The Cost: My Life on a Terrorist Hit List

The Cost: My Life on a Terrorist Hit List


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310344865
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 506,266
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Ali Husnain (name changed for security reasons) is a young refugee evangelist living in the UK. Ali plans to return to Pakistan, despite the fatwa issued against him, with the conviction that God is calling him to build a medical facility in his home town and preach the gospel with the very men who tried to kill him as a teenager.

J. Chester is a writer living in England. He has written widely on international development, social justice and has a keen interest in bringing new stories to western readers

Read an Excerpt

The Cost

My Life on a Terrorist Hit List

By Ali Husnain, J. Chester


Copyright © 2016 Husnain Ali
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-34487-2



The first time I was kidnapped was so very different from the second. Both occasions filled me with terror, but it is the first that still revisits me in my nightmares. Perhaps it is because I was just four years old at the time. Perhaps it is because this was the exact point when I — still too young to properly tie my own shoes — learned that life can be a very dangerous affair. More likely it is because the kidnapper was my own father.

It happened on a day so hot I feared the sun would swallow the earth. The summer had conquered the dry earth, the empty sky, and everything in between. I remember feeling scared to venture outdoors.

"Nomi!" hissed Ami, "put your shoes on now." Usually, as I fumbled with the leather laces, Ami gave me gentle words of encouragement. Sometimes she even joined me in a little dance of celebration once I finally laced up each shoe. She was always like that with me — kind, patient, endlessly fun, somewhere between a mother and a big sister. Never once in those early years did I ever have cause to doubt the strength of her love for me.

But something was different about her on the day I was kidnapped. Her voice was strained and quiet, and she was not standing patiently by my side. Instead she was moving about inside the house, running from one room to another, calling for Zainab to get Misim — just a tiny baby in those days — and join us. Even at four years old, I was aware that something was wrong.

I recall my sister's high, thin cries for our mom to come and get her. I remember Ami's urgent replies and my own grunts of frustration as the shoes refused to cooperate. And there is another sound in my memory, a deep rumble, an angry shout like rocks tumbling down a mountainside. It was my father's voice — my real father, not my stepfather, Baba- jan. He was a terrible man.

I remember him starting to shout and seeing Ami reappear in front of me, urging me again to hurry. "Jaldi, jaldi!" She disappeared from my sight and I returned to my task, pushing and pulling but every time meeting with failure. The heat was too much and I wanted to lay down and sleep, but I knew I had to keep trying. Eventually I grabbed my shoes, and ran from the house to find her.

The shouting led me to the courtyard. As soon as I entered it, it felt as though the glare of the sun turned my eyes inside out. Blinking, I saw him, the dark shadow of a man that was my father, standing at the front of a crowd of people. With one hand he was pinning Ami by the throat, pushing her up against a wall. With his free hand he was hitting her, shouting with every blow he landed. The crowd cheered, and though there only could have been about fifteen of them, to my ears they were as loud as an army.

The heat robbed my mouth of moisture and my lungs of air, but from somewhere I managed a scream. That must have been what stopped my father's fist, and in the moment's pause, Ami twisted free, ran toward me, and swept me up in her arm as she passed. I remember that it felt like flying and that I liked it.

Only once we were beyond the gate at the back of our home was I placed on the ground again. Ahead of us were irrigated fields and a narrow elevated path that stretched out between them. "Run!" she screamed as she raced on ahead of me, Misim bundled in her arms, Zainab at her side. The path looked narrow to me and my legs were slowed by the heat of the soil and the fear of falling into the water on either side. I could hear my father's shouts behind me, a bear chasing his prey, his curses of Ami getting louder and louder. I tripped once, my hands stinging on a rock that had been well baked in the sun. I tripped again and saw blood well up on my palm. A third time and I lost my shoes. I turned back to get them and looked up to see men chasing. At the head of the pack was my father. I turned back to see that Ami had stopped and was pleading, "Leave him! Leave him!"

Then I was flying again. My legs left the ground and I found myself pressed against my father's side. He smelled odd. Unfamiliar. There was a ride in a strange car and a house I'd never been to before. A room with a door whose handle was too high for me to reach. I remember being hungry and thirsty and wondering why nobody came when I shouted. Eventually there was silence. I slept on one of the dark rugs that covered the floor and smelled like dust and dogs.

I don't know how many days I was kept in that room, but I know I wasn't well when I was finally rescued. It was Ami's brother who found me. My uncle was a policeman in Lahore, which meant he had both the contacts and the authority to disrupt my father's scheme. But even he was surprised by the state I was in. He says I was tearstained and nervous in the room, that my trousers were soaked and heavy and gave off a stench so foul he thought he might be sick.

After the kidnapping, Ami did something women in Pakistan simply do not do. She filed for divorce. A Pakistani woman remains where she has been placed, under the authority of her husband and his family. She is not supposed to question her husband's actions or resist his assaults. She is his property and can be treated however he wishes.

For those who try to escape an abusive marriage, the consequences can be severe. They can expect opposition and an increase in violence — even murder is not uncommon. And for the lucky few who manage to gain a divorce, the uncertainty and risk are far from over. In Pakistan, a single woman is about the most vulnerable person on earth, especially when she has brought it on herself.

Years later Ami told me that she did not take the decision to divorce my father lightly, yet she had been brought up to expect more from a husband than violence and verbal abuse. Like any Sayed woman, my mother stood out from the crowd, having been brought up wealthy. But she'd been shaped by more than money, for she'd received an education that had bred in her the expectation that people would treat her with respect even though she was female. Sadly, her breeding was a double- edged sword, and her family arranged for her to marry a man of similar social standing, another Shah. It didn't matter that she was in love with a different man; her father chose for her, and she knew better than to question him.

So while my father had the name, he didn't have the character, and it didn't take long for his hatred and disrespect to surface. For years my mother absorbed his punches and threats. But when it became clear that my father was prepared to use me, his firstborn son, in his games, Ami was compelled to act.

As soon as I was rescued by my uncle and Ami filed for divorce, she moved Zainab, Misim, and me to live with her in our grandmother's house on the edge of a small town hours away. I was happy there. The land stretched all the way to the horizon, and I played among the animals that wandered across the roads and fields in search of food. I learned how to drink milk straight from the cow and how to get to safety whenever I encountered a snake. I found that it was easy to get a herd of goats or sheep to go where I wanted them and learned that inviting a pack of dogs into the yard only ever ended in trouble.

I was the kind of child who could never sit still. On the rare occasions we went out to attend a family wedding or other important event, the battle of getting me dressed in a smart, clean shalwar kameez was enough to make Ami cry out with frustration. First she had to get me into the house, usually with a mix of bribes and threats. Next she had to get me to cooperate enough to wear the garments, and predictably I never liked formal clothes when I was young; they felt too much like chains across my back. I would wriggle and writhe as best I could to keep free of them. Ami always won, at which point she would stand back, arms crossed in victory. "Now," she'd say, "I want you to stay here on this bed and do not move while I get Misim ready." It was all the opportunity I needed. Within seconds I'd be back outside, jumping triumphantly in a puddle or throwing chickens high into the air.

Eventually Ami decided that life would be better for both of us if she let someone else try — and fail — to tame me. When I was just six years old, Shazi came to live with us. She was about five years older than me, and her job was to make sure I kept out of trouble. She was no match for me. I could slip away from her faster than I could Ami, and she was powerless to stop me from going outside whenever I wanted.

The world outside my grandmother's house exerted a strong pull on me and my curiosity grew stronger with each year that passed. Beyond the rusted metal gates at the front of the compound, I met so many different people — the shepherds, the men selling food, and the ones who fixed trucks, cars, and motorbikes out on the roadside. But it was the young man with the sodas who was my favorite. He was too poor to afford decent clothes, and it was his crippled leg that first caught my eye. It was thinner than the other, and when he staggered along, it hung limp beside the piece of wood he used as a crutch. But every day, he was there, sitting in the shade of the mandarin tree, with dusty unopened bottles of soda laid out neatly before him. At first I just watched him, observing how happy he seemed to be no matter what number of sodas he sold each day. Soon I joined him, sitting in the dirt beside him, neither of us talking much at all. His contentment was infectious, and it was enough just to be with him, watching all the typical dramas play out on the street in front of us. From time to time someone would come and buy a drink, and I would leap up and make sure the sale was conducted well. I suppose I wanted to protect him.

Whatever my motives, it was all too much for Ami.

"Why are you spending time with that man, Nomi?" she asked one day after I returned.

The question caught me off guard. I had never thought to ask it of myself. I just spent time with him because I liked spending time with him, that was all.

"Do you want to grow up to be like him?"

That was a question I had less trouble answering, and looking Ami right in the eye, I delivered my verdict: "Yes!" After all, he was happy.

It seemed like a perfectly sensible ambition to me.

"No!" said Ami, delivering a swift but gentle blow to my head. "You will study and work hard and grow up to be a success. You are a Shah and a Sayed. You have potential in you, Nomi. You cannot waste it."

I didn't see myself as being worthy of any great ambition, but I understood a little about the potential within me, especially when it came to making trouble.

The electricity supply was especially poor in rural areas back then, and most days the power would be off from late in the evening until the wee hours. It suited me just fine, as it meant that when the day's heat had finally lessened I was able to play outside under cover of darkness — perfect conditions for my favorite game. I'd walk through the gates of neighbors' houses, creep silently to their front doors, and tape down their doorbells. Nothing would happen at that moment, but as soon as the power came back on later that night, the occupants would find themselves awakened by the never- ending scream of their doorbell. Sometimes I'd even lie awake and listen for the one- note symphony, smiling to myself in the darkness.

The heat of the day could be well in excess of 100 degrees, but when I was not at school, I rarely took Ami's advice to come inside or find some shade. My friends and I liked being up on the roof. From there we could see across the whole of the town. From there we could see the kites.

Kites mattered. Where American children challenge each other on the basketball court or in front of a gaming console, children throughout Pakistan and beyond duel with kites. We flew them for entertainment and pleasure, but so much besides: for glory, for honor, for the sweet taste of victory. When the wind was up and the rains absent, it seemed to me as though the whole sky was full of them. When the wind was getting up, I would beg Ami for one or two rupees, pleading with her to be allowed to go visit the man who lived on the main road that led out of town. Like every Shia household, he had what we called a bhetak — a formal room at the front or side of the house where non– family members could come and be shown hospitality without compromising the honor of any girls or women in the main house. Along with the very best furniture — heavy sofas and charpai beds for overnight guests — this man's bhetak was full of kites. He made them himself, and if you were lucky, he'd let you watch as he sat cross- legged on the floor, his hands a blur as he bent, glued, and twisted paper and cane together.

With a new kite tucked carefully under my arm and Misim and a friend or two following close behind, I'd head back home and take up position on the roof, ready to compete. We all knew how to fight with other kite flyers, and the technique is simple to understand, but almost impossible to master: when you spy an opponent, you must allow your kite to approach at just the right angle and speed, jerking and twisting at just the right time and in just the right way so that the string that stretches out between your hands and your own kite will strangle and slice through theirs. The winner is the last kite in the sky.

I often did okay as long as the other boys were flying kites like mine. If I was up against one that was tethered with the special sort of string that had been coated in glue and broken glass like they sold in Lahore for fifty rupees, victory was never a possibility.

I went to the roof to fly every day I could. And even if I had no kite and no money, I would still watch, hoping that somehow a freshly cut kite would land somewhere nearby. And even if that didn't happen, just gazing up at the way the air danced with brightly colored triangles was enough of a distraction to make an hour or two happily drift by.

It took a few years for the divorce to finally come through, and by the time Ami was summoned to court for the final time, I was old enough to accompany her and understand a little of what was going on. I had joined her on many of her visits to the lawyer's offices, and I liked the fact that she wanted me at her side. As her firstborn son I had certain responsibilities, and even though I was only just in double digits, I felt ready to face my father.

In the years we'd lived at my grandmother's, I had become Ami's confidant, listening as she told me more about what life was like before I was born. She told me that she had been forced to marry when she was eighteen years old and that it wasn't only my father who had beaten her but his brothers as well. These stories made me angry and I wanted to protect her, but somehow I knew revenge wasn't possible. It was just like it was with the kites; Ami — like all women in Pakistan — was a one- rupee kite in a sky full of men who could cut her down with their fifty- rupee strings. Though I was angry with my father for all he had done, I was just glad he was out of our lives.

That is why, when we arrived at court and I saw my father for the first time in five years, I merely nodded politely at him. I looked around the room at the dirty windows, the dark wooden tables set apart in front of the judge, the ceiling fans that stirred the air. I listened as the judge spoke and allowed my mind to drift to thoughts of what life was like for my father. Was he sad about what had happened? Did he miss his children? Did he wish things could be different?

I didn't have to wait long for my answer. The atmosphere in the room shifted, as if someone had cut the fans. All eyes were on my father as the judge addressed him.

"And I understand that you waive all rights to see your two sons and daughter in return for sole ownership of the house in Rawalpindi. Am I right?"

"That is correct, Your Honor."

I looked at my father. He was so much shorter than I remembered him. It struck me that his little mustache looked silly on him — far too small for someone so skinny — and that at his age, he looked more like a grandfather than a father. He wanted the house more than he wanted his children. Though I had entered the court wanting nothing more to do with him, this rejection still hurt.

The judge carried on speaking until the proceedings were over. Ami whispered to me that the terms were all agreed and the divorce was official when my father spoke up. "Your Honor, may I be allowed to take a photograph with my children?"

The judge looked perplexed but agreed, and seconds later I was pushed up out of my seat to stand at the front of the courtroom with my father sweating in the midday heat next to me.

"I'm your dad," he said as he prepared his hair for the photo. "I'm going to visit you every day." I knew he was saying it for show. At least, I hoped he was. He looked like he was trying to stand taller, but I was already almost his height. I knew it wouldn't be long before I outgrew him.


Excerpted from The Cost by Ali Husnain, J. Chester. Copyright © 2016 Husnain Ali. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11

Prologue: It Was Never Supposed to End like This 13

1 Kidnapped 21

2 Growling in the Night 31

3 New Horizons, New Dangers 41

4 Murder in the Street 55

5 Leaving Pakistan 65

6 An Infidel in the Family 73

7 "Come Back to Islam" 85

8 Jesus, Only Jesus 95

9 A New Kind of Peace 109

10 Is This How I Die? 123

11 My Name on Their Hit List 135

12 Blood because of Me 149

13 The Forest of Fear 161

14 The Courage to Forgive 175

15 "I Blame God" 193

16 Hunted Down 203

17 More Than I Deserved 213

18 Repaying Hatred with Love 223

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The Cost: My Life on a Terrorist Hit List 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The courage that Ali summoned to embrace his new faith, stay alive, and experience a complete life transformation is truly impressive!
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
A young man, who shares his story of conversion to Christianity, tells his amazing story in this new book, that will open readers’ eyes to just how blessed we are in the Western world to be free to worship whoever/however we want. Ali Husnain (all names were changed for safety reasons), opens his memoir with a brief prologue in which he recounts his time hiding out in a dilapidated shack, fearing for his life. What brought Ali to such a horrible place, and why does he then flee to England? In order to understand what brought Ali to such dire circumstances, the reader is given an intriguing look into his life. Born into wealth, Ali was a Shia Muslim, who took his easy life for granted. His mother, Ami, was one of those very rare Pakistani women who successfully filed for divorce from her abusive husband. While the divorce proceedings were underway, the family moved in with Ami’s mother, and eventually with Ami’s new husband. The author recounts his early life, the trouble he and his friends caused, as well as the good times with the mother he adored. All that would change, however, when he and his sister went to visit their ailing Aunt Gulshan in Oxford, England. During their visit, Ali was astounded to learn that his aunt had converted to Christianity. At first he tried to dissuade her, but eventually, he came to know the peace of accepting Jesus as his savior. Returning to Pakistan, Ali tried to hide his new found faith, but one mistake blurted out to some friends and his life spiraled out of control. The Cost, written by a very brave young man (Ali was just 17 when his conversion took place), will have the reader riveted to the pages. For Westerners, it will be hard to comprehend many of the things the author divulges about daily life in Pakistan. At the same time, reading about Ali’s wonder when he visits England and experiences such simple pleasures as walking into a huge (to him) grocery store, and realizing that anybody, regardless of stature, can go into the local electronics store, will make ‘us’ appreciate just how lucky we are here in the States. The true revelation, however, is to see what a Christian man is subject to in a Muslim country – ‘horrifying’ is one word that comes to mind but that might be an understatement. Ali opens up about his personal experiences, what happened while attending church and his inner struggles before accepting Jesus. Evangelical Christian readers, in particular, will find these events of great interest. The most profound statement I’ve read in a very long time, in any book, came in the chapter “Jesus, Only Jesus” in which Ali notes, “What struck me...was the fact that I had witnessed something in church that I had never experienced in a mosque: the absence of fear.” (pg. 101) Whether or not you’re a Christian, this book will make you ponder the realities of life as a Christian in a Muslim country. Quill says: A book written by a very brave man, that shows the price he paid for his beliefs, and proves just how blessed we are in the Western world to be able to follow any faith.