Munawar Hassan, our fallen soldiers and citizens ARE martyrs
Shouldn't a society respect and honour its men and women who have died in this war?
Some time ago a small, market town in England called Wootten Bassett attracted national and international media attention. The town was granted Royal Patronage and even US President Obama appreciated their actions.
The people of Watton Basset showed honour and respect to their dead soldiers, who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whenever the bodies of British troops were brought to an air force base and they passed through this town, the townsfolk showed their respect with spontaneous gestures; businesses stopped, passersby lined the pavements, taking off their hats and standing in silence.
The honouring of the fallen soldiers by the people of Wootten Bassett touched a nation, which was otherwise bitterly polarised on the question of participation in the War on Terror.
Now let’s rewind the reel and see what’s happening in Pakistan.
According to many media reports, around 50,000 people, including 3,000 security personnel, have lost their lives in raging militancy. Most have either died fighting militants or have become unfortunate victims of thousands of senseless and brutal terror attacks.
In this post, I will describe brief stories of victims of terror attacks - undoubtedly, the victims’ hopes and aspirations were aborted, but the lives of their family members have been transformed forever, as well.
Faiq, the Naval Officer from a village near Khanewal
Faiq was killed in the militant attack on the Mehran Naval Base. At the time of his death, his son was only a few months old. He is now growing up on second-hand memory of his father, as dredged up from the family photos by his mother and grandparents.
Indeed a sad reality: sons need living fathers to play with and seek guidance, and not larger-than-life figures, artificially resurrected from death by adults.
Ayesha, the steno-typist from my office
Ayesha lost her brother in a bomb blast near the Naval War College; he was not an employee at the War College, but was riding past it on a motorcycle, and met an instant death after being hit by bomb shrapnel. No doubt, death is an impenetrable reality; all of us have to die, but an unnatural death, more so, a brutal death knocking down a young person, can traumatise the immediate family. And so it did.
“Not a single day passes by,” says Ayesha, “when my mother doesn’t recall to life her slain son, and it appears that, some supernatural force pushes her, to rake the embers of memories – some bring smile to her face but, at times, she weeps uncontrollably.”
Faiz, a senior police officer posted in Quetta
Faiz lost his life while trying to nab a bomber, who managed to detonate his suicide vest during a funeral prayer of a slain police officer.
At the time of the bomb blast, Faiz’s family – a wife and two, little children – was visiting him in Quetta to celebrate Eid. Rather than spending Eid with their father, the kids brought back their dad’s dead body for his burial in his hometown.
The brutal killing of innocent civilians and security personnel trigger a number of moral questions.
Shouldn’t a society respect its fallen soldiers and honour their sacrifices?
Don’t victims of violence deserve abiding sympathy of society?
When political leaders themselves refuse to acknowledge that slain soldiers and policemen are martyrs, then how can a society discharge the moral obligation of paying them respects?
As I see, members of society, who understand that it’s a just war, need to weave a narrative against the radical fundamentalist view of history and war. Let’s not forget that Maulana Munawar Hassan’s comments on martyrdom of soldiers have not been made in isolation, but are connected with Jamaat-e-Islami’s overall view of history – based on notions of Muslim victimhood and imperial wars of the West.
Unless we challenge that view, society as a whole will not come out of the closet to acknowledge that the state of Pakistan is fighting a just war.