My father was an Ahmadi serving the Pakistan Air Force

Towards the end of his career, he felt like an unwelcomed guest in PAF. Yet, his love for Pakistan was undeterred.

Ayesha Noor October 20, 2014
On October 14, 62-year-old Mr Latif Alam Butt, an Ahmadi retired Pakistan Air Force (PAF) serviceman was gunned down at Kamra Air base, Attock District. He was shot due to his religious beliefs. My father was also an Ahmadi and a retired PAF serviceman, who also happened to die at the age of 62. But my father was not killed, only marginalised, for his religious beliefs. But he and Mr Butt share more than meets the eye.

In 1965, when Mr Butt was only 13-years-old, my parents, newly married at the time, were making plans to start their married life at my father’s post in Risalpur, Pakistan. While my mother anxiously awaited her husband, Pakistani and Indian forces came face to face at the border. Without thinking twice about his young wife and their plans, my father headed to Sargodha where the PAF played a vital role in defending Pakistan from Indian forces. To honour PAF’s spectacular performance at Sargodha base, September 7th was declared as PAF Day.

Nine years later, in the summer of 1974, when Mr Butt was 22-years-old and was about to join the PAF, my father was transferred to Peshawar. While he was trying to settle down his young family in Peshawar, nationwide riots erupted against Pakistan’s Ahmadi community. My father put his children in a relatively safer place and patiently waited for the government’s verdict on the “Ahmadi issue”. He was certain that this turbulence would be short lived just like 1953’s riots. He unwearyingly took all the sarcastic comments from some of his colleagues in the hope of getting justice from the government. In his eyes, the Pakistan he proudly served was far above the religious intolerance the Mullahs were spewing.

Unfortunately, and to his dismay, on September 7, 1974, Pakistan’s elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared all Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. My father returned to work with a broken heart and shattered confidence in the government. Yet, his love for Pakistan was unwavering and his loyalty to the PAF was unquestionable. Since then, extremists celebrate September 7th as a victory for their intolerance. Every year on September 7th, PAF pilots show their stunts with fighter jets and bigoted Mullahs show their stunts of spewing venom against Ahmadis.

In the remaining years of my father’s service, he faced passive marginalisation on every front. His not-so-popular religious beliefs became the yardstick for his success in the Air Force. His professional expertise, decades of service, commitment to his assignments, hardworking nature, honest demeanour, and even his loyalty for Pakistan, nothing mattered because he was no longer a “Muslim”. Hence, the chances of him moving up in rank gradually died. Towards the end of his career, he felt like an unwelcomed guest in PAF. Yet, his love for Pakistan was undeterred.

Ahmadis have proudly served in Pakistan’s armed forces and have valiantly fought for their country. But sadly, my father and Mr Butt are not the only Ahmadis who served Pakistan’s armed forces and faced religious discrimination. Most Ahmadis in Pakistan’s armed forces have faced second class treatment. General Akhtar Hussain Malik is a 1965 war hero who launched operation Grand Slam in Kashmir. Although bestowed with Hilal-e-Jurat, the second highest military award, his name never made it to the Pakistan Studies text books. Same year, Major General Abdul Ali Malik led Pakistan’s largest tank battle since World War II. How many kids and adults know his name? Major General Iftekhar Janjua, the highest ranked officer of the Pakistani Army to be killed in action was denied the Nishan-e-Haider, the highest military gallantry award. Captain Mumtaz Anwar of Pakistan Navy gave his life during the 1971 war with India but never received the recognition he deserved.  Major Afzal Mehmood sacrificed his life during the Swat operation in 2009. In 2010, 90-year- old Major General Nasir Ahmad Chaudhry died at the hand of religious extremists while he was offering Friday prayers. He was the only Pakistani general to be injured in active war duty during the 1971 war. He fought three wars for Pakistan, but in the end, died at the hand of those very people he protected all his life.

Sadly, this list is endless.

Pakistan’s latest hero, Latif Alam Butt, leaves behind five children to carry on his legacy. One of his four sons is also serving in PAF. One day, soon enough, Pakistan will look back and mourn what it allowed to happen to my father, to Latif Alam Butt, and to all Ahmadis who have given their lives in the service of Pakistan.

Mr Butt may just be another random killing for some, but for Ahmadis, it’s the gradual destruction of the country they’ve given their best heroes to protect.
WRITTEN BY:
Ayesha Noor A freelance writer based in the US who has a masters degree in Economics. Her areas of interest are women's rights, minorities rights, comparitive religions and social issue. She tweets @FriendlyMuslim (https://twitter.com/FriendlyMuslim)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

Facebook Conversations

COMMENTS (193)

farrukhshah | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend It is superficially said that there is no discrmination in FORCES against AHMADIS, i have served the forces with honour and integrity but always was marginalised. The word is MARGINALIZED. Where ever one comes in to a competition, there you go. Whispers are passed along, sheepish smiles and difficult/ complicated English words are spoken to appease you and then you find yourself out of competition. Being Ahmadi in forces , you are suppose to be lying low, talking in low tunes and just hunkered down but if you are professionally strong and ask for your due then hell gets loose. There is lot which has to be improved...
Tariq | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend I am not a scholar of religion but I dont think the Prophet Mohammad SAW every uttered the word kafir for one reciting the kalima. However he called some muslims as Munafiqs. In my view and from my experience we have many munafiqs within us. Islam teaches us to serve humanity and care for Huqooq-ul-Ibad. Ibad means one who takes God as Maa'bood and bows before him. Hence, Ibad are those who bow before The Almighty; whether Muslim, or Christian, or Jew, or Hindu, or Buddhist. Ayesha Noor, I salute your father and all those PAF officers you mentioned. I am morally and physically indebted to all those who sacrificed their life time serving Pakistan. God bless them and God bless for telling me the story.
VIEW MORE COMMENTS
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ