When the world hears Pakistan mentioned in the media, the first thought is terrorism,
which sadly has become part of our national narrative since 9/11. But Pakistan is so
much more than the narrative 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.
Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office takes you behind the headlines into
the events that created today’s Pakistan. It is a tough look at a nation in conflict from
the eyes of a young man, Kamal Khan, who is looking for his own identity and place in
society. Kamal is raised in privilege, but leaves it all behind as a man to serve his nation.
Once in that environment, he finds himself embroiled in a complex narrative that shifts
with the fiery speeches of their anointed political and religious leaders.
Celebrated as a ragtag force that defeated and broke
the Soviet Union, no one predicted the Mujahideen
would bring with them a plague that would spread
like wildfire through Pakistan in the years to follow.
When the battle-worn fighters returned with no enemy or war to
fight, they turned their sights on the country that had been their
creator and benefactor.
From the same battlegrounds that birthed the Mujahideen,
a young Kamal Khan emerges as a different breed of warrior.
Discarding his wealthy family comforts, Kamal becomes a
precision sniper, an invincible commando and a clandestine
operative bringing intimidation, dominance and death with him to
the battlefield. Ending the plague is his prime directive.
Shrouded in political expediency, hampered by internal power
struggles, international espionage and doublespeak that makes
Washington’s spin doctors proud, Kamal’s mission is a nightmare
of rampant militant fundamentalism that threatens to choke and
take Pakistan hostage. For him, the fight is not just for freedom,
but the survival of a nation.
By day, Khalid Muhammad is a mild-mannered
business executive keeping busy running a marketing
and brand management company. By night, his alter ego
emerges; one that has a penchant for sadistic retribution
towards those who wrong others, and that spends its
time devising intricate and detailed plans for a nefarious
Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and
raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan
almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country. His
debut novel, Agency Rules - Never an Easy Day at the
Office, is a journey behind the headlines about Pakistan,
the world’s most dangerous place, to deliver an
intense story that will challenge the reader to question
everything they have been told about the country.
He began writing to let the wickedness escape,
as the other option means a great deal of blood,
numerous torture implements and… well, infinite ways to
dump a body. It’s safer for everyone involved and less
dangerous for the guilty… until he writes another book.
Why did you first start writing?
I don’t think I ever stopped writing. I fell in love
with fiction when I was in middle school because it was a
way that I could express the dark side of my imagination
without getting in legal trouble. I have written a number of
short stories over the years since but never seriously thought
about publishing until about 5 years ago.
There was never an a-ha moment, so to speak that
made me decide to be a writer. I went from writing short
stories that let me get my imagination and frustrations, to
writing a political leaning blog and then progressed into
writing a novella and now my first novel. It seemed like a
natural progression since my novel is an action-packed spy
thriller with political undertones.
about Khalid Muhammad
I really believe that the inspiration behind starting
writing was to find an outlet for my imagination, at least
I think that is where it started. Over time, I have grown
as a writer – before writing my book, I used to run a
political and current affairs blog that focused on issues
related to Pakistan. Since then, I have written a number
of unpublished short stories and a novella. Agency Rules
– Never an Easy Day at the Office is a culmination of all
the work, knowledge and information into one fast-paced,
action-packed story. It’s a great read for anyone who reads
What inspired you to write Agency Rules?
Honestly, I got tired of hearing everyone, from the
average person on the street to the news media, calling
Pakistan a terrorist state.
That’s not who we are – it never has been. Sure, we
have problems, but those problems are rooted in things that
the news media either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care to
explain. I get tired of sound bite demonization of countries
So, this is my way to share the Pakistan that I know
with the world. My Pakistan is a country that struggles with
inept governments more interested in themselves rather
than the people who elected them. It is a country whose
people are extremely talented and patriotic but unable to
take advantage of any opportunities because the country
is run like a fiefdom rather than a nation. It is a country
in search of its identity, much like Kamal, that is trapped
amidst power plays from internal and external forces.
Who is your target audience?
I don’t know if I can say there is a target audience for
my novel because it crosses genres. While it is written in
the spy thriller genre, there is something there for military,
political, history and terrorism readers, and people who love
or hate Pakistan.
Here’s what I can say – if you want to understand how
terrorism started in countries like Pakistan, and why the
world sees it as the terrorism hub of the world, read my
novel. It’s based in the 1990s, post-Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan, so you can see the whole picture develop.
Are the characters modeled from people in your
Definitely! Every character in the book is either
someone that I know, have met or mixture of people. It’s so
much easier to take the people that you interact with each
day and write them into the story because they make the
story real, which is something that I really focused on with
Kamal Khan, the lead character, is heavily influenced
by my background and those who have influenced me.
He is flawed, damaged and confused, but he is also strong,
dedicated and driven – what I like to call the typical
Pakistani. He is someone that I want readers to feel,
experience and cheer for because he really is the “every
man” in the story.
How did you come up with your storyline?
When you live in a country like Pakistan, the storylines
play out each day on the streets, newspapers and dinner
tables. We are a country that is at war with itself but not
willing to accept it because it means having to make very
difficult decisions that will change lifestyles. We have
had 70,000 Pakistani souls killed by terrorists, damages
to property in the billions and a citizenry that is unsure
whether to run, fight or surrender. It makes it easy to write
when you live the story each day.
Who inspires you?
People inspire me. From the fruit seller in the market
to the shopkeeper fighting to support his family. From the
policeman that has justified his petty theft to the soldier
that gives his life in defense of the country he loves and
everyone in between. I try not to focus on a single person
for inspiration because they disappoint you when you learn
more about them and how they got to where they are.
But if you focus on the people around you, you find more
inspiration in them than you will in any single person.
Why will readers enjoy your book?
Well, other than the genre and being a book about
Pakistan and terrorism, Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day
at the Office is a fast-paced, action-packed story that will
keep you guessing all the way to the end.
It’s a spy story, and it’s heavily researched. I had to
be accurate when depicting the ISI and its methods. I
guess this was more fun for me than it might be for my
readers because I did my research the old-fashioned way – I
interviewed former ISI operatives, visited locations where
the Taliban had occupied areas of Pakistan, and talked to
people on the street about their impressions of Pakistan in
the 90s. My story isn’t the gloss from media soundbytes, or
political, military and official versions. It’s from the man on
the street that lived through it.
What other books or authors would you
compare this story to within your genre?
I think you have to take into account that the whole
story is set in Pakistan and the Middle East, written by a
Pakistani willing to point out mistakes, you really would be
pressed to find something similar.
If we are talking about the genre, then Fredrick
Forsyth’s The Afghan is a great comparison work. Tom
Clancy’s Patriot Games is another that looks at a similar
topic, substituting the Taliban for the IRA.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Right here in Pakistan. This will always be home for
me, with all the troubles and challenges, but I don’t want to
be one of those Pakistanis that run away from their home
country and complain about what’s wrong with it. I’ll stay
here and be part of the solution, not another voice in the
world condemning my country.
What’s next for Khalid Muhammad?
Next? We’ll we have the global launch for Agency Rules
– Never an Easy Day at the Office on the 16th of January.
That’s when Amazon will get the e-book. I’ll probably spend
a few months supporting and promoting the book.
At the same time, I have already started to craft the
characters for the 2nd installment of Agency Rules. I know
the story line but I need to create the characters and scenes
that will play out on the pages of the next book. You can
keep up with Agency Rules and Kamal Khan on the website