By Shaukat Qadir :
For the last couple of days, the army chief’s comment in response to a question by an angry young officer has reverberated in every drawing room, every office, every daily, and every electronic media outlet.
Admittedly, in a country like ours, where the army continues to wield political power even if from behind the curtains, any statement by the army chief does merit analysis. Admittedly also, the background in which this question and response was made, was one, which could point in many directions; each one of concern, and a perceptive analysis was necessary.
But, equally true is the fact that our emerging media is in cut-throat competition and, some outlets specialize in sensationalizing news items. They therefore, create controversies, even if none exist. They do not advert to the damage they might cause by creating conflicts where none exist.
Having said that; our defenders from the army, police, rangers, Frontier Corps, Constabularies, even our youth, of the likes of Aitzaz Hassan, and their families are hurting. I am hurting.
I have nothing special to boast of in my career as a soldier. No distinctions. No awards. No recognitions; nothing. I was just an ordinary soldier; a very ordinary soldier. When I look back at my career, perhaps the one credit I can claim is that in my generation of soldiers I might number among the very few who spent the greatest amount of time in conflict zones—in conflict zone(s). Not in conflict.
When I total my time in conflict zones spread over my decades of service, until my culminating rank, I cannot go beyond three and a half years. In our army today, the young officer of ten years service has more years in conflict zones than I! I was an infantry officer. But in today’s army, my comparison does not apply to infantry soldiers alone, but to soldiers of all fighting arms.
Our army has always had the highest (or close to the highest) officer to soldier casualty ration in the world. When I last knew it, our officer to soldier casualty rate was 1:11. One officer among every dozen soldiers casualties. I am sure it must be as much, if not higher today.
There are two ways of viewing this report: a) that our young officer is foolhardy and b) that he leads from the front. I have always adhered to the latter view and been proud of it. Soldiers follow leaders; not those who ‘send’ them to die.
Never before in our 67 year lifespan, has our soldier been tested, like he has been for the last decade or more. They have seen more death and destruction than most soldiers, except those who saw the World Wars, will ever see. More comrades in arms wounded, losing limbs, organs, incapacitated for life. And yet these injured soldiers smile at the ruined future ahead of them, as others smiled at death when she embraced them.
They smile at a ruined life because they ruined their own life to protect their fellow citizens; the duty they had sworn to.
Let me state unequivocally that there is no lack of respect, admiration, gratitude, affection, even love, of the common citizens for their defenders; in any uniform. And yet, our soldier hurts, and I too am in agony.
In all these years, Gen Raheel was the first to manage to get the PM to visit injured soldiers in hospital. No elected leader visited injured soldiers for years past.
Our cowardly elected leaders and ministers shed crocodile tears at the execution of Hakimullah Mahsud; the coward who corrupted hundreds of children’s minds, made suicide bombers of them, killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent Pakistani citizens, and half as many soldiers.
Self-styled “Maulanas” of the like of Munawwar Hassan called Hakimullah a Shaheed (martyr). Fazlur Rahman, the Grand Maulana, went even further; stating that if a dog was killed by Americans, it would be a martyr too.
I am not a scholar of any subject, least of all, religion. But even I know that the US was not discovered when the Holy Quran was written. Moreover, Shahadat (martyrdom) is a consequence of the deceased’s intent, not of who killed whom.
I wonder where these people acquired their titles of “Maulanas”. If these were bestowed on them, shame on the one who bestowed them this title. Whether or not these titles were bestowed on them; shame on us, the citizens of this country including the media, for accepting their right to this title and continuing to address them as Maulanas, even after they utter such absurdities.
I number among those who think that the law should run its course on Musharaf. But do not the comments of our ministers; the duo of Khwajas smack of a vendetta rather than justice? Let justice take its course, but justice, must also be seen to be done. And yes, in such cases, perceptions are more important than realities.
No politician attended the burials of Chaudhry Aslam or that brave teenager, Aitzaz Hassan, whose father’s words ring constantly in my ears. He stated, “I have one son left and will be proud to see him die the same way, saving the lives of others”, from the murderous ilk of Hakeemullah—the martyr?
It did me proud to see the army paying homage to the police officer and that valiant Aitzaz.
Beware you blind fools. Beware. Aitzaz is our future. Not the Hakeemullahs. Don’t bet on the wrong horse, unless you have no political future.
Yes; our defenders are hurting and I am in agony.
(With an estimated corruption of over $30 billion in past 30 years by the politicians like Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto – Zardari INC, Chaudhry Brothers and their cronies, they can buy out all the lands of Defense Housing Associations, military farms and other semi commercial run businesses? Politicians rule by example and in a country where exposing a crime has become a crime – it is ruled by CRIMINALS )