09
April

Gul Zada: The Citizen

Written By: Lt Col Mehar Omar Khan

This is not an obituary. Obituaries are for the dead and hasn't God said, those who fall for His cause and the cause of humanity never die. This is not a tribute either, for no words have the glow befitting the glory that is selfless service to one's nation. This is but a soldier's humble salute to an extraordinary citizen; an outstanding son of the hills where I now serve. This is a song written to the soul of a hero who didn't want any medallions for the sport that would ultimately claim his life. And it is hoped that as the song is sung, its beats will be heard by all who, without wearing any military fatigues or ribbons, desperately fought and honourably died for the idea that is Quaid's Pakistan.

Pedantic treatises on counter-insurgency suggest that armies can't win such wars without support of the people. Gul Zada's work in life, gul2and his glory in death, proves that people actually are the army. It is more so in our case. For over a decade now, we have been locked in a seminal struggle against forces that aim for the very jugular of our collective ideals and aspirations. Our enemies are brutal in their tactics and insidious in their narrative. They prey on the minds and bodies with equal ferocity. These bands of what some call “the fourth generation warfare” (4GW) know no morality and respect no law. They use society's networks to pulverize the nation from within. They operate amongst the people and exploit divisions and fault-lines within communities only to ultimately take the same societies apart and rule over ruined homes and broken hearts.

The only sure way to decisively defeat such enemies is for the people to offer no chinks, no exploitable wedges. It does not need a lot of thinking. It only needs a will, on the part of every man and every woman, to vigorously protect their freedom, to lead their lives without coercion and fear. It needs Gul Zada's spirit; his unschooled but mighty heart. It is only when citizens' spirit combines with the soldiers' skill that a nation comes out victorious against the menace we have been facing.

It's all easier said than done because patriotism is a surreal emotion that is invariably and entirely one-sided. The object of this love is a nebulous, immaterial idea called varyingly as one's land, one's country or one's nation. The lover goes on loving without expecting, with any clarity, a return of the feeling. Hundreds of thousands of brave men and women live and die in the name of that boundless, bottomless, endless love. Gul Zada gave life for Pakistan. To men like our Gul Zada, patriotism often means love of one's faith and family, blood and belief, honour and esteem. It's about one's ownership of that small home on a big hill; those lush forests and green terraces; healthy cattle and noisy children; and a bright moon over shimmering snow. It's about all those little things that, when threatened, acquire an untradeable place in one's heart. It's about being master of one's own destiny; about being the captain of one's own soul. It is when those seemingly vague, individual feelings of many are collected into one pot, that a brave, proud and undefeatable nation is born. And hence perhaps, a brave nation needs the incorruptible soul of many like Gul Zada.

Gul Zada never claimed to fully understand the scope and scale of the challenge facing our nation. He didn't care much about the academic intricacies of the term “patriotism.” But he was always rock solid in defending his ancient right to have his way on his hill. He was unwilling to submit to the ruffians and rascals masquerading as “custodians” of his faith and his tradition. Around the fall of 2011, Pakistan Army's pursuit of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Swat (TTS) thugs arrived at the farthest edge of our sovereign territory in Upper Dir. Terrorists couldn't find a lasting toe-hold in the entire Dir region mainly because the local populace was unwilling in the face of all threats to let their homes become bunkers for the bandits. Gul Zada was amongst the bands of hundreds of local patriots willing to fight and die for what was considered as their prized tradition of unwavering resistance against threats to their freedoms. Just a couple of kilometres inside Pakistan, Gul Zada's home sat atop a wooded hill in a small village called Sunai. The lore says that the village had been named in the memory of a Hindu lady, Sunai Bai, whose high quality lassi (Yogurt Drink) was a riot in the area. The village thinned out into a ravine which gradually narrowed and climbed into a pass before rolling into Afghanistan. He thus lived right inside the mouth of danger. The treacherous and wooded pass offered an easy entry and exit route to his enemies just across the border. Our enemies in this area included more than half a dozen proclaimed offenders from Gul Zada's own village. These felons went on to become the disciples of the mad mullah notorious for dealing once in radios and now in roadside bombs. The criminal law-breakers now claimed to be fighting for the banner of that greatest of all law-givers, our Prophet (PBUH). Any one of them could, on his day, attempt on Gul Zada's life. This, however, never deterred him from doing what he thought was the right thing.

He worked hand in hand with the Army. He patrolled his area, organized his kinsmen and dominated the passes used by terrorists for infiltration into Pakistan. His watchful eyes pried for any unfamiliar faces in his area and his prompt reporting led to countless successful responses against the terrorists. Over time, Gul Zada became a one man army in support of our deployment. And this was enough to make him a rather high-value target for the terrorists.

On 12 October 2012, Gul Zada came to the nearby military post to have a cup of qahwa with the Army Officer he called his brother. In the evening, just as the sun set on a million trees across Dir changing colours before dropping their crumbling leaves, he left for his home. He wanted to say his evening prayers with his son, a sixteen years old boy who, Gul Zada would often proudly say, was taller than him. On the way, a coward lay in ambush to take the life of this brave-heart. In a dark, thickly forested corner of the trail, he was hit. Incessant bursts of AK-47 rained into his chest and ripped him apart. The enemy quickly crawled back into the safety of what is the “sovereign” state of Afghanistan. Gul Zada, the lion-heart, lay dead in a pool of blood. The village of Sunai Bai had lost its bravest son. Early next morning, he was buried next to his father's grave.

Exactly a year after his death, in the face of approaching winters, Pakistan Army has established itself on the heights that have choked the murderers' routes forever. Hundreds of the village folks worked with the Army day in and day out. A police check post now operates from within Gul Zada's village. Dozens of school children chant national anthem every single morning, literally from within the hearing distance of where their hero was martyred. To the chagrin of the maniacs, this anthem is the one written by Iqbal for the nation of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. As the vermin who killed our citizen sulks across the border – homeless and condemned forever – Sunai Bai's village has moved on. Gul Zada's son, now even taller, regularly meets with the Army Post Commander his father called a brother. He travels back to his home unarmed. Never again will anyone, at any dark, wooded corner of the trail, dare to cast an evil eye at our people. While the counterinsurgency treatises may say what they will, a nation's enemies are routed only when people become the army. And like it happens in an army at war, Gul Zada's son has taken over the emblem from exactly where his father left. The results of the duel between Gul Zada and his enemies are unmistakable. Like all fights between the right and the wrong, the right endures. Gul Zada's son is the owner of his home, his hearth, his hill, his pride and his destiny. A grateful nation celebrates his sacrifice. The killers of Gul Zada continue to lead the faceless lives of thieves in others' country, on others' lands and in others' homes.

09
April

Dear Baba

From a son to his Father, Lt Col Tahir Iqbal Shaheed

Written By: Muhammad Abubakar (Student of 8th Grade)

It was 28 June 2009, I was with my family, living in Peshawar, when I heard the news that my father had been shot in the head by the Taliban and had embraced “Shahadat”. I didn't understand it at that time and I didn't pay much attention because I was just 7 years old. But when I saw my mother crying and saying that “I can't live without him,” I got little worried. My best friend's mother, who was also the wife of my father's course-mate, informed my mother about this tragic news. That very night we went to Wah Cantt to my maternal dear baba2uncle's house. I didn't know anything at that time so I started playing with my cousins. My mother sent me to bed at about 8:00 p.m.

The next morning I woke up and saw my mother again crying. I asked her that why she was crying. She didn't tell me anything and said that there was something in her eye. I could guess that she wasn't speaking truth because there wasn't anything in her eye. That afternoon my mother told me the truth that my father was no more in this world. At first I thought that it was a joke but then my uncle asked my mother that why she had told me. At that point I understood that my father had embraced Shahadat and was no more.

The next day we went to Islamabad for my father's funeral and burial. At about 6 o'clock in the evening, my father's body arrived. Everyone rushed towards the ambulance, took out the coffin, and moved inside the house. I sat right beside it with my little brother and mother. When I saw his face, I noticed a little smile on it. I can't understand it till today, that why he was smiling.

Then, we went to the graveyard to bury him. In the ambulance, I couldn't stop myself crying. The Commander Rawalpindi Corps and friends of my father were giving me hope and were asking me not to cry. When I arrived at the graveyard it was about 9 p.m. First of all, we attended the Janaza and then we buried him. He was later given Gun Salute and wreaths were laid at his grave.

Instead of being sad, I was feeling proud of my father because he made Pakistan proud, made the army proud, and made his family proud. A Shaheed never dies, I can still hear his voice in my lone times. Two days before his Shahadat, he told me to always take care of my mother and my little brother. When my friends talk about their fathers, I then miss the times spent with him.

dear baba3Before going on that particular mission, he specially called at home and asked my mother to call me as he wanted to speak to me. He told me that he had to go on an important mission and said, “Abubakar, you are always my dear and brave son; you have to take care of your mother and your younger brother, and remember we are fighting for a good cause.” These things he shared with me and not with my mother, and two days after this call, my mother received this news that Lt. Col Tahir Iqbal had embraced Shahadat.

Today I feel so proud of my Baba. I am a proud son of a brave Pakistani and I will serve my country like my father. Today six years have passed since his Shahadat but his memories still live with us. I feel his presence around me all the time asking me to be brave and to work hard. Even though if he is not with me now, physically, but he still lives with me spiritually.

It is my advice to all the children whose fathers have died for Pakistan, not to be sad about it rather must be proud of it. When he embraced martyrdom, I was in 2nd grade and now I am studying in the 8th grade but I still remember all his lectures, his love, gifts, and occasional scolding. I remember, his anger was always for very short time, and then he would love more than before. I miss the chocolates and candies he used to bring for us while returning from office. Sometime, I just feel that he is at the gate with lots of fruit, ice-cream, chocolates and with a big smile. I wait for him, do not open the door as now he can pass all the doors. He can see me but I can't.

Eversince Shahadat of my father, my mother has been both my mother and my father. She never made us feel that our father is not with us and always played a father's role in our life. I feel very proud when I tell my friends that my father gave his life for Pakistan. Pakistan Army has backed us in this difficult situation and we never feel alone. I am living a very good life in a very good place; all because of my father. I salute to all these Pakistanis who have given their lives for Pakistan.

I love Pakistan. Pakistan Zindabad
11
April

The Black Hawk Down

 

Mogadishu (3-4 Oct 1993)

The story of a successful ‘Rescue Mission’ by Pakistani soldiers serving under the UN that saved lives of many American soldiers.

 

Written By: Lt Col Kamal Anwar Chaudhary

It was on October 3, 1993, that the US intelligence found clue of a secret meeting to take place in Olympia Hotel, a two-story building in the heart of Mogadishu City. It was learnt that General Farah Aidid, the notorious warlord of the troubled Somalia, and his aide Colonel Omer Jess would be present in the meeting. It was irresistible for eager Americans to seize the moment and apprehend or kill the Somali warlord. To ensure that the mission is accomplished successfully, an elaborate heliborne and ground force was constituted comprising Army Rangers, Delta Force, gunship helicopters, Little Birds, Black Hawks and infantry.

The operation commenced by a heliborne force, firing a salvo of anti-tank missiles into the compound, while Delta Force and Rangers roped down from hovering Black Hawks towards the building. Whilst some Somalis within the building escaped after the missile attack, American forces were able to capture some 24 civilians. To avenge the American intrusion into their heartland, the Somali militia rounded up as many Aidid supporters as possible and, within minutes, hundreds of armed civilian-soldiers were marching towards the American positions. They fired RPG-7 rockets at the three Black Hawks hovering in the air, sending two Black Hawks spinning down to the ground black2while the third, though damaged, was able to escape. The ground convoy, a part of this operation, was to reach the site to provide intimate infantry support by cordoning off the target area. This convoy too came under fire on its way to the Olympia Hotel. Eventually, after suffering casualties, the convoy managed to reach the building where the civilian-prisoners were held. These civilian-prisoners were hurriedly loaded on trucks, still under fire from the militiamen. In such a condition, the convoy resumed its move out of the city while several soldiers had to travel on foot due to limited space aboard the vehicles. As would happen in any such like situation, the convoy was ordered to immediately reach the location of the downed Black Hawks to bolster the strength of the Task Force and also to help it extricate from an increasingly ugly situation. The soldiers on foot reached the helicopter site instantly. The vehicle convoy did not oblige and moved back to its headquarters under orders of the convoy commander who opined that the convoy had already suffered enough casualties. This effectively left the downed crewmen and soldiers to defend for themselves.

As nightfall approached, roughly 90 American soldiers had made their defensive positions near the site of the first crash. Little Bird gunships provided air support as best as they could with mini-guns as thousands of Somali militiamen closed in all around the ground forces. The survivors were also attempting to keep the militia at bay while retrieving available medical supplies and ammunition from airdrops. With wounded men, limited ammunition and a growing militiamen presence, the situation for the survivors was getting bleak.

Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia was ravaged by a bloody civil war which had started in 1980s. In January 1991, Somalian President, Mohammed Siad Barre, was overthrown and the Somali National Army disbanded. The erstwhile soldiers reconstituted as irregular regional forces or joined the clan militias. The main rebel group in Mogadishu was the United Somali Congress, which later divided into two armed factions: one led by Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who later became the president, and the other by General Mohamed Farrah Aideed. The civil war led to the destruction of Somalia's agriculture which led to starvation in large parts of the country. The international community began to send food supplies to halt the

starvation, but vast amounts of food used to be hijacked by the local clan leaders who would sell food to purchase weapons. This situation necessitated the employment of a peacekeeping force in August 1992 as a part of UNITAF (Unified Task Force) and the US military transporters started and led the multinational relief effort in Somalia. Though massive, the relief still proved to be inadequate to stop death and displacement of the Somali people, besides growing security concerns due to ongoing activities of the warlords. It was in this context that the scope of the UNITAF was enlarged to conduct relief as well as security operations. The UNSC authorized the transition of UN force from UNITAF to UNOSOM II and all fifteen Somali parties agreed to the terms except Farrah Aidid. Defiant Aidid's militia attacked a Pakistani force (10 Baloch) on 5 June 1993 that had been tasked with the inspection of an arms cache located at a radio station, which resulted in 24 casualties and 57 wounded. Responding to the blatant act, the UNSC passed a resolution declaring war on Aidid and his forces.

Still stranded in a grim situation, the UN Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was put into action to extricate the stranded personnel after the Black Hawks went down. This force consisted of infantry, some remaining elements of the original Delta Force and Army Rangers accompanying them. Pakistani UN forces constituted a major part of the QRF and provided all out support to the besieged Americans. 15 Frontier Force Regiment and the Squadron of 19 Lancers played the leading role in rescue operation.

The squadron of 19 Lancers was at the seaport to receive the ship carrying tanks from Pakistan, when it received call from the Pakistan Brigade Headquarters to join UN QRF to be part of the rescue mission being planned by Americans. The APCs of 15 FF were also placed under command the armour squadron to provide local protection to the tanks. The task given to squadron of 19 Lancers was to lead to the crash site, cordon off the area, provide fire support at the crash site and cover the withdrawal of the force to the nearest Pakistani base. Tanks of 19 Lancers rolled out of the seaport at 2230 hours, leading the US Rangers' QRF and, with the help of effective speculative fire, reached the crash site without any loss. Two of the tanks took position on the shoulders of the narrow street, where entrapped Rangers were fighting for their lives inside a building, whilst the other team took position on road crossings on either side of this street. US Rangers dismounted and went into the street while the Pakistani tanks kept on exchanging fire with the Somalis, preventing their efforts to get into the same street. At around 0350 hrs, Rangers started coming out of the narrow street and started mounting the APCs, but owing to some wrong calculation of APCs, it became difficult to accommodate everyone. Meanwhile, Somalis were reorganizing to quell efforts of rescue force; and started bringing heavy fire at the place where APCs were parked. Therefore, remainder US personnel were accommodated in tanks and APCs of Pak Army. The convoy managed to extricate and found a temporary reprieve at an open-air stadium-turned-hospital held by Pak Army contingent. At around 0640 hrs in the morning, soon after which US gunship helicopters started punishing all the suspected sites of Somalis and destroyed all the buildings which, in their opinion, were harbouring militia.

The operation by the Americans to apprehend the warlord eventually became a huge embarrassment for the Clinton Administration. By the time the American Task Force was extricated with the help of Pakistani contingent, it had suffered 73 wounded, 18 dead (including 3 Pakistani soldiers) and one helicopter pilot taken prisoner. This episode had such a shocking effect on American psyche that it continued to shape the US policy for long term and restricted American involvement in subsequent humanitarian crisis. Pakistan Army proved its mettle in the time of crisis and brave officers and soldiers added a brilliant chapter in its brilliant history of peacekeeping operations. Ironically, this incident is mentioned in the US media, movies and literature as an exceptional US operation (which it certainly was not) and gives a very cursory touch to the role played by the Pakistani contingent which extricated the US Task Force at the peril of their own lives. Had it not been for the bravery and chivalry of Pakistani QRF, the US force would have remained surrounded and obviously, suffered heavier losses.

The writer served in Somalia from 1993 to 1994.
11
April

No Second Thought

The story of Christian Martyrs who sacrificed their lives in Defence of Pakistan

Written By: Azam Mairaj

Since the creation of Pakistan, the Christian sons of soil never hesitated to sacrifice their lives for defence of motherland. They always stood shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim brethren to shed their blood for the noble cause of defending Pakistan. Pioneer of this caravan is Younus, son of Qaisar, who hoisted the green flag at Pando hills during Kashmir war in 1948.

Christian defenders always gave a firm shoulder to their Muslim countrymen whether it was Kashmir war of 1948, Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, Kargil war, 1999 or, the ongoing War on Terror. They always fought on front foot whenever the beloved homeland called them for the duty. According to the 'Shuhada Cell' of GHQ, so far 52 Christians have sacrificed their lives for Pakistan from Pakistan Army alone excluding PAF and Pak Navy. It is also encouraging to know that out of 70 Sitara-i-Jur’at of PAF, seven are Christians and, out of seven, two embraced martyrdom. Younus, son of Qaisar, from 16 Punjab Regiment showered his blood at Pando Hills; Pilot Officer Novan Theodore Fazal Ellahi embraced martyrdom at Attock; and Flight Lieutenant Edwin gave his life on duty while flying F-6 aircraft at Quetta. Out of 140 martyrs of Gayari (Siachen Sector), four were Christians namely Asif Masih, Amoon Gill, Adil Masih and Naveed Masih.

Squadron Leader Peter Christy was among the pilots who retaliated with full force during the 1965 war. As a Flight Lieutenant, he was navigator of B-57 Canberra aircraft and remained part of many successful operational missions. To honour his bravery and professionalism, the government of Pakistan awarded him ‘Tamgha-i-Jurat’ and promoted him as Squadron Leader. As 1971 war started, he was on deputation in PIA and was called back to his parent department, PAF. There were reports of air attacks on Karachi and this important city had to be defended at all costs. A Do-or-Die (DoD) mission was planned, the Christian Base Commander of Mauripur Base, Air Commodore Nazir Latif, gave a detailed briefing and two men volunteered for the mission – Squadron Leader Khusro, who had earlier retired from the Air Force but was called back, and Squadron Leader Peter Christy.

On the morning of 6 December 1971, both headed for the mission in B-57 bomber aircraft. While returning from the mission, a surface-to-air missile hit their aircraft and both embraced martyrdom. The Indian Air Force did not verify this incident and they were declared “Missing in Action” and later 'Martyred'.

Wing Commander Marvin Lesley was commissioned in 1954. During 1965 war, then young Flight Lieutenant Marvin Lesley Middle Coat (known as Commander Lesley) was deployed at Masroor Base Karachi. When the enemy attacked Karachi, he was among those flying the F-86 aircraft. He destroyed two aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and was known as “Defender of Karachi” for his bravery and professionalism. At Lahore Air Base, he was given the charge of 9 Squadron where he held the spirit of his troops high by leading from the front. He flew 17 sorties and three photo reconnaissance missions. The government awarded him ‘Sitara-i-Jurat’. It is noteworthy that he left his attractive deputation at Jordan and voluntarily rushed back to Pakistan as the 1971 war started. On 12 December 1971, together with his colleagues when he completed his mission, an Indian MiG 47 Squadron attacked them. He took a lower flight and saved his aircraft from two missiles but when he reached near Gulf of Kuchh, another missile hit his aircraft. According to IAF Flight Lieutenant Bharat Bhoshan Soni, who hit his aircraft, he saw him ejecting from the aircraft and falling in the deep sea and asked the headquarters to send a rescue team. When rescue team reached, Commander Lesley was found nowhere. He was declared “Missing in Action” and was again awarded ‘Sitara-i-Jurat’.

On the same day, on 12 December 1971, another young man aged 19 was writing the story of valour with his blood. Second Lieutenant Daniel Utarid volunteered for the most difficult task when he passed out from PMA, Kakul and went to a deployed unit in Sylhet, East Pakistan. On the morning of 13 December 1971, his Company returned from a night-long difficult mission. As he was having breakfast with his batman, he received the news of the enemy attack on a platoon of 31 Punjab that bore heavy losses. He got his soldiers ready and immediately reached the front. He was severely injuried during an encounter and three bullets were removed from his chest during surgery. He requested the surgeon to give those bullets to his mother as a souvenir. He was recommended for ‘Sitara-i-Jurat’. Captain Michael Wilson fought the enemy at Chamb Sector in 1971 war and got injured in a tank accident on 21 November 1972 and later embraced martyrdom.

Since the beginning of War on Terror, the Christian soldiers have participated shoulder to shoulder with other Pakistani soldiers. Martyr of Nawazkot, Major Sarmas Rauf, Tamgha-i-Basalat is one of them, who sacrificed his life for the motherland. He got commission in 1987 in 44 FF and out of 20 years of his service; he spent 17 years in the border areas of Sialkot, Kashmir, Siachen and Waziristan. He never preferred his personal comfort over the defence of country. Major Sarmas Rauf was serving at the Line of Control during Kargil war 1999. He was posted from 44 FF to FC NWFP (later FC KPK) on 3 January 2006.

Eversince the start of Operation Al-Mizan, 3 Wing Bajaur Scout had taken part in it and destroyed many important hideouts of the extremists. When his wing took responsibility of Nawazkot, Major Sarmas Rauf proved a strong leader against miscreants. Four days before his martyrdom, an important terrorists commander, his son and several accomplices were killed in an operation. To take the revenge, the terrorists laid siege of Nawazkot post and blocked the routes of supply. Under his command, the soldiers put up great resistance and caused major losses to the enemy. During the same operation, he was hit by an RPG 7 round. He initially got injured and due to excessive bleeding, passed away later. The martyr was awarded Tamgha-i-Basalat.

At the time of documenting these sacrifices by Christian Martyrs and achievements by Christian Ghazis, I have full faith and conviction that Christian sons of this soil have proved their worth whenever needed by the motherland. Out of the many Christian soldiers, 60 have laid their lives for Pakistan in total, whereas, seven are Sitara-i-Jurat, three are Tamgha-i-Jurat and four are Tamagha-i-Basalat. It was a pleasant surprise for me when I found out that Pakistan Army also looks after the families of Christian Martyrs with equal great care and responsibility and never forgets them. Mrs. Delsea Christie (widow of Peter Christie), Mrs. Rubina Sarmas Rauf (widow of Sarmus Rauf), Miss Lesley Middle Coat (daughter of Middle Coat) were all full of Praise for armed forces for taking care of the families and not forgetting them.

The writer is author of the Book “Sabz O Safaid Hilali Parcham Kay Muhafiz 'o' Shuhada”. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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