The other martyrs

Published: September 24, 2012
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

Martyrs are valued anywhere in the world because of their valour, courage and bravery. In Pakistan, they are valued because they help in setting the public image right, secure votes and feed our national sadism that responds only to death, misery and destruction.

Let us start with political parties. Most political parties, barring various factions of the Muslim League, boast about their ‘shaheeds’. Everyone mourns the death of their party members but is perhaps secretly thrilled by it as well because we, as a nation, practise politics on the basis of the number of shaheeds per party. The Pakistan Peoples Party, which has achieved ‘shahadat’ of two former heads of the government, is at the top of the food chain and have won elections by asking their voters to atone for their leaders’ death by voting them into the assemblies. Others do it to lesser degrees of success. Case in point: every transgression of the ANP’s leadership is countered by tales of personal losses incurred by people like Mian Iftikhar Hussain. Mian Iftikhar’s loss of his only son and nephew to terrorism is extremely tragic but it cannot counter the irresponsible behaviour of people such as Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour who announced a bounty for the man behind the anti-Islam video, for short-term political gains.

The armed forces also need martyrs to feed the bogey of the ‘other’ and justify their existence as well as the huge drain they are on the country’s meagre resources. Ever since the war against home-grown terrorists began, nothing worked as well for them as coffins shrouded with the national flag, images of children left behind by the fathers, mothers mourning deaths of their sons and father stoically professing that they would be happy and proud if they lose their other son for the country.

One martyr who does not get either the same amount of reverence or the same coverage in our media is the much-maligned policeman; the policeman, who gets killed every time a group of terrorist or miscreants want to play hooky with the security of the country. In the battle for Islamabad’s red zone last week, Islamabad police came out most harmed — apart from the country’s image, that is. Not only did policemen suffer injuries — 55 policemen were wounded on September 20 alone in Islamabad — but the mob also set fire to their check posts and vehicles, destroying their records and valuable public property, which was paid for by taxpayers. The religious parties and organisations that are fed on the populist rhetoric wanted blood and wanted to march all the way to the US consulate, but it was the capital police that stopped them and perhaps helped the government in averting an international crisis. One can only shudder to think what would have happened had the mob reached the consulate. The very next day, three policemen lost their lives in Karachi when a similar mob was busy looting and burning the city, while many others got injured.

Policemen form the first line of defence against terrorism and many have lost their lives or limbs fighting them with old, outdated and inadequate weapons. They are asked to fire tear gas without proper safety equipment, sent to deal with deadly opponents underprepared and paid a lot less than other security agencies with inadequate pension plans and medical insurance. On top of that, they face public ridicule every day. Though their services are generally below par and there is much to be done to improve police services, it is time we start honouring our police force for doing what they are doing right.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (10)

  • Umar
    Sep 25, 2012 - 12:32AM

    Dont you think this newly found respect for the Policemen is a bit late?
    I remember very clearly during the protests of 2007 they were termed barbaric animals by everyone because they teargassed the violent protestors which included journalists, lawyers & members of uncivil society. All they were doing was their duty protecting the state infrastructure from being vandalized by people like yourself.
    And don`t forget those policemen who gave their lives before a lawyers rally in Lahore when a suicide bomber blew himself up.
    Why now? Because they beat up some misinformed & impressionable kids from the slums of cities. WOW. Just WOW.
    Why not some respect for the peaceful protestors in hundreds of cities who were not covered by this TRP driven media?


  • tj
    Sep 25, 2012 - 12:34AM

    The biggest problem of our nation is that law enforcement agencies are not respected.


  • Haseeb Uddin
    Sep 25, 2012 - 12:38AM

    I have no respect for the police in Pakistan at all. They are deputed at their designated areas after they bribe their superiors… Eventually they end taking up bribes. People joining the police force do it only for the sake of their personal financial benefit and not as a responsibility. Nothing whatsoever they do is moral, ethical or legal!Recommend

  • Zalim Singh
    Sep 25, 2012 - 5:59AM

    good article.


  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 25, 2012 - 10:25AM

    It happens in India too.

    Narasimha Rao won because Rajiv Gandhi was murdered.

    However, in India, I have not seen this kind of madness, where Hindus kill Hindus (or even Muslims) because some idiot in Pakistan demolished a Hindu temple.

    When Babri Masjid was demolished, there were considerable violence in Pakistan and Bangladesh targeting Hindus.

    When Rinkle Kumari and others were forced converted, temples were destroyed India’s reaction was dead silence.

    I think Pakistan is still a baby, it needs to grow up.


  • Lala Gee
    Sep 25, 2012 - 2:42PM

    “The armed forces also need martyrs to feed the bogey of the ‘other’ and justify their existence”

    A shallow article at best. Written just for the sake of writing.


  • Lala Gee
    Sep 25, 2012 - 7:14PM

    @mr. righty rightist:

    “However, in India, I have not seen this kind of madness, where Hindus kill Hindus”

    Of course Hindus don’t kill Hindus, they kill minorities. What would you call the massacre of 5,000+ Sikhs in 1984, or the pogroms of thousands of Muslims in Gujrat, Bombay, and Ayodhiya? Sanity? Is it the short memory of Indians the reason or just plain intellectual dishonesty they unscrupulously distort facts?


  • Menon
    Sep 25, 2012 - 7:37PM

    In general the word Martyr is misused and abused. Everyone who gets killed is Martyr, the word has no meaning other than dead person or dead people.Recommend

  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 25, 2012 - 8:08PM

    @Lala Jee

    Either you are in a hurry or your English comprehensive skills are low.

    Read 10 times what I have written.


  • Mirza
    Sep 25, 2012 - 8:46PM

    “The biggest problem of our nation is that law enforcement agencies are not respected.”
    I think you are on to something imp. There is an intentional atmosphere of hate against the lowly paid policemen. These barely armed and barely trained poor cops are the first responders and take most loses. However, they are put down vs. the well groomed and strong army with all the perks. It is not surprising that they are no match against the criminals and rich and powerful in the country. It is about time the police force should be transformed into real force with the same perks and training as the armed forces. Only then they can be rightly criticized for not doing their job.


More in Opinion