GILGIT: When Gilgit-Baltistan secured freedom from Dogras through a coup in 1947, Naqibullah was among the frontline warriors. He was part of the local army – Gilgit Scouts – that routed the enemy at Pratab Pull, a bridge named after Maharaja Pratab Singh of Kashmir in the 1890s.
Taking a trip down the memory lane, the unsung hero, now 115, said: “We defeated the enemy at Pratab Pull, putting an end to their advancement on Gilgit… I was the one who torched down the bridge.”
It was one of the most decisive moments of the battle, Naqibullah, who was in his 40s serving as Nike in Gilgit Scouts, recalls during an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.
His claim was corroborated by a certificate, issued on December 12, 1947 by Tiger Force commander Lt-Col Mirza Hassan Khan. “He burnt the Pratab Bridge when the situation became untenable to our troops. He was brave and among my picked men ever ready to be thrown into any pitched battle,” reads the certificate of valour, acknowledging Naqibullah’s bravery.
Before the independence, Gilgit-Baltistan historically remained a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as its third province until 1947 under Hari Singh’s rule. Dogras had incorporated the region into the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1846, after many wars and bloodshed.
Naqibullah was well aware of the historical background of the region, but India’s latest move of revoking special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which has further tensed relations between the two nuclear-armed arch rivals, came as a surprise to him.
Away from city’s busy life, Naqibullah has been living a healthy life with his wife, children and grandchildren in Sai Darote – a village some 60 kilometres apart from Gilgit.
The old age has failed to dampen the passion of the war veteran, who was still eager to join the armed forces of the country. “I’m still physically fit and ready to defend my homeland if ever needed,” he said expressing his resolve.
Naqibullah prays five times a day and fast during the whole month of Ramazan. Like a farmer, he goes to fields, waters plants and thus walks around three-four kilometers daily. “His all senses are intact and he eats everything including eggs, butter and meat,” said one of his sons Zaib Alam. “We are lucky to have our parents in this age. They are not dependent on us, but we still depend on them.”
While Naqib was invited in the presidency during the previous government to meet President Mamnoon Hussain, his offspring are weary of cold-shoulder from the incumbent government.
“He is a living legend, but the government doesn’t recognise this,” said a dejected Alam, adding that his father was not even given the promised piece of land, let alone extra privileges.