EMBRACING MARTYRDOM

(M Abdullah Naveed, Lahore)

Those who sacrifice their lives in defending their country in a war with the enemy are the heroes of the nation. These heroes are not only remembered by the nation for all times to come but they are paid glowing tributes with an unremitting gratitude while celebrating anniversaries of the war. It has been rightly said “shaheed ki jo maut hey who Qaum ki Hayat hey” (the death of a martyr imparts life to the nation). As a child, when I used to listen to the war stories from my parents and elders, especially pertaining to the wars between the soldiers of Islam and the infidels, I always wondered how people could sacrifice a precious thing like their life for any cause, and what provided motivation for them to embrace martyrdom. Though I listened to the stories with great enthusiasm and interest,My GrandFather told me that he could never solve the puzzle until the 1965 war happened between Pakistan and India, when he as a seventeen year old college going young man became part of the national milieu and witnessed an impregnable national unity characterized by the spirit of sacrifice in defending the integrity of the country at all costs.

On 6th September it was announced on Radio that President Field Marshall Ayub Khan will address the nation. People flocked to their radio sets to listen to what the President had to say because Pakistani armed forces were already fighting the Indian forces in the Chamb sector. The President in his brief address to the nation said “India has opened a front of its choice and attacked Lahore. India does not realize as to which nation he has dared to attack. Our valiant armed forces will not relent until all the Indian guns are silenced”. He ended the speech with “Pakistan Paindabad”. Those words had an electrifying effect. People of all ages and all regions of the country rising above their ethnic, religious and cultural identities stood like a solid rock in support of the armed forces. The war songs sung by some of our illustrious vocalist and repeatedly played on Radio created a ripple effect in boosting the national morale and national unity. And as the news about the heroics of our valiant soldiers and feats of our Air Force in regards to the losses inflicted on the enemy and the martyrdoms embraced by sons of the soil were broadcast, Started understanding the spirit and the motivations of the soldiers and the nation to safeguard its freedom and independence.

I would like to share some of the episodes with my fellow countrymen, especially the younger generation just to let them have the feel of how motivated, committed and united the nation was during the 1965 war. It was being announced on Radio that there was a possibility of the enemy landing its paratroopers in Pakistan therefore the people should remain vigilant. All the young boys of our locality who had been trained by the Civil Defence to fight fires and conduct rescue operations in case of emergency, formed groups to patrol the locality at night and this routine continued throughout the war. I am sure same the case all over the country. One night a word went around that a paratrooper had landed at the bank of Nullah Leh (Rawalpindi). Within seconds the entire locality was running towards that direction with whatever weapon the people had (even sticks). Among the crowd was a man on crutches. I asked him why are you going and what can you do? He said Ashraf Bhai those who are sacrificing their lives on the battle front are our brothers and benefactors and I will consider myself lucky if I add my blood to theirs in defending the motherland.

The soldier standing at the gate stopped us and said we could not go in for security reasons. When we insisted he asked another soldier to inform Subedar Saheb as at that time no high ranking official was available. Within five minutes Subedar Saheb came along. His name was Ghulam Rasul. When we told him the purpose of our visit he was overwhelmed by emotions and with tears brimming in his eyes he embraced all of us and said, a nation which has youngsters like you can never be defeated. But you are too young and also not trained in warfare. You are needed in your own areas and cities to fight on the internal front. Believe me the Pakistan armed forces would not let you down. And indeed they did not. They way they defended Lahore and Sialkot against a five times bigger enemy is probably an unbelievable feat in the history of wars.

The nation has not forgotten the sacrifices of the martyrs of the 1965 war and has been celebrating September 6th as a Defence Day to pay tribute and homage to their supreme sacrifices which gave a new life to the nation. The 50th anniversary of the 1965 war being celebrated this year is different from the previous years in the respect that the nation would continue to acknowledge their sacrifices and achievements beginning from 6th September up to 23rd September. I think that it is a right decision. Reviving the memories of those days and rekindling the same spirit was never needed as much before as it is now when Pakistan is faced with courageous challenges. But while the entire nation was expressing its gratitude to its heroes and felt that their victory against a mightier foe was a glorious and unforgettable chapter of our history which required to be celebrated in a befitting manner, a few cynics are trying to belittle and denigrate their achievements and feel that we are probably overdoing the thing.

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