Morale and Espirit de corps: careful as you go

Its imperative the armed forces, particularly army, do not lose heart due to unrelenting assault upon them, comrades.

Kamran Shafi March 06, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto [email protected]

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary On Historical Principles Volume II – 1933 (Re-reprint 1990) tells us as follows about morale: “Morale: Moral condition; conduct, behaviour; esp. with regard to confidence, discipline, etc. Said of a body of troops, etc. 1831.”

In the same dictionary Esprit de corps is explained thus: “A spirit of jealous regard for the corporate honour and interests and for those of each member of the body as belonging to it.” These two terms are used widely in the armed forces of any country, including our own, and are the linchpins of discipline, camaraderie and fighting spirit. And it these two critical conditions that make a fighting force a good and an efficient fighting force.

Which is why they must gain the urgent attention of the government as it seesaws between hitting/talking/being hit/not talking/talking again to the ‘non-state actors’ who, or their surrogates, are going about their gory business as heretofore, even daring to show their handiwork in the recently declared safe capital of the Land of the Pure: Islamabad the Beautiful.

I say this because it is most infuriating even for a bystander to see these ‘non-state actors’ eye-ball the government as equals, specially when the blame for the mayhem aimed mainly at innocent people, both military and civilians, belongs to the former. Far more than that, it is the barbaric and cruel and beastly methods they employ that turn the stomach.

As regards the most recent attacks in Islamabad, Landi Kotal, and Kurram, and the audacity and cruelty with which they happened, specially the one in Islamabad in which the Additional Sessions Judge, and lawyers, including two young women, one appearing for the first time in court, were shot at point-blank range, what can one say?

Except, of course, that the ‘non-state actor’s’ assertion they had nothing to do with the attack rings hollow, specially when the terrorist group Ahrarul Hind, which took responsibility for the carnage, was part of the ‘non-state actors’ as recently as February 2014 (thank you Amir MirThe News March 6, ’14). Conveniently, no, to show they were separate, yet keeping contacts with them to keep the pressure piled onto the government?

Exact same for the attack in Landi Kotal, the responsibility for which was taken by the Mohmand chapter of self-same ‘non-state actors’, and the Ansarul Mujahideen which just the day before killed six FC jawans and wounded eight more in Kurram, which, too, is known to be part of the ‘non-state actors’.

In any case, why should the government continue the dialogue with the ‘non-state actors’? If they cannot halt the violence in the country during the so-called ‘ceasefire’ they are not the powerful entity the government thought they were. I agree with the interior minister when he says the ‘non-state actors’ owe an explanation as to who these killers are, and to use their influence to stop the killing and the anarchy to show their goodwill.

But back to Morale and Espirit d corps. It is imperative that the ranks of the armed forces, particularly the army, which has taken the most hits, do not lose heart due to the unrelenting assault upon them and their comrades in the Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary, the police, the Levies, and the Khassadars, all lumped in the category of law enforcing agencies (LEAs), without any retaliation, indeed reprisals, from their side. Heaven forbid that this state of affairs is allowed to continue for long and the LEAs lose the will to fight effectively, even obey orders. The country can then be given up for lost finally and irrevocably.

For, do not forget, reader, that there are daily reports of the accelerated takeover of Karachi by the ‘non-state actors’ in their thousands. Add to which the proliferation of violent madrassas, most critically in Punjab, and also in not-too-long-ago secular Sindh and Balochistan.

Well, good luck to the government to come to a solution re: the ‘non-state actors’. I will only say that release of dangerous prisoners should not even be contemplated and that they should be tried for their crimes; the murderers of our people, both military and civilian, should not be given up; those who posted the gory videos should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law; and not an inch of our territory should be ceded to the ‘non-state actors’.

And now, for a most pleasant interlude in the tense times that we are going through: the visit of Major General Kuldip Singh Bajwa (Retd), formerly of Kalaswala, Sialkot District, now of Chandigarh, India, to Pakistan. It was a pleasure to host him in Wah, sadly only for just one day, and take him to Punja Sahib in Hasan Abdal where excellent arrangements had been made by my friend Jani, son of the excellent Dr Sikandar Hayat.

It was a treat to be regaled by the General about his days in the Indian Army and to exchange thoughts on relations between the two countries. I first met him in 2004 when I visited India as part of the India-Pakistan Soldiers’ Initiative (IPSI) (for peace) and he was part of the reception party at Attari. A courteous gentleman, then 80 years old, he impressed us all by his erect bearing and spirited character.

I again met him in 2005 when my family and I, and my chum Tahir went to Chandigarh to watch the cricket Test between Pakistan and India, and again in 2007, when I went to Simla for the Afghanistan-India-Pakistan Trialogue and stopped at Chandigarh on my way down from Palampur where I had gone from Simla, and spent a night and a day with him and his delightful and knowledgeable son Mandeep, a virtual repository of military history, particularly of the sub-continent.

If only both countries softened their visa regimes: I for one, would love to go to Amritsar whenever it took my fancy to eat Thandi Khooey dian poorian as my grandfather and family used to do…

Stop press: March 6: Remote-controlled IED hits convoy of PA in Hangu, injuring three. There you go gents…

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2014.

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