A Pakistani soldier's Eid
It was Eid, but the firing hadn't ceased. I heard the familiar crack of an AK-47 round flying somewhere close by...
This Eid-ul-Azha, like the many Eids before, I was clad in my camouflage uniform. On the second day, I had been ordered to take a convoy of rations to my troops on the barren mountains of South Waziristan. On the way there I began to feel homesick, and took a stroll down memory lane.
I reminisced about my college days in Lahore, and the fun my friends and I used to have. Smiling and thinking about the alu kay parathy my mother would whip up, I felt a sudden gush of gratitude towards her for the ample love she showered on me. I had such a happy childhood, but now things have changed. Life has become a serious matter with real consequences, and the time for games and fun is long gone. I only languished in gloom for a moment, as my instructor at the military academy had taught me the purpose of life is to be happy under all circumstances.
I immediately brightened up, however, my elation was short-lived.
It was Eid, but the firing hadn't ceased
Suddenly I heard the familiar crack of an AK-47 round flying somewhere close by. I frantically looked back and saw that my LMG (light machine gun) number Shayan Zaidi*, had been shot in the neck. Grief overwhelmed me. Another ambush, and an yet another casualty for the sake of a nation that does not realize what the cost of freedom truly is.
The anti-ambush drill followed and I was lucky to walk away alive. However, the same fate did not hold for many of my men who went back to their homes in coffins for Eid.
This Eid, I spent my time writing letters to the mothers of the shaheed (martyred) men; the same mothers who were elated at the births of their sons, who worked hard to raise them respectably, clothe them, educate them and feed them. They waited for their sons to return home, and this is what they got; their sons in wooden coffins draped in a green flag.
Shayan Zaidi shaheed has indeed returned to his mother and his wife, but as a dead man.
I am just another ordinary lieutenant who has taken the oath to protect the territorial and ideological boundaries of his country, come what may, but when I hear people sitting on a comfortable couch commenting on soldiers and the army in a derogatory way, my blood boils with fury.
What do they know about the soldier on ground?
Do they know the magnitude of the pain that passes through one on witnessing the brutal death of a brother?
Do they know how a soldier copes with holding a friend in his arms while he dies, and the baggage that comes when he asks you to take care of his old parents and his little boy who was born just few months ago?
Do they have any idea what it is like spending months on the barren mountains and eating grass when logistics are cut off?
They have no clue.
The only thing the media is good at is criticizing people who do their jobs, and applauding corrupt politicians who either pay them or threaten them. There are always limitations which need to be understood; the budget the army gets doesn't afford high-tech equipment which contemporary armies are privileged to have. However, the performance of Pakistani men on ground can’t be matched with any army in the world.
In the history of nations there has always been a choice between what is right and what is easy. When people prefer popularity and money over the right thing to do, nations are doomed to fail. The army’s strength is not in the equipment or the men, it is in the trust of the nation. When a soldier feels that the nation is thankless for the blood he has sacrificed, his morale plummets and his spirit is amputated.
The army, thus, swiftly becomes combat ineffective and then, my dear Pakistanis, who except Allah will provide even the current degree of stability and security from external and internal threats to the country?
I can state with certainty that this will not be our president.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the soldiers.