Dotted with national flags placed on graves of soldiers who laid down their lives for the country, Ghizer district, or the ‘district of martyrs’, is hard to miss.
In 1999, the highest number of soldiers who lost their lives in the Kargil war belonged to this small district of the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
And the number of graves might increase, with as many as 13 soldiers from Ghizer district among the 138 soldiers who were hit by an avalanche in the Giari sector of Siachen Glacier on April 7.
However, despite being known as the ‘district of martyrs’, hope runs surprisingly high.
“Our morale is still as high as the K-2 Mountain,” said Shah Nazar Khan, whose younger brother, Havalder Rahbar Hassan from Yasin tehsil, is one of the 13 soldiers trapped in the avalanche.
Rahbar, 33, had joined the army in 1997.
Nazar said that on the day the avalanche occurred, his brother was supposed to leave his headquarters to spend a month at home. But, he added, luck did not allow him to meet us.
“We are still optimistic and are praying for a miracle of their safe recovery. Our brother was a true Pakistani and a brave soldier,” said Nazar, who, along with his other brother, is also a soldier in the army.
Ghizer district has four tehsils – Puniyal, Gupis, Yasin and Ishkuman, all of which have significantly contributed in their services for the defence of Pakistan.
One of Pakistan’s national heroes Haveldar Lalik Jan Shaheed, awarded with a Nishan-e-Haider for demonstrating extraordinary bravery during the Kargil war, also belonged to Ghizer district.
Known to be relatively tougher, a majority of the youth in the district traditionally prefer to join the Pakistan Army. Almost every family has more than two members serving in the military.
“We are proud that we (all three brothers) have had the opportunity to serve our country,” Nazar said, while adding that their late father was also a soldier and had inspired them to join the army.
He told The Express Tribune that he has kept the incident a secret from their aged mother and from his brother’s young children.
“Every moment is hard for us,” he said. “Our activity is confined to watching TV for updates, but every day ends with disappointment and a new day dawns with anxieties.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.