Waheed Rabbani, a noted historical fiction author, reviewed Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office. While giving it a full 5 star rating, his review included:
“Recently a number of spy thriller and espionage novels set in Pakistan have appeared on the market. While those deal mostly with “terrorism” in Pakistan, following the 9-11-2001 events, Khalid Muhammad’s debut novel is somewhat unique, in that it covers the rise of the Taliban during the period after the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan up to the late 1990s, thereby getting to the root cause of the issues. Khalid notes in his introduction, “… But Pakistan is so much more than the narrative [a terrorist state] that is presented around the world – it is home to a wonderful, talented people that want nothing more than peace in their country, with their neighbors and respect in the international community, but are deceived by its own “leaders,” whether political or religious …”
The novel opens during a press conference, in Multan, where the newly elected Prime Minister is hounded by reporters about the escalating violence in Karachi, and what his government is going to do about it? Back in Islamabad, the issue, being called a failure of the government, is discussed at a meeting of select representatives of the federal and provincial governments and the armed forces. Following the usual acrimonious and heated debate between the civilian and military personnel, in view of the dire situation, it is proposed that the army be sent in to restore order in Karachi. The Chief of Army Staff warns that, “… calling the military into the streets of an urban center will lead to more problems than solutions …” and the politicians retorting that, “…“You just want the situation to get worse so that you can take the country over again! That is what the Pakistan Army does!” However, upon learning that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) organisation had been keeping tabs on the subversives, and has a list of about 1000 people who could be hunted down, the proposal is accepted. The novel’s protagonist Captain Kamal Khan, who hails from the same northern tribal areas as most of the Mujahideens and has become a crack sniper, is assigned to the implementation team.
Khalid Muhammad’s writing will remind readers of the novels by Le Carre, for it is full of those intimate operational and interrogation details that make the scenes play out vividly before the readers eyes. Although, Captain Kamal Khan is unlike George Smiley and more of a James Bond type—with all the precision shooting and combat skills—but minus the proficiency of seducing pretty women.
The novel is an informative and pleasurable read that provides a fictional glimpse of the behind the stage actions, by the Pakistani governing authorities that would have been necessary to keep Pakistan (unlike Afghanistan) out of Taliban’s control. These measures, despite the foreign and internal extremists’ activities, permitted most of the citizens to live in peace, with each other and the rest of the world. Khalid Muhammad has noted on his website that this novel is part of a series. Since it ends prior to 11 September 2001, readers would be anxiously waiting for the sequel to learn how the horrendous events of that and the following years implicated Pakistan, and how they were handled by Captain Kamal Khan.
These are promising to be a really enjoyable series and are highly recommended.”