For the last couple of days, the army chief’s comment in response to a question by an angry young officer has reverberated in every drawing room, every office, every daily and every electronic media outlet.
Admittedly, in a country like ours, where the army continues to wield political power even if it is from behind the curtains, any statement by the army chief does merit analysis. The background in which this question and response was made, was one which could point in many directions; each one of concern and a perceptive analysis was necessary.
But, equally true is the fact that our emerging media is in cut-throat competition and some outlets specialise in sensationalising news items. They, therefore, create controversies, even if none exist. They do not advert to the damage they might cause by creating conflicts where none exist.
Having said that; our defenders from the army, police, rangers, the Frontier Corps, the Constabularies, even our youth, of the likes of Aitizaz Hassan and their families are hurting. I am hurting.
I have nothing special to boast of in my career as a soldier. No distinctions, no awards, no recognitions, nothing. I was just an ordinary soldier; a very ordinary soldier. When I look back at my career, perhaps, the one credit I can claim is that in my generation of soldiers, I might number among the very few who spent the greatest amount of time in conflict zones.
Never before in our 67-year lifespan, has our soldier been tested, like he has been for the last decade or more. He has seen more death and destruction than most soldiers — except those who saw the World Wars — will ever see. More comrades in arms wounded, losing limbs, organs, incapacitated for life. And yet, these injured soldiers smile at the ruined future ahead of them, as others smiled at death when she embraced them.
They smile at a ruined life because they ruined their own life to protect their fellow citizens; the duty they had sworn to.
Let me state unequivocally that there is no lack of respect, admiration, gratitude, affection, even love, of the common citizens for their defenders, in any uniform. And yet, our soldier hurts and I, too, am in agony.
In all these years, General Raheel was the first to manage to get the prime minister to visit injured soldiers in hospital. No elected leader visited injured soldiers for years past. Our cowardly elected leaders shed crocodile tears at the execution of Hakimullah Mehsud — the coward who corrupted hundreds of children’s minds, made suicide bombers of them, killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent Pakistani citizens and half as many soldiers.
Self-styled ‘maulanas’ of the like of Munawar Hassan called Hakimullah a shaheed (martyr). Fazlur Rahman, the Grand Maulana, went even further and stated that if a dog was killed by Americans, it would be a martyr too.
I am not a scholar of any subject, least of all, religion. But I do know that shahadat is a consequence of the deceased’s intent, not of who killed whom.
I wonder where these people acquired their titles of ‘Maulanas’. If these were bestowed on them, shame on the one who bestowed them this title. Shame on us, the citizens of this country, including the media, for accepting their right to this title and continuing to address them as Maulanas even after they utter such absurdities.
I number among those who think that the law should run its course on Musharraf.
Let justice take its course, but justice must also be seen to be done. And yes, in such cases, perceptions are more important than realities.
No politician attended the burials of Chaudhry Aslam or that brave teenager. It did me proud to see the army paying homage to the police officer and that valiant Aitizaz. Beware you blind fools. Beware. Aitizaz is our future. Not the Hakimullahs. Don’t bet on the wrong horse, unless you have no political future.
Yes; our defenders are hurting and I am in agony.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2014.
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