your career barely above where you started.”
Brigadier General Khan was the last to speak. “Kamal, we spoke at length about where we see you in five, even ten years in the future. There was an honest opinion that everyone had before speaking with you – you didn’t have the air of an army officer.”
“Here we go,” I thought to myself, “Operation crush Kamal Khan was about to begin.”
“We have come to an understanding.”
“Kamal beta, you have great potential,” the Brigadier continued. “Ajmal will be a good officer. He listens and follows orders. But when we talk about great officers, they understand, maneuver and lead, always looking for the most advantageous position. That is you, Kamal.” The breath left my body as I took that in. Me? A great officer?
“The General has told us of your family background and the years you have spent at Burn Hall. It seems that you have leveraged your weaknesses, such as they are, into your strengths,” said Lt. Gen. Siddu. “In the military officer corps, that is an invaluable quality.”
“Kamal, I am interested in knowing which branch of the service you hope to join? Have you put any thought into where you want your career to go?” asked General Khalid.
“Sir, my hope is to serve in the intelligence division. I believe that is where I can do the most good.”
“Interesting selection, Kamal. Did you know that Asghar was the DG – Military Intelligence until last year?” continued General Khalid. “Asghar, what do you think? Would you take Kamal into your division?”
General Asghar had sat pensive during the entire conversation, watching me, my reactions to the statements and responses. “He is very good at reading people, and responds intelligently based on the person to whom he is speaking. Tell me Kamal, what is intelligence?”
Intelligence, is he serious? How the hell do I answer that question?
“General, intelligence is a game of imperfect information. We can guess our opponent’s moves, but we can’t be sure until the game is over,” I answered very calmly. “But before you ask if I think intelligence is a game, let me answer. No, intelligence is not a game. But it is played like a game, with each playing their moves. It is the embodiment of real-time strategy interpretation.”
All four of the men stared at me stunned. “Did I just offend this collective of military expertise with a childish answer to a very serious question?” I thought to myself.
General Asghar hesitantly stared trying to understand what was going through my head. Then he asked, “Interesting interpretation. So following that logic, what is the most important role that an intelligence operative plays in an operation?”
The most important role? Wouldn’t that be intelligence gathering? It can’t be that easy, why would he ask if it was that easy?
“Sir, the most important role for an operative is to become part of the environment so that no one pays attention to him. If you are too memorable, you are a loss to the intelligence service. If you are too hesitant, you are also a loss to the intelligence service. The best operatives are part of the environment so that they are able to both gather information and live without being remembered.”
Asghar again sat pensively, staring at Kamal. “Are you sure that a strong intelligence operative would not want to be remembered? That seems a waste for the work that they do.”
“Sir, the operative should be remembered by his division, but if they are memorable for the targets, they will easily be captured.”
The other four Generals nodded their heads in agreement with the words of this young boy. General Asghar, however, did not seem impressed. “No dreams of becoming the next James Bond?”
I chose my next words very carefully. This man could destroy any chances of entry to PMA if he didn’t think I had the right attitude.
I said, “Sir, James Bond is a figment of the British intelligence service. For every Bond, there are thousands of unknown operatives that make him who he is. Our job is protecting the country from internal and external threats. Intelligence is the first line of defense for Pakistan’s police, rangers, constabularies and army. The best operatives are the unknowns who deliver great intelligence without the accolades.”
The General paused and weighed each of his words before he spoke. “I think this boy could be an asset to the intelligence services. How big of one—only time will tell.”
The room dispersed quickly after that. As the military men turned to the left to head to the car park, “Kamal, wait for me a moment. I’d like to speak with you,” General Khan said as he walked them out of the room.
I sat waiting quietly for General Khan to return, as one of the houseboys came into the room to bring me a drink. “Sir, the General said to bring this to you,” he said as he held out the tray. I took the drink and thanked him.
The General came around the corner with a smile on his face, obviously pleased with himself.
“We think that you will be an excellent choice for the PMA. Asghar and Wasim are on the board of the Academy and will put in a good word for you with the admissions committee to make sure that you don’t have any problems getting in.”
“You know Kamal,” the General started, “I think that you have made good use of your time at Burn Hall and will perform much better at PMA than Ajmal. He relies too much on my position in the military to get results for him. You are standing as your own man.”
I finished my drink, parched from the inquisition and bolstered by the kind words from the General. As I rose, he put his arm around me and said, “You are going to achieve great things if you continue on the path that you have started. I have great hopes for your future. Now go and get some rest, you need to return to the campus tomorrow.”
I thanked the General for his time, ecstatic with this turn of events, but desperately trying to be adult about it.
I walked out the door to find Ajmal standing there.