Tag Archives: Pakistan Army

In Search of a Letter from 1965

7 Sep
nana

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

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VIP vs VIP

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

A Ray of Hope in the Jaded Landscape of Pakistaniat

27 May

Times in Pakistan are tough. They’ve been tough for so long that we’ve forgotten what it was like before things got so bad. Things were never great but they were never this bad either. There weren’t as many incidents of violence, so many hours of load shedding or such high prices of food and electricity. And in our fast paced downward spiral, we have lost our sense of being one nation. Its each man and woman for himself or herself. Its the only way to survive. And in the pursuit of survival we will lie, cheat, steal, trample on others, cut corners and take the low road as often as possible to get to destination mere survival. Its not pleasant but we’ve become conditioned to be this way through years of hardship and inept political leadership that cant be relied on.

And in this Darwinian quest for survival we have become jaded and sarcastic and conditioned to believe the worst about those around us. Idealism, morality, humanity – seem like hollow buzzwords – such noble sentiments having been beaten out of us by circumstance.  On those rare occasions, when we are confronted with selfless displays of courage and nationalism; we tend to scoff at them and dismiss them as either political rhetoric or utterly naive insanity.

But this story made me stop in my jaded mental tracks and led me to believe that maybe there is hope for the future.

In May 2009, Captain Najam Riaz, was captured and martyred by the Taliban. He was part of the elite SSG commandos – the best of the best who are trained by the Pakistani army to be even better (yes, i know this is a quote from Top Gun). He was only 24 years old when he died fighting against the Taliban in Swat.

Captain Najam was captured along with three other colleagues by the Taliban. For many days he and the others were kept captive while the Taliban tried to use them to buy freedom for their captured commrades. When it seemed like such a deal could not be struck, the Taliban murdered Captain Najam Shaheed and the three other soldiers. All four brave men, died fighting valiantly. Surrounded by the brutal enemy, they were unfazed at the prospect of death and killed 8 Talibans with their bare hands before they were gunned down and later beheaded.

While the courage and valour of these young men in the face of such grave adversity is truly inspirational, what was even more heartbreakingly inspirational was the courage and selflessness of his family in the face of this grave loss. He came from a small village near Kahuta. His father had retired as a hawaldar from the army and Najam was his youngest son. His family is one of modest means. They dont have any of the fancy upper class trappings that one associates with the rich, liberal, elite, who are anti Taliban. But their understanding of the true nature of the Taliban is far more astute than some of our leading media commentators. But this is not why they are inspirational.

They are inspirational because they raised a son, who was brilliant and brave enough to be admitted to the most elite faction within the Pakistan army. And they are inspirational because they taught him to put his country before even himself a lesson that most of us merely laugh at. And they are inspirational because even when they lost their son to the cause that they had raised him to believe in, they did not put themselves before the need of their community.

After the martyrdom of their son, the government followed up with the usual official visits for condolences. And asked what they could do to help them. When the government asked what could be done for the family,  they could havked for anything for themselves. Money, job or promotion to name a few. They asked for none of these things.

Instead, they asked for a school, a dispensary and a road to be built for theircommunity. Even in the face of this great loss, they remained true selfless Pakistanis. And here I was thinking that none existed!

I am honored to be from the same country as them. And I hope that someone in the government has shown their appreciation for your devotion to the country, by honoring your community with a school named after your brave son. I pray that through this school, your community will raise many other brilliant sons and daughters who will not only serve the country but will be an inspiration for us all.

I hope the government is listening or reading if they arent already busy in building that school and road and dispensary.

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