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.
(An Eyewitness account of the Operation undertaken in Congo by Pak Army)
Written By: Brig Anwar Ahmed
25 February 2005, like most other days in the year, was a moderate day in Bunia, the eastern part of Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo. William Lacy Swing, the Senior Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), was on helicopter tour with eleven ambassadors from various countries and was convincing them on stable security and humanitarian situation in that region. The Ituri Brigade Commander Brig Dev Bahadur Ghale and myself, being the Pakistani Battalion Commander, accompanied. It was widely believed that the largest ever UN mission MONUC was fast losing its credence in maintaining peace in the area and was termed as “toothless mission” in the face of audacious and ever growing threats from various militant factions against civilian population and UN peacekeepers.
The entourage returned by afternoon. The Deputy Brigade Commander Col Mehmood, a Bangladeshi Officer broke the shocking news that nine Bangladeshi soldiers who were on a routine patrol that morning had been ambushed and killed. The worst was that the dead bodies were still at the ambush site since the rebels presumably Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) Militia had encircled the area and were resisting evacuation. The sun was fast going down and aviation did not have night flying capability. The gut feeling was that if the bodies were not recovered in next few hours, they would probably never be recovered. Congo had a history of cannibalism. No orders to any troops had been given in the absence of command. PAKBAT-II (3 Punjab) was tasked to recover the dead bodies as soon as possible. A quick rescue mission was planned. Two MI-17 helicopters loaded with PAKBAT troops were rushed to the site within no time. The area had been effectively cordoned off by the rebels. Blue helmets were identified with some difficulty. The rebels opened fire. Troops jumped down from helicopters with running rotors and rushed for the bodies. All nine bodies were rescued amidst intense firing from nearby bushes. The bodies were badly mutilated. All the weapons and equipment had been taken away by the rebels. Bangladeshi troops had gathered at the landing site to receive their bodies. There were extremely moving scenes. Everyone had broken over fallen comrades. Next morning, the martyred were accorded highest protocol by the UN and local administration. PAKBAT, as a symbol of solidarity and support, carried one of the coffins to the C130 which had arrived from Bangladesh to carry martyrs to their loved ones. The feeling of pain, loss and losing was beyond description among Pakistani troops. There was deafening silence after the aircraft left. Nobody knew what was to follow. Under the circumstances, the UN mission couldn't go on. It was huge blow to the reputation of UN peace keepers. Bangladesh, one of the largest troop contributing countries, had suffered ever highest loss on a UN mission. Bangladesh Observed a day of mourning on 1 March 2005 for its fallen soldiers, the day when Loga Operation was being conducted. The Battalion was in no condition to undertake any punitive action against the perpetrators. In the evening, a meeting was called at the brigade HQ to review future course of action. It was decided to undertake military action against the rebels responsible for such a heinous crime. PAKBAT was once again tasked for the operation.
I was leading the PAKBAT troops as we moved to Tche, a distant location for this purpose. A platoon each from NEPBAT and South African were given in support besides Indian MI-25 and Bangladeshi MI-17 helicopters. On 28 February, a heliborne operation against suspected rebels' location was conducted which was only partially successful in finding few weapons. It was a tough and disappointing day. Late at night Major Abdul Hakeem Arif, passed credible information about Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) headquarters in Loga village, some 22 kms from Tche. The information was passed quite late at night; hence no detailed planning could be done. Ground troops mounted in APCs set out for the operation by about 7A.M. The convoy had reached half way when an APC broke down beyond local repair. It could neither be returned nor taken along. There was grave risk in leaving it under the situation, that too without long range communication. However, no precious time could be wasted in deliberation. It was left under command a Nepalese Capt with some PAKBAT and NEPBAT troops with clear rules of engagement in case of a danger.
The rebels had been sufficiently alerted due to helicopters and APCs' noise. As APCs neared Loga village, they came under intense fire. It took an hour to enter the village. Maj Nisar with his troops entered the village by 1030 hours after intense gun battle. I soon realized that the troops had been surrounded from all directions. The football ground where helicopters carrying south African troops were about to land, had also been occupied by the rebels. The helicopters unaware of the ground danger, were immediately sent back. Troops under Capt Zia were rushed to get the ground cleared of rebels. He reported that the rebels were using heavy weapons including mortars and RPG-7s. This took considerable time and effort. FNI headquarters was established in a market as it was easy for them to collect extortion from population and shopkeepers. House to house clearance started as the troops made foothold. A lot of ammunition and weapons were being recovered. Maj Amir Zahid reported about presence of some suspicious person in a mud room. The person was not responding to any warning. Usually no chances are taken during violent search operations. However, prudence suggested careful checking. It revealed that a woman had covered herself under the blanket. She had given birth to a baby that morning and had been abandoned. She was immediately taken care of by our doctor, given some eatables and was comforted through the interpreter. On the other side, there was no let off from the fire. Rebels appeared to be under the influence of locally developed drugs which made them fight irrespective of losses. In the mean time, Capt Saqib reported safe landing of South African troops. By 1330, it was decided to call off the operation. Before the troops left the area, I observed that the mud room with the lady who had delivered the baby, had caught fire. Immediately, few soldiers were rushed to get the two occupants out. Before the roof collapsed, the lady and her baby had been taken out.
The troops reached the football ground with a lot difficulty since clean disengagement was difficult in the face of rebels' fire. Having secured the troops in the football ground, I asked Capt Deshpal Singh from India, the MI-25 pilot to engage the rebels. However, due to close proximity, the engagement could result in fratricide, advised the pilot who was observing the things in much better way. Hence, the troops had to rely on their own. Immediately an APC carrying 106 mm RR on an improvised mount was moved to support the troops. While the barrel was being lowered, it accidentally went off. Two soldiers who were just behind the APC were hit by massive back blast. Sep Itebar from SSG lost both his eyes while Sep Gulzar Ahmed damaged his eye and both ears.
Capt Desieko, the RSABAT (Royal South African) Platoon Commander was under tremendous pressure since his troops were exchanging fire with rebels across the elephant grass surrounding the football field. He was asked to call back his troops. Battle field confusion was at its best. PAKBAT troops facing outside were about to shoot at withdrawing South African troops due to similarity with rebels both in complexion and uniform. With nerve breaking care, the fratricide was avoided. SA troops had been inserted through Bangladeshi helicopters but for extraction, Indian MI-17 had been sent which had less capacity than the Bangladeshi. In addition, now there were two casualties which had to be evacuated to the base hospital. With a lot of difficulty, the additional troops were adjusted in the APCs. On checking the fate of broken APC and route, MI-25 pilots reported that the APC was safe; however, the rebels had laid ambushes at three different places. The troops were given orders to deal with the situation. After clearing ambush sites, entailing heavy exchange of fire, the convoy reached the broken APC sight. APC was towed with another APC and the convoy reached Tche around 10 p.m. Quick stock of men and material was undertaken and found in order. It was difficult to give count of militia's casualties. A careful estimate and the intelligence reports suggested militia casualties to be around 60.
The success of the operation had lasting impact on overall stability in DRC. New locations were occupied such as Magbwalu. It also paved way for elections. Success of the operation was widely covered by International Media, though local media was mostly silent. Maj Gen Moeen Ahmed, then CGS and later COAS Bangladesh Army, visited PAKBAT on 19 March 2005 and remarked, “I am extremely happy to visit 3 Punjab in Ituri, Also very happy to see that it is doing an excellent job in maintaining peace in the area. Thanks a lot for the support the battalion had provided on 25 February 2005, when we lost nine soldiers. All the best.” The performance of Pakistani troops caught attention of international media. New York Times, in its 3 March 2005 edition reported,
“The gun battle took place on Tuesday between 242 Pakistani peacekeepers and militia fighters. It broke out at a heavily fortified militia camp near the village of Loga, 20 miles north of Bunia, the capital of the lawless Ituri region. "While on operation we were fired upon, so we immediately responded," He said 50 to 60 militia members had been confirmed dead.”
A website 'News.telegraph.com' commented on 7 March 2005, “After years of passively watching while the world's most vicious conflict raged around them in Congo, United Nations peacekeepers have at last taken the fight to the enemy.” Aljazeera network also took the story on its website on 2 March 2005 and wrote, “The clash was one of the biggest involving the UN force in the DRC, where militiamen roam vast swathes of the lawless east of Africa's third-biggest country.” On the similar date, 2 March 2005, BBC also published the news commenting, “UN troops strike back in DR Congo. United Nations peacekeepers in the DRC have killed more than 50 militiamen in a gun battle in the north-east. The Pakistani UN troops had used helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles in the operation against the militia.”
The writer served in Congo during 2005 and led this operation.
Advocate Fizza Malik Shaheed who became victim of Terrorism while defending the Law.
Written By: Capt Kanwal Kiani
The sunrise of 3 March 2014 was usual for everyone but not for the few families of Islamabad whose dear ones had left homes for routine work but were destined to leave this world forever. Mr. Tariq Nasrullah Malik and his family were one of them. The family could not even think of receiving the shocking news about sudden demise of their daughter, Advocate Fizza Malik, who had left home for the court to carryout routine law practice. When she had woken up on 3 March, she was an aspiring junior lawyer and in a couple of hours, became “breaking news” all over the world. “We were praying for her safety after hearing the news of the blast but it was hard to accept that my angel who said good bye few minutes before with the promise to come back soon, had left for ever,” shared Mrs Tariq who lost her only daughter Fizza Malik when the terrorists attacked the District Courts in Islamabad, killing 12 innocent citizens and injuring over 30.
“She was the asset of my life and much of my dreams and hopes were associated with her. After losing her, I have questions to ask from these terrorists and religious extremists. She never harmed anyone and did not deserve such kind of death,” added Mrs Tariq with tears running down her face. Fizza Tariq Malik 23, was the youngest and only sister of Saad and Ali. A law graduate (LLB) from UK, she wanted to purse her career in Pakistan. She had an option to start her practise in Dubai but she was devoted to work in Pakistan and was often heard saying, “the quality of leadership skills and cultural diversity I have learnt and experienced through my degree has provided me a platform to become an agent of optimism for change in my society.” “It's high time that we need to put an end to the barbaric acts of the terrorists. For how long will people keep losing their loved ones? What future do girls have who get foreign education and wish to serve their country? Will they ever be provided adequate security in a society where terrorists roam around with licence to kill anyone at anytime? If these questions are not answered now, time will never forgive us,” said Saad, Fizza Shaheed's elder brother.
Fizza’s elder brother, Ali was equally sad. He also expressed his sentiments, “Being Muslims we believe that martyrs are alive, so I want to tell Fizza that we love you and we miss you so much. We feel like a part of our heart and soul is lost.” Her family recalls her excitement and at the same time nervousness, at the time of the interview for obtaining practice license as a lawyer. She wanted to be a criminal lawyer, not knowing that before stepping into her field of choice, she will become its prey one day. Fizza was the first one who received bullets; one in neck and the other on chest. This visibly proves her valour that even in the time of mayhem, she was daringly facing it. President Islamabad High Court Bar Association, Mohsin Kayani while recollecting his memories about Fizza tells that she was full of energy and wisdom, and lost her life in an attack by the malicious elements working against Pakistan. I wish I could go back in the past and take Fizza along to the high court that day, Kayani sighed with whom she worked since Nov 2013.
Madiha, another victim of the attack who saw Fizza alive for the last time told, “I will never forget the very first day of my professional life, that started with great fervour and ended dreadfully, the day when I found and lost forever, a friend, a colleague to be, with whom I had just started to move around in the court.”
Fizza was ready to go to obtain the degree of LLM from UK. While applying for the programme she wrote about herself: “My struggle became my strength to strive for success. I wanted to diversify and practice law to be able to implement changes. But challenges came my way yet, made me tough and I fought through my medical problem of Retrobulbar Optic Neuritis. I wasn't one of those who are born with a golden spoon but I was definitely one with the outlook to achieve one. I continue to learn to the best of my abilities and pursue for higher education to attain my goals, high quality of education, diverse culture and skills that will make a difference.”
“My daughter was very gentle, loving and caring…always been very supportive to everyone. I can't say anything about the people who snatched our pleasure from us, they are also children of someone,” said Mr Malik in a low bewailing voice. I ask the government and concerned authorities to take action against her assassins and bring them to justice. She was the youngest in the company with a lot of positivity, energy and ambitions evident through her sparkling eyes, one of her former colleague told with whom Fizza worked in UK based customer service firm.
Malik family broke down in tears several times while sharing their daughter's memories and it was really very difficult for me to console them with the mere words of condolence. To glorify the sacrifice rendered by their daughter, the family has decided to form “Fizza Trust” with the theme, “Every Life Counts”, aiming to help educate Pakistani women in the field of law. Pakistan is passing through challenging times. Hundreds of Fizza, Aitazaz, and Talib Hussain have become victim of terrorism and religious extremism. I don't know how much more bloodsheds we have to see, but if we stand together against these terrorists and start calling spade a spade, we may see our motherland free of radical elements and extremism.
Major Abdul Wahid Danish Shaheed, TBt (The story of an ISI Officer who embraced Shahadat while valiantly fighting against the Terrorists)
Written By: Lt Col Fahd Bin Sultan
On a pleasant afternoon of October 1997 at Jhelum, a Tonga entered from the main gate of 46 Supply and Transport (S&T) Battalion and stopped in front of the unit office area. A tall handsome young man with thick moustaches dismounted with a typical black military trunk. Most awaited, second parental officer of the unit, Second Lieutenant Abdul Wahid Danish, had arrived. All the officers of the unit including myself received him. It was beginning of the journey that concluded with his Shahadat on 7 February 2014. He was an upright, straight forward and clear headed officer with abundant courtesy. His conduct and approach towards the profession was quoted as an example to the young officers. With a sober sense of humor, his light jokes would always make us laugh. The battalion was desperately waiting for Maj Danish to take over the responsibilities as next Commanding Officer being parental officer, as he was being considered in Promotion Board-2014. We both spoke to each other on 7 February 2014 at 1445 hours to know about his willingness to assume command of the unit. Calm and contended as he was, “Sir, as Allah wills,” he replied. I tried to convince him to give preference to his parent unit. He promised to call me at night or the next morning. I had no clue that morning would never come. Next afternoon I received a phone call, not from Danish but about Danish. I could not believe, he was fighting for his life in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Lahore. To my luck, I was in Rawalpindi and went to see him with all the hopes and prayers. All his memories flashed back while crossing Jhelum, my lips moving faster, praying to Allah for his life. As I reached the hospital in Lahore, I saw Maj Danish lying straight, unconscious. The flowers outside his room, the people visiting him and all well-wishers were praying for his long life. Seeing the pain in the eyes of his mother, brothers and family, I recalled his association with his family. Maj Danish was a responsible son, supportive brother, affectionate father and a caring husband. His day would start in a routine with light mood, his daughter Ayesha normally patting his back and giggling. Overflowed with love, Danish would tell his wife, “My day has begun.” There were days in routine when his family found lunch awaiting for them ordered by Danish. When asked by his wife, the caring reply would be, “I thought you should relax today.” On the fateful day of his Shahadat, his wife asked him about his well being as a routine at about 1745 hours and his reply was, “All OK. Pray for my success. Allah Hafiz.” It was last conversation between the husband and wife. Allah had decided a higher pedestal for him and a test of endurance for the family. Danish had carried out many successful operations during his two years tenure in ISI and had given serious blows to the anti-state elements, and saved many lives. Few days before his Shahadat, he was working on few elements closely linked with the terrorists. In order to nab them and their masters, he encircled the terrorists in surroundings of Khanewal on 7 February 2014. While he was trying to arrest them, he was hit by a bullet in the head at a point blank range. Major Danish fell on ground and the terrorist tried to run away. The cover force deployed by Major Danish followed the terrorist, who ultimately blew himself up before being arrested. During the encounter, one extremist was killed while the third one was apprehended. Major Danish was given first aid treatment in District Headquarters Hospital Vihari and was evacuated in a helicopter to CMH, Lahore. He was in a state of comma and was operated immediately, however doctors declared next 48 hours very crucial for him. After two days, he gave few positive signs and breathed for 50 seconds without ventilator. Next day he moved his head and foot when a wet cloth was put on his eyes. In the similar struggle to recover, his health kept deterioriating while doctors declared his brain clinically dead. All were waiting and praying for a miracle to happen but Allah had planned an eternal life for him in Heavens. He left us at 2055 hours on 16 February 2014 for the highest award. Major Danish had saved Punjab from yet another tragic incident by laying his life. He was different and unique. He lived like an example to be quoted and gave his life for Pakistan. He is the hero of entire nation. May Allah be with his family and his son Awaiz and daughter Ayesha. In recognition of his services for the country, President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan conferred him ‘Tamagh-i-Bisalat’ posthumously on 23 March 2014.