Commemorating Martyrs’ Day

Courtesy: Mohammad Jamil

Martyrs’ Day will be commemorated to pay tributes to the martyrs of the Pakistan Armed Forces that rendered great sacrifices in defence of the motherland and also fighting terrorism. The intention to publish this article before 30th April is to suggest that the entire nation should commemorate this event, and the ceremonies should not be confined to garrisons only. Indeed, it was a good initiative by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who decided to observe April 30 as Martyrs Day from April 2010. Last year, on second Martyrs’ day Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani paid tributes to the troops who laid down their lives in the line of duty. Addressing the ceremony, he had solemnly declared: “Pakistan wants peace with all its neighbours with dignity, but national honour and integrity will not be traded just for the sake of prosperity”. The armed forces have indeed played remarkable role in fighting the menace of terrorism and have successfully cleared terrorists’ strongholds in Swat, Bajaur, Malakand and South Waziristan. Pakistan’s armed forces have always played remarkable role during natural calamities like floods and earthquakes that hit the country.

With these efforts and sacrifices of the armed forces, the day should be observed by all strata of society. During 1965 war, people of all the provinces had displayed complete unity and solidarity with the armed forces. From Khyber to Coxes bazaar in former East Pakistan, people lauded the jawans and officers of Pakistan army, navy and air force for the valour they displayed when India attacked in early hours of the day – 6th September 1965. The spirit should be invoked and the entire nation should observe Martyrs’ Day like it commemorates the Defence of Pakistan Day on 6th September. The martyrdom of thousands of jawans and officers since the inception of Pakistan deserve a national recognition. Pakistan is a peace loving country and the people of Pakistan believe in the principle of live with peace and let live. It has been Pakistan’s earnest desire to have friendly and cordial relations with all countries of the world, but due to hostile neighbour which showed utter disregard to the UN resolutions on Kashmir, the objective of durable peace could not be achieved.

At a time when we are preparing to remember our martyrs, the nation is grieved over the heart-rending tragedy near Siachen Glaciers, whereby 127 army officers and jawans and 11 civilians were trapped at Gayari sector under tons of snow. Not only families of those martyrs but also people of Pakistan are in grief over this tragedy. Of course, our military officers and jawans have been performing their duties in difficult and dangerous terrains and laid down their lives so that the nation could live in an environment of peace, tranquility and security. We solute our officers and jawans who during war and peace times have rendered great sacrifices, and have played commendable role in war and peace times. In the war of terror, at least 5000 army and paramilitary personnel have been martyred during the military operations in Swat, Malakand and Bajaur, South Waziristan, Mohmand, Orakzai and Khyber tribal agencies. Thousands of them have lost their limbs and become disabled.

India has to realize that a far greater number of soldiers have fallen victim to avalanches, crevasses and frostbite than have been killed in active combat. Secondly, it is so cumbersome and expensive to maintain a supply line of ammunition, water and food items in that region. Talat Farooq, a Ph.D student at Leicester, UK had given an account of the situation on the highest battle zone stating: “Other than the physical hazards, the troops are vulnerable to acute mental-health problems; lowered levels of oxygen at above 15,000 feet predispose soldiers to altitude illnesses and reduced mental and physicalperformance. In high-altitude combat, troops are subjected to extreme cold, intense ultraviolet radiation, heavy fog, treacherous weather, blizzards and avalanches. Physical conditions in such an environment become more hazardous than enemy gunfire. At 10,000 to 14,000 feet, human beings experience feelings of fatigue and increased sleepiness; however, at heights above 15,000 feet clear psychiatric morbidity is reflected in depression, anxiety, paranoia, hostile behaviour and obsessive compulsiveness”.

It has to be mentioned that India is spending colossal amount by deploying troops at 6300 metres (20800 feet). One would not know the exact amounts being spent at the present, but in 2007, analysts reckoned that India was spending approximately $1 million a day. Here soldiers are left to stare and shoot each other across the line. The fact remains that the human body continuously deteriorates and with temperatures 70 degree below zero, the inhospitable climate and inclement weather have claimed more lives than the exchange of gunfire. India therefore must shun intransigence and withdraw from Siachen. In fact, Manmohan Singh had agreed to announce the decision for withdrawal from Siachen during his proposed visit to Pakistan in 2008, which was not materialized due to Mumbai attacks. However, Indian army and air force top brass had prevailed upon the government not to withdraw as it would make India vulnerable, and would lose the advantage of monitoring both China and Pakistan.

It is unfortunate that despite supreme sacrifice by the protectors of the nation, some media men, intellectuals and chattering classes denigrate the entire apparatus for adventurism of a few generals in the past. Such elements include some palmed-off media men, pseudo-intellectuals, some analysts and panelists that are out to denigrate the military. In many countries, there are security lapses and failures such as 9/11 in America and 26/11 in India. But in Pakistan, be it 2nd May incident at Abbottabad or attack on Salala check post, the media men start lambasting the military and intelligence agencies. They do not realize that by demoralizing the military, they are trying to weaken Pakistan. Nowhere in the world, armed forces are criticized the way it is done in Pakistan’s print and electronic media. They questioned the ability of the armed forces to decimate terrorists’ strongholds and safeguard the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. America should come forward and help restore the confidence of our people in our institutions, which was lost due to US administration’s flawed strategies.