Heroes Die Young

(FZ Khan, )

Tahir Mehmood

“I am proud of my martyred son. He has shown us the way to love and serve Pakistan.” These are the words of a proud father who lost his youngest son Captain Bilal Zafar, on 17 May 2009 while fighting against the terrorists in Peochar Valley, Swat. This proud father is Captain Zafar Abbasi, ex Pakistan Army officer who still cherishes the memories of 1971 War; he fought like a hero against the arch enemy. Captain Zafar and his family belong to village Karore, tehsil KotliSattian. The village is located at a high plateau, dominating area up to Attock and is mostly inhabited by old and traditional Abbasi tribe. This lofty mountainous top has nurtured many Ghazis and Shaheeds. It is a town where soldiery is taken as inheritance, where offering life in the line of duty is a sacred custom. It is an eagle’s nest where only eagles are born, live and fly, fight and die.

Bilal was born in 1983. He did his matriculation from St. Paul’s Cambridge School, Rawalpindi. Just after completing his graduation from Government College, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, he chose to follow his family tradition and joined the profession of arms. He joined 108 PMA Long Course and passed out with a cross belt distinction of being a Battalion Junior Under Officer. Capt Bilal descended from a genealogy where soldiery is the only profession for young lads. His great grandfather,Subedar Lal Khan, participated in WW I and was conferred with King George Cross for gallantry. Subedar Lal Khan’s son and Captain Bilal Shaheed’s grandfather, Colonel Tajamal Hussain wrote new chapters of bravery and commitment. He participated in WW II on the Singapore front. After creation of Pakistan in 1947, Colonel Tajamal volunteered to fight for freedom of Kashmir against the Indian aggression. He commanded a Mujahid Brigade on theBagh-Uri front and haltedthe Indian advance, which was intended to reach Muzaffarabad. For his meritorious services, he was later conferred with Fakhr-e-Kashmir award.

Not only from the paternal side, Capt Bilal’s veins had martial blood, butalso from his maternal grandfather Major Majeed and uncle Major Haider. Captain Zafar, father of Bilal Shaheed also followed the family tradition and joined Pakistan Army in 1969. After getting relieved, he fully devoted himself for his two sons and four daughters. Mrs. Zafar extended full support to her husband in grooming his sons. Thelady is a living example of patriotism and fortitude. Both her sons were ‘Black Belt’ much before joining the PMA. They were trained very hard to do the deeds which only heroes can dare to do.

Family pride and soldierly spirit must be a strong reason.Once,Capt Bilal told his best friend androommate, CaptRaheel, that Bilal would be a Shaheed and Raheel a Ghazi. He said so on the night of 15 May 2009 while he was preparing for his most exigent task in the high mountains of Peochar. CaptRaheel’s eyes often get filled with tears, but still he maintains a soldierly composure and pride while narrating the proceedings of that night. Capt Bilal, who just returned from a successful operation in Buner, got a message from his CO that he had been picked for a difficult mission in Peochar valley under Operation Jahanbaz. It was important to open the Swat-Peocharroad for operational purposes. For that, it was crucial to capture the GhuzanoSar Top (now called Bilal Top) for the success of entire operation. Previous efforts to capture this Top could not succeed. Capt Bilal happily received the order and got busy in preparations alongwith his company commander MajSardar and fellow officer CaptZafeel. While preparing for the mission, he kept talking with CaptRaheel. He told him to personally go to his home and inform his mother in case he embracedShahadat. He told him to lead his Janaza prayers. While tying up his backpack, he askedRaheel that his body be wrapped in Pakistan Flag and buried with full military honour. Surely,as if, Bilal knew about the golden tomorrow. While on his way to the glory, he sent an SMS to CaptRaheel, which later went viral on social media after his martyrdom. It reads:“In the roars of bullets, in the thunder of bombs, there are few who just do not stop… knowing that they are surrounded by death… knowing that they could leave their parents and family alone… But they just keep on moving… because in their Hearts… And flowing through their veins known as…, HONOUR, DEVOTION, LOVE WITH MOTHERLAND, DEATH BEFORE DISGRACE, PAKISTAN ARMY ZINDABAD”. How true, pure, dedicated and passionate was he in his love for Army and Nation. We all, too, are proud of you, son!

On 16 May 2009, around 2 o’clock in the morning, Capt Bilal offeredTahajjud prayers. He had just two hours sleep and then got ready for the mosque. He was punctual in his prayers and often preferred praying in the mosque. After that he went upstairs to say goodbye to his elder brother, Captain Zarar, Capt Zafar’s elder son, also serving the Pakistan Army. His brother knew where he was going and what was possibly coming ahead. He could feel his unusual behaviour. Tears touched his eyelids. He wanted to see off his brother with a happy face. Only soldiers share this unique pride. He accompanied him to the airstrip. What a trying moment for a brother to say goodbye!

Bilal was on his way to martyrdom. His steps were guided. Quietly he moved in the helicopter where his fearless comrades were already waiting. Day time was consumed for necessary planning. The intended target was given a heavy doze by PAF as the enemy was well dug in at a difficult and most dominating peak. The creeping move forward to the target started late at night. By 0500 hours on 17May, the brave SSG men reached close to the target. The decisive moment came. The time had come for which Bilal longed for. The battle began. Leading his men, he rushed to the target. The enemy responded heavily. But soon CaptBilal andhis men were able to clear the first objective. They overran the enemy, but the remaining terrorists were still occupying another dominating feature. Bilal kept on leading his men with courage, audacity and vigour. Major Sardar warned him of accurate and intense fire from the top but Bilal didn’t stop. Even when he was hit by a bullet on left arm, he kept moving forward. The terrorists could not allow him anymore. They fixed a rocket launcher and fired. Capt Bilal received the direct hit. Badly wounded, he looked his soldiers and ordered them to move forward to the top. He wanted them to capture it at all costs. As the soldiers were busy in fighting, heavens smiled affectionately on this proud young man and gave him assurance of victory. Bilal breathed his last, and achieved an eternal life. His dream got fulfilled. The mountain top was captured.

Bilal is no more but he will be living as a pride for the nation,family and colleagues. The captured GhuzanoSar Top must be proud to be renamed as Bilal Top and with a fluttering Pakistan Flag.Capt Naveed, a smart young company officer remembers Bilal with fondness and love. “Soldiers adored Bilal, and remember him with tears in eyes. He was like a brother, a commander, a comrade, who remained greatly concerned about our training and welfare.With his personal example he has shown us the new meanings of devotion, valour and heroism. He is no more with us, but his memories are a great treasure for these sons of soil.”

As Capt BilalShaheed’s body arrived inthe village, people witnessed a rare scene.His mother stopped everyonefrom weeping.“It wasmy son’s last wish, so don’t weep.”Can mothers stop tears?Particularly when they lose such a young son? Somebody asked about her son, and she replied: “My son was the chosen one. He was a hero, and heroes die young”.

(Tahir is short story writer)

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