Fifty-two days a huge wall of snow slammed into an army camp in the Giari sector of Siachen Glacier, Pakistan Army declared as martyrs 140 soldiers and civilians trapped underneath the avalanche.
According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Tuesday, “It has been decided to declare the remaining brave soldiers as shuhada (martyrs)” to try to reduce the families’ suffering.
“This is being done with mixed feelings of pride, grief and, above all, unflinching resolve to continue all-out efforts to recover the bodies of all shuhada,” it added.
A huge avalanche crashed into the remote Siachen Glacier base high in the mountains in the early hours of April 7, trapping 129 soldiers and 11 civilian contractors.
Despite the resolve of troops employed on search operations, excavation work is taking time due to constraints imposed by the harsh terrain and weather.
Only three bodies have so far been recovered from the site.
“The nature and magnitude of the calamity is suggestive of no probability of recovering any person alive. In this backdrop, religious leaders of prominence from all sects and factions were consulted. Aspects related to socio-religious dimensions/implications, requirements to initiate the process of documentation, and reduction of the sufferings of the bereaved families have been evaluated in detail,” ISPR’s statement added.
A search and rescue operation, launched by the army immediately after the tragedy, met relative success on its 50th day (May 27) when the body of one soldier, identified as Mohammad Hussain, was recovered.
More than 450 rescuers, including foreign teams, have been working in sub-zero temperatures at the site.
Rescuers have dug tunnels into the mass of snow and ice that hit the battalion headquarters of the 6th Northern Light Infantry to try to recover the bodies.
The site is 13,000 feet up in the mountains, just below the glacier where Pakistani and Indian troops have faced off since the 1980s.
The Siachen issue was part of the agenda when President Asif Ali Zardari visited India last month to hold an informal meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Media reports suggested that the two sides are looking into prospects of declaring the glacier as a military-free zone.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.
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