Tag Archives: army

In Search of a Letter from 1965

7 Sep

Nana (1952) in his Guides Cavalry Formal Uniform

In 1965, my grandfather, Major Ahsan Omar, was fighting in the Battle of Chawinda, near Sialkot. It was one of the fiercest battles in the war; the largest tank battle after World War II. Amidst the heavy tank shelling and artillery fire as guns thundered and planes roared in the skies above, it did not always seem like those who fought in the Sialkot Sector would make it home. Many brave men didn’t.

One night when the fighting was particularly intense, my grandfather also believed that death was imminent. Fearing that he would not see his family again, he began writing a letter to my mother, his only child at the time. He wanted to say a final goodbye and offer some words of wisdom from the battlefield. But he was never able to finish the letter as the fighting resumed. In the chaos of war, the letter got left behind on the battlefield as his division of tanks moved to a different position. Continue reading



9 Nov

In Pakistan, your importance is measured by the number of people who have to wait for you and the amount of time that they have to spend waiting for you. Small time bureaucrats make a handful of people wait for atleast a few hours before granting an audience. The really important people will make entire cities come to a stand still as their entourage zips around town. But given the large number of “important” people in Pakistan, the unimportant average citizen is quite accustomed to such treatment. But when one important citizen happens to stop another important citizen wait – that is when the news sparks fly and the inconvenience and discourteous behavior extended to all citizens on a regular basis – gets noticed.

A federal minister, travelling in an official vehicle that was flying the national flag was stopped at gunpoint and made to wait for a four star general to pass. In a country where power is determined by who waits for you and how long, the incident makes it amply clear that the boys in khaki are more important than the boys in parliament. In Pakistan, it’s not about how many votes you have but how many troops you command. Despite our democratic aspirations, we remain a country dominated by the security sector that lets the people amuse its self with a round at choose your next leader every few years while simultaneously ensuring that power continues to flow from the barrels of guns and not ballots. Continue reading

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