From now on, every year we are to see the marking of a Martyrs Day by the army. Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said the occasion, observed for the first time, is to be repeated annually. The event at the GHQ paid tribute to the many soldiers who have died in conflict in the northwest. The idea is quite clearly to raise morale and keep spirits high.
We must however remember that a very great number of civilians have also died in the course of military actions conducted in towns and villages across tribal areas and parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa. Very little effort has been made to pay any kind of tribute to them. Indeed until the recent tragedy at the village of Sra Vela in the Orakzai Agency where 72 people were killed as a result of bombing raids, such deaths had barely been acknowledged.
It is also true that through the history of Pakistan the army has been responsible for a very large number of civilian deaths. Billions have been spent on the military, at the expense of health and education and had this not happened perhaps the military itself would have benefited, in terms of a more skilled and health talent pool. Having said that, it is a very good thing that the army is now doing a valiant job fighting something that threatens the very existence of Pakistan.
The threat from the militants and extremists is a very real one and thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives as a result of it, and people’s daily lives and peace of mind have been badly affected. It is imperative that public support for the war against the terrorists be what it was, say, in the run-up to the operation in Swat where the end result has, by and large, been good. In that context, General Kayani deserves credit for acknowledging the extraordinary services rendered to this country by the ordinary soldier.