We must not forget Hukum Khan

Published: October 4, 2012
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The writer is a freelance journalist, with an interest in conflict areas. She is also a fellow at LUMS

The writer is a freelance journalist, with an interest in conflict areas. She is also a fellow at LUMS

Hukum Khan, 51, a veteran in the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), laid down his life on September 27 while defusing a roadside bomb near the border of Khyber Agency in Peshawar. He had successfully defused one bomb, but as he reached the second bomb — which was allegedly targeting him — it exploded. The government of Pakistan should honour Mr Khan for his lifelong devotion to saving thousands of civilian lives and for making many fine soldiers who will continue his work.

Mr Khan’s sacrifice is a heavy loss for the government, the BDS and the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), who are at constant threat in this unending battle with terrorists. One of the first few recruits to combat terrorism in 1978 during the Afghan war, Mr Khan pioneered the BDS team in Peshawar. He fought militants and started defusing bombs during the 1980s when Peshawar was heavily hit by militant attacks and little was known about defusing bombs. His services continued at the peak of militancy in 2006-07 when bombs of different genera gave a tough fight to the nation. With the number of bombs that were defused outnumbering those that exploded, imagine the number of lives that were saved by the BDS in K-P. In 2012 alone, 250 bombs have been defused in Peshawar so far, out of which 200 were defused by Hukum Khan.

Mr Khan was a legend for younger squad members, who looked up to him for inspiration, knowledge and lessons of bravery. For many of his pupils, he was jokingly known as being immortal when he expertly handled arduous tasks. His devotion was remarkable. When his left hand became useless after losing three fingers, he was told to not risk his life working with one hand. But he knew his expertise was still needed in the BDS so he continued to go back in the field.

His friendly, forthcoming nature earned him many friends. Journalists, police officials and many others who fight terrorism in the frontlines of K-P have all been deeply grieved by his death. His leadership had kept many in the BDS together, especially those who were weakened when fellow members were injured or killed on duty, when stress was high and when families pressured members to leave the dangerous job. His mentoring steadied many hands at using the pliers to manoeuvre and manipulate yellow and blue wires. Even though his family would always worry for his safety, one of his own sons eventually chose to join the BDS to carry on his father’s work.

For these soldiers, walking into the red zone comes with buckling up to face death. Hukum Khan told me in December 2011, “No matter how many times you have defused a bomb, your hand will still shake using the pliers, your family will still flash in front of your eyes for a moment and at times your tears will mix in your sweat.” His sense of obligation to save lives had kept him coming to work even at a withering age. What else makes a national hero, if this does not?

Surely, with his loss, tears will be wept, hearts will swell and breaths will be held several times, but it is important to preserve his sacrifice into a medal. It is a great obligation now for the government, which has equally grieved the loss of lives of soldiers and men in this war, to show grace and responsibility in this tragedy and honour Hukum Khan with the recognition he quite well deserves.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Zahid Qureshi
    Oct 4, 2012 - 11:11PM

    A brilliant Op-ed.
    By writing this you have paid him tribute worth more than any award given by current Govt.

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  • Irfan
    Oct 4, 2012 - 11:11PM

    Pakistani government must appreciate his work and announce some money and a job for his sonsRecommend

  • Freeman
    Oct 4, 2012 - 11:16PM

    And these heroes are given only 50 Rs as ” Danger Allowance”. Imagine…. only 50 Rs.

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  • Max
    Oct 4, 2012 - 11:55PM

    So sad! The gentleman must be recognized by the government.

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  • Ali Zaib
    Oct 5, 2012 - 12:01AM

    By writing this you have paid him tribute worth more than any award given by current Govt.

    By reading your article I become a fan of yours. an absolutely stunning piece of writing, dont have words to describe. but written very beautifully …This is the second well written article I came across on tribune. one was by Nabeel Muhammad “A night with her” and second is yours.

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  • Ali Zaib
    Oct 5, 2012 - 12:02AM

    very well written

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  • gp65
    Oct 5, 2012 - 12:47AM

    One salutes the dedication of people like this.

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  • sabi
    Oct 5, 2012 - 1:07AM

    May his soul rest in peace.Now this is real jihad against those who want to convert other’s faith with bombs.Who is real hero Hukam Khan or qadri let these Black coat jahils give us an answer.

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  • Oct 5, 2012 - 2:39AM

    indeed we should make a hurt locker movie pakistani version.

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  • Sal
    Oct 5, 2012 - 3:05AM

    Thank you for writing this Op-ed and honoring the services of Hukum Khan. May he get the rewards in afterlife that he deserves. May his family find peace to deal with the pain.

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  • LionOfPunjab
    Oct 5, 2012 - 6:00AM

    Salute to Hukum Khan, this is what I call a true shaheed! I think each person working for Bomb Disposal Squad, who risk their life every time to save others, deserve a plot allocation in DHA, instead of the current useless khaki officer lot in isloo,pindi and kakul. Bravo!

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  • Zalim Singh
    Oct 5, 2012 - 8:21AM

    Sad. But why keep bombs in first place?

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  • Muhammd Umair
    Oct 5, 2012 - 9:55AM

    “No matter how many times you have defused a bomb, your hand will still shake using the pliers, your family will still flash in front of your eyes for a moment and AT TIMES YOUR TEARS WILL MIX IN YOUR SWEAT.” Touched the heart.Recommend

  • gul
    Oct 5, 2012 - 10:32AM

    My Thanks to the contributor for filing these lines and my apology to that brave cop for not writing a few lines for him. He did a presentatation of how They defuse suicide waists and i was quivering while sitting far away and recording on video while this brave son of the soil continued with his job without any fear. Is someone there to honor this man. I will be doing a feature on him soon – Thanks Kiran – thanks ET

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  • Kay Kay
    Oct 5, 2012 - 11:31AM

    That’s an excellent write up. Keep it coming.

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  • Mohni
    Oct 5, 2012 - 12:46PM

    Hats off to Hukum Khan.

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  • Adeel Ahmed
    Oct 5, 2012 - 1:05PM

    Salute to the brave soul.

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  • Apollo
    Oct 5, 2012 - 1:20PM

    Thank you for the writer who has highlighted the need to honor Hukam Khan..he truely deserve the highest civil Award…

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  • Member Fourth Pillor..
    Oct 5, 2012 - 1:54PM

    @Kiran Nazish: At least for those who knew him, had a chat with him or saw him defusing a bomb by using his trembling right hand,,will never ever forget him.. :(

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  • Akhter
    Oct 5, 2012 - 3:01PM

    Nice,May ALLAH bless on him ,Appluad u to write such piece of writing lines for him and made us realize that these people also have heart for other….\

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  • ufaquarian
    Oct 5, 2012 - 6:50PM

    Excellent write up. May Allah bless Hukum Khan with jannat and forgive him. May Allah also grant patience to the grieving family. Ameen

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  • Always Learning
    Oct 5, 2012 - 9:39PM

    Thanks for keeping his memory alive. With so much hapenning, the incident will inevitably recede from the hedlines. He is certainly a hero. Brilliant column.

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  • Sara
    Oct 5, 2012 - 9:40PM

    Really touching…and yes, he MUST be honoured! Pakistan has dozens of stories similar to this, which tell the world about such heroes. Pakistan’s film industry must also start making movies or documentaries on such amazing individuals in Pakistan.

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  • umar
    Oct 6, 2012 - 12:27AM

    is nishan e haider made only for “fauji jawans”??Recommend

  • die-hard pakistani
    Oct 6, 2012 - 4:30PM

    This is quite an excellent piece on your part! we should actually be praising more people of this sort as they are the ones who keep us going when everything seems to be coming at us. I’m really inspired and motivated after reading this thought-provoking piece. God willing our country will be blessed by countless such souls who continue to serve our homeland and people like the author who will sustain to appraise and uplift our unsung heroes. May God bless him and I expect to read such amazing articles from you in future too

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  • ahmad
    Oct 6, 2012 - 4:33PM

    Timely, brilliant and touching. What the war has done is KP and the many heroes who have fought so that our lives remain normal, are never remembered. We know all the faces that have made this life so unbearable for hundreds but rarely recall the few who still fight on unacknowledged and unrecognised. Thankyou for writing this pieceRecommend

  • Hazrat Wali Kakar
    Oct 9, 2012 - 1:23AM

    Thanks to Ms.Kiran Nazish to pay huge tribute to this legendary man.your writing reflects his devotion for this nation to save them time and gain and kept on his own life at risk many times..you are right that government should reward him in the sense to motivate the others to work devotion..

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