12
November

Thank You Balochistan

Written By: Tahir Mehmood

thank u balachistan2Another long working day for Hayat Ullah had just commenced. He began working in his field like many other residents of Sissan Manna village. He waved to Haji Abdul Rehman who was also working in the next field. Both knew that by the end of the day, they must finish the job in the fields as next day was planned for cattle grazing. They had spent their youth repeating this cycle. Their lives were less restricted by high mountains than by scarcity of resources; the natural were yet to be explored and human-made to be provided for! Their few fields and cattle equalled to the whole universe. Occasionally they had visited the nearby town of Ziarat, and had been only for few times to the city of Quetta. However, like many others, Hayat Ullah had taken his family to visit Quaid-i-Azam's Residency in Ziarat. A visit to this place was a kind of local ritual and also display of their love for the country and the Quaid. And whenever they visited Quetta, the thought of educating their sons often nudged their minds. They wished for better days! They always felt a special attraction for the soldiers wearing different uniforms marching on the streets of Quetta Garrison. These soldiers were either standing still in front of few buildings or walking in small groups swinging arms and taking steps together. Nevertheless, they felt amused and exchanged smiles with the marching soldiers. Busy in the work, Hayat Ullah heard usual noise of Army aircrafts flying above. He just looked up for a while and got busy with his routine. Almost in no time he started noticing an unusual sound and looked up again. Oh God! a small aircraft was almost over their heads, but it was coming down like a stone. Its nose downward, the plane was to hit the ground with a bang in less than a minute. Hayat Ullah noticed Haji Abdul Rehman’s eyes were also fixed on the air plane. Both had sensed a great danger. They exchanged the gaze of helplessness and fear. And, then they noticed a little change; instead of directly smashing to the ground, the plane jerked upward, its tyres touched the ground with a big bang and it smashed into a big tree. Not sure what to do, they both just rushed towards the plane. But then they stopped for a moment. The thick dust had engulfed the aircraft, strangely there was no fire so far but they sensed, it could catch fire in seconds. As the dust started thinning out, they could see a man's body hanging out of the plane. They could not resist going further close. They observed another man laying unconscious on the pilot's seat. The injured pilots were young and they both were wearing uniform. A small Pakistani flag on their uniforms was clearly visible. Hayat Ullah and Haji soon concluded: these were the soldiers of Pakistan Army that they had often seen in Quetta. Emboldened by spotting no flames, they reluctantly moved closer to the plane to see pilots' fate. One pilot's seat was broken, and his body almost hanging out of the plane. The other was still tied to the seat and could not be dragged out being stuck in his seat. Something was to be done but in seconds as the plane could catch the fire and burst. Both the soldiers were bleeding profusely. Hayat Ullah and Haji could hear their occasional cries. Hayat Ullah in a state of helplessness jut looked towards Haji's hand that was holding a sickle. In a second, the seatbelt was cut and the soldier taken out. They moved them away from the plane. Both the pilots had suffered serious injuries, bleeding and were unconscious. They had to be taken to the doctor in no time! The nearby hospital was in Ziarat, and that was almost forty kilometre away from their village. Hayat Ullah and Haji Abdul Rehman felt utterly helpless. The soldiers' lives were in great danger!

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thank u balachistan3It was a bright sunny morning of September 20, 2014 in Quetta. Two young pilot officers from Pakistan Army Aviation were busy taking breakfast in the beautiful sunroom of 10 Army Aviation Squadron. They were little early than rest of their colleagues. These were Captain Hasnain Mahmud and Captain Rana Umer Karim. They both were on a week-long flying mission as part of the Basic Pilot Training Course and it was to end that day after their flight mission from Quetta to Gujranwala. Captain Hasnain was instructor in the Army Aviation School and Capt Umer (a 2nd generation 6 Baloch Regiment officer) was an under-training pilot. On this training mission, they were also accompanied by few other pilot officers including their Commandant, Brigadier Nasir. Last night both the officers had talked to their families and were excited to join back. Capt Hasnain's wife, Capt Fatima (also serving in Pakistan Army's Corps of Engineers) brought their one-and-half-year son, Suqraat Mahmud to the telephone. She knew Hasnain was very fond of little giggling that Suqraat produced on the phone. They had married in 2012 and were living a happy but busy military life. Aniqa Umer, wife of Capt Umer also exchanged prayers and good wishes for safe journey back home. The morning was usual and both these young pilot officers were soon joined by their other colleagues at breakfast. Brig Nasir, the Commandant, thoughtfully gazed out and felt relaxed – the weather was good and by evening the week long air navigation part would be over, and the course would be passing out on time in November. This brought a smile on his experienced face, he said 'hello' to the young officers and joined at the breakfast. Captain Hasnain, being instructor, settled in the pilot's seat and Umer took responsibilities of the co-pilot. According to the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs), they checked all the gadgetry. They were to fly in a formation that also had two other Mushak aircrafts; one flown by Brigadier Nasir and the other by Major Owais. The Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Khalid Aviation Base gave 'all clear' and the three Mushak aircrafts were soon circling over Quetta to gain height. The usual flying height of Mushak aircraft is around 3000 feet above ground; however, keeping in view high mountain peaks around Quetta Valley and other adjacent areas, the Mushaks were to fly above 9000 feet. Tail number 354 soon achieved this height and a smooth flying journey towards Multan began. Captain Hasnain started his flying lessons and Umer became more attentive. All seemed quite normal. And, then all of a sudden, Capt Hasnain could feel flying in the midst of notorious 'air pockets' around Quetta and Ziarat. The aircraft was jolting, shaking, trembling and losing height. Hasnain immediately cautioned Umer who had already smelled the dangers ahead. Capt Hasnain gave an emergency call to Brigadier Nasir of losing altitude and his fear of inability to cross above the fast approaching mountain pass. Nasir advised him to take a 360 degree turn and try getting out of the danger, but to no avail. The Tail 354 was behaving like an unbridled horse or, a mad elephant. To control the aircraft was becoming difficult each passing second. In next few seconds, a deadly revelation appeared certain to Capt Hasnain. The instruments were revealing that was heard of before but never experienced. The Tail 354 was descending very quickly. It was losing height at a fast speed and soon was to hit the ground. The Tail 354 was going to be “stalled” in seconds. Oh God, if that happens, Capt Hasnain knew, the death was more than certain! Something was to be done but very quickly. Hundreds of emergency flight lessons flashed to Capt Hasnain's mind. And, then Hasnain made a decisive move, he put the control at “neutral”, tried to gain the speed and overcame his instinct to gain height. But, the aircraft was still going down at a much faster speed. The descending speed grew with each passing second. The situation needed iron nerves and Capt Hasnain had plenty of those. When the aircraft was just 50 feet above the ground and was to bang the ground in few seconds, Capt Hasnain pulled the 'control stick' backwards to give a “lift” to the aircraft. The miracle happened! The hard training of Pakistan Army Aviation had won. The nose-down Tail 354 got a severe jerk, the downward fall somewhat straightened and as it banged the ground, the tyres had touched the ground. This last minute 'command' had saved the Tail 354 from bursting into countless small pieces. Now it was heading forward like a blind rocket. Soon it got a big jolt as it hit a heavy tree trunk and cut it into two pieces. The last scene Capt Umer’s bleeding eyes saw that Capt Hasnain had gone unconscious and was bleeding profusely; Umer, too, succumbed to injuries and went unconscious.

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thank u balachistan4Leaving Haji Abdul Rehman to the severely injured and unconscious pilot officers, Hayat Ullah rushed to the nearby road. He had to stop any vehicle passing-by. And, he had not to wait for long. Akbar and Noor Muhammad, two brothers from his village, Sissan Manna, were driving a 'Pick Up' vehicle and were heading towards a nearby village. They were carrying their goats and sheep in the rear of the vehicle. They needed to sell these animals to get some money for approaching Eid festival. The abject poverty had rarely offered them moments to celebrate. As the vehicle approached nearer, Akbar saw Hayat Ullah waving desperately and asking to stop the vehicle. They took no time to understand the whole situation. They just disembarked the cattle, cleaned the floor and put the two pilots hurriedly into the vehicle. The ancestors had taught these simple dwellers how to minimise bleeding by making small tourniquets and even place splints along the broken bones. They also did not forget to put some grass and clothing underneath the injured officers. They had very less time and rushed towards Ziarat. While en-route to the District Headquarters Hospital Ziarat, Capt Umer opened his eyes and looked around. His Baloch brothers were quick to assure him that he was in safe hands. Capt Umer heard them saying, “Don't worry, we love Pakistan Army and Pakistan. You are injured but don't worry, we are about to reach Ziarat Hospital. All will be okay soon!” With a faint smile on bleeding face, injured Capt Umer again fell unconscious in those warm and safe hands.

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Doctor Irfan-ud-Din, a resident of Ziarat, serving as the only Child Specialist in District Hospital Ziarat was on-duty on September 20, 2014. After dropping his four years old daughter Ayesha to school and kissing one year old sleeping Muhammad Rafay, Irfan-ud-Din, who graduated from Bolan Medical College in 1999, busied himself in checking routine patients. The hospital does not have much of latest equipment and medicines, nevertheless, Irfan being local resident, had always put his best to serve his people. It was around 1030 a.m. that he observed a 'pick-up' vehicle approaching very fast to the Hospital's parking area. He guessed for some civilian casualties. Being only doctor present at that time, he came out of his room. He was met by serious-looking Akbar and Hayat Ullah. Hurriedly they told him about the aircraft crash and the injured pilots. At that time, both Akbar and Hayat Ullah had assumed Capt Hasnain to be 'dead'. Therefore, doctor Irfan first shifted Capt Umer to the 'emergency' department. He then went towards Capt Hasnain who was lying motion-less. Hasnain’s blood pressure was almost negligible, but doctor Irfan found some signs of heartbeat and running 'pulse' in Hasnain's absolute motion-less body. Doctor Irfan instantly shifted Capt Hasnain to the 'Operation Theatre'. He gave best possible emergency medicines as first-aid and started making all efforts to stop any further bleeding. Although he was a 'Child Specialist', but he took all the risks and went for surgery. He wanted to save the lives of these Pakistan Army's officers who were badly injured. After nonstop efforts of almost one hour, both the pilots started showing some signs of life and stability. Doctor Irfan was soon joined by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Ziarat, Abdul Khaliq Mando Khail, at the hospital. He took pains and rendered all support needed. Meanwhile, a large number of people from Ziarat City had gathered in the hospital. They all volunteered to donate their blood, if needed. They were also praying for the life of the wounded soldiers. Around 12 o'clock, once Pakistan Army Aviation's helicopters arrived for evacuation of the injured to Quetta, doctor Irfan accompanied. He saw the local crowed waving, cheering to the helicopters' crew, and shouting slogans, “Pakistan, Zindabad; Pakistan Army, Zindabad”.

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Colonel Muhammad Afzal Kamal, acting Base Commander Khalid Aviation Base got distressed once he heard through Air Traffic Control Samungli Base about crash of the Mushak aircraft. He hurriedly received Brig Nasir and Maj Owais at the Base who had returned back after visually seeing the crash. Years of operational experience had convinced Brig Nasir that probability to survive such a crash was less than 10%. Colonel Afzal analyzed the situation and immediately flew two helicopters; one carrying medical staff and the other security personnel, albeit with a lump in his throat. He also sent one of the returned pilots so as to locate the wreckage of the crashed aircraft. Then, began the most agonizing spell – a long break in the communication – which often happens in such like rescue operations in remote areas. The younger hearts sink while coming to terms that this is actually happening, but the seniors like Col Afzal Kamal keep calm and start preparing for the eventual, a task someone in Aviation has always to undertake. He had no choice but to order for the 'coffins' of the two pilots – guided by his experience, and denying the possibility of a miracle! But, then he received the unusual message from Capt Asad from Ziarat Scouts that the injured pilots had been evacuated by the local Baloch civilians to Ziarat. He instantly realized that pilots might have only suffered serious injuries and their lives could be saved. He became sure in his heart that Baloch brothers would make all efforts to save the lives of these injured pilots. He just recalled the incident that his Commandant had narrated him about terrorists' attack on Khalid Aviation Base on night 14/15 August 2014. On that fateful night, a patriotic Baloch timely informed the military authorities about the terrorists trying to sneak into the Base. This information proved most valuable and the attack met a ready-response from the military. The terrorists also attacked PAF Base Samungli on that night but were defeated comprehensively by the vigilant soldiers of Pakistan Army. All terrorists were killed in that operation and both the bases remained fully safe. Being assured of locals' help, Colonel Afzal flew two more helicopters to Ziarat. By mid-day, the injured pilots had been successfully evacuated to the Combined Military Hospital Quetta. But his job was not over yet! Colonel Afzal had another uphill task at hand. It was removal of the aircraft wreckage from the crash site back to Quetta. It was a difficult task for the Aviation as the nearest landing zone was almost seven kilometres away from the crash site. Again the local Baloch civilians displayed a great love for Pakistan Army and came forward with the unwavering support. They used all available manpower and their robust tractor-trolleys to move the wreckage to the landing zone. They worked day-and-night along with troops of Loralai Scouts (FC Balochistan) headed by Colonel Faisal. What best can be the proof of people's love for Pakistan Army than this display of unconditional support rendered by Baloch civilians under such trying circumstances.

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Today, Captain Hasnain is being treated in Combined Military Hospital Quetta for multiple injuries. His both legs are broken and he has 35 stitches for his injuries. But he has been joined by his wife, Capt Fatima and son, Suqraat Mahmud. Capt Umer has also joined his family at Karachi and undergoing medical treatment. The life would soon return to normal for many people around them. It was certainly a miracle made possible by two simple mountain dwellers, an honest and hardworking doctor and a dutiful District Coordination Officer (DCO) – all fastened invisibly by a strong love of their country and traditions of their soil. Today, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Army Aviation, Major General Muhammad Khalil Dar and everyone who is part of Pakistan Army Aviation is proud of love and unflinching support of their brothers from Balochistan. They whisper, they cheer, and, they share three proud words repeatedly: “Thank You Balochistan”. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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24
December

جرأت کے پیکر

کیپٹن عبدالسلام شہید کی داستان شہادت

جس قوم کے بیٹے اپنے عظیم ملک پر قربان ہونا جانتے ہوں اس قوم کو باوقار اور محفوظ قوموں کی صف میں کھڑا ہونے سے کوئی نہیں روک سکتا۔ کیپٹن عبدالسلام بھی انہی بیٹوں میں سے ایک ہیں جنہوں نے قوم کے لئے جان کا نذرانہ دے کر وطن کی لاج رکھی۔

ایک مسلمان کا یہ اعزاز ہے کہ اس کی شہادت کی موت قوم کی حیات ہوتی ہے اور شہید خود بھی حیات دائمی پاتا ہے۔ کیونکہ اﷲ تعالیٰ نے مسلمانوں کو منع کر دیا ہے کہ ’’وہ لوگ جو اﷲ کی راہ میں قربان ہو جائیں انہیں مردہ نہ کہو بلکہ وہ زندہ ہیں مگر تم ان کی زندگی کا شعور نہیں رکھتے۔‘‘ (القرآن) یہی وجہ ہے کہ ملت اسلامیہ اور وطن عزیز پاکستان کا بچہ بچہ شہادت کی تمنا لئے جوان ہوتا ہے۔ جنگ کے میدان میں وہ سپاہی بن کر اس طرح لڑتا ہے کہ اپنے اسلاف کی یاد تازہ کر دیتاہے۔

ہماری آزادی اور ترقی ان مخلص و بے لوث سپاہیوں کے مرہون منت ہے۔ جنہوں نے اپنا آج ہمارے کل کے لئے قربان کر کے ہمارے مستقبل کو محفوظ اور تابناک بنایا۔ وطن عزیز کی سرحدوں کے دفاع کی خاطر ہر خطرے میں کود جانے والے ہمارے یہ مجاہد وطن کا سرمایا ہیں۔ یہ اندھیری راہ میں روشن منزلوں کے نشان ہیں‘ جرأتوں کے کوہ گراں ہیں۔ انہی مجاہدوں میں سے ایک مجاہد کیپٹن عبدالسلام تھے جو 28مارچ 2011کو دہشت گردی کی کارروائی کا نشانہ بنے اور جام شہادت نوش کیا۔

خیبرپختونخوا کے علاقے خیبر ایجنسی میں دہشت گردی کا نشانہ بننے والے کیپٹن عبدالسلام 1980کو دوہا (قطر) میں پید ا ہوئے۔ابتدائی تعلیم قطر ہی میں حاصل کی۔ 1999میں گورنمنٹ کالج اصغرمال سے ایف ایس سی کیا۔ بچپن سے ہی افواج پاکستان کا حصہ بننے کا شوق تھا اور یہ شوق انہیں پاکستان آرمی میں لے آیا۔ 2003میں پاس آؤٹ ہو کر سگنل بٹالین میں شامل ہو گئے۔ 2009میں فرنٹیئر کور پشاور میں تبادلہ ہوا۔ 2009میں ہی ان کی شادی ہوئی۔ شادی کے 8 دن بعد ہی اپنی ڈیوٹی پر پہنچ گئے اور اپنے فرائض کو اپنی ذاتی خوشی پر مقدم سمجھا۔

گزشتہ 12برسوں میں پاکستان کو دہشت گردی کے خلاف جنگ میں مختلف مسائل کا سامنا کرنا پڑا۔ پاکستان کے جو علاقے شدید متاثر ہوئے ان میں سوات‘ قبائلی علاقہ جات اور وزیرستان شامل ہیں۔ ان علاقوں پر پاک فوج کے آپریشن سے پہلے دہشت گردوں نے بہت حد تک اپنا تسلط قائم کر رکھا تھا۔ جنہیں پاک فوج اور قوم نے باہم مل کر ان علاقوں سے نکال باہر کیا۔ اب بھی پاک افواج کے جوان اور افسران شمالی وزیرستان میں اپنی جانوں کے نذرانے پیش کر رہے ہیں اور پورے ملک میں دہشت گردوں کا قلع قمع کرنے کے لئے برسرپیکار ہیں۔

28 مارچ 2011کو کیپٹن عبدالسلام اپنے ساتھیوں کے ہمراہ دہشت گردوں کے خلاف ایک آپریشن کے لئے نکلے۔ انہوں نے اس آپریشن میں نہ صرف دہشت گردوں کو مار بھگایا بلکہ ان کے قبضے سے اسلحہ اور گولہ بارود اپنے قبضے میں کیا۔ کیپٹن عبدالسلام نے جرأت اور دلیری سے اپنے ساتھیوں کی قیادت کرتے ہوئے کامیابی سے اپنا مشن مکمل کیا۔ مغرب کے بعد دہشت گردوں نے پھر حملہ کر دیا۔ وہ اپنے ساتھیوں کے ساتھ اس کمپاؤنڈ میں داخل ہو گئے جہاں آپ کو دہشت گردوں کے موجود ہونے کا شبہ تھا۔ اسی اثنا میں ایک مارٹر گولا اُنہیں لگا جس سے کیپٹن عبدالسلام موقع پر ہی شہید ہو گئے۔ کیپٹن عبدالسلام کے پسماندگان میں والدین‘ ایک بہن‘ ایک بھائی‘ بیوہ اور بیٹی ہیں۔ شہادت کے 10روز کے بعد آپ کی بیٹی پیدا ہوئی۔ کیپٹن عبدالسلام ہر وقت غریبوں کی مدد کے لئے تیار رہتے تھے۔ وہ ایک بہترین دوست فرماں بردار بیٹے اور بہادر فوجی جوان تھے۔ کیپٹن عبدالسلام کا جنازہ ریس کورس گراؤنڈ راولپنڈی میں ادا کیا گیا۔ عبدالسلام کی والدہ اپنے بیٹے کی شہادت پر فخر محسوس کرتی ہیں۔ ماں ہونے کے ناتے اُن کا دل اپنے جواں بیٹے کی جدائی کے غم میں نڈھال بھی ہے لیکن ان کا عزم جواں ہے۔ انہوں نے شہید کی بیوہ کے ساتھ مل کر کیپٹن عبدالسلام کے کمرے کو یتیم اور بے سہارا بچیوں کے لئے وقف کر دیا ہے۔ جہاں پر وہ عبدالسلام کی پنشن سے ان بچیوں کو سلائی کڑھائی سکھاتی ہیں اور ہر قسم کی امداد کرتی ہیں۔ یوں شہید کی پنشن سے غریب بچیوں کو باعزت زندگی گزارنے کا سہارا مل گیا ہے۔

شہیدوں کے لہو سے حُریت کے دیپ جلتے ہیں

انہی کے فیض سے ہم بھی سر اونچا کر کے چلتے ہیں

31
December

My Brother My Hero

A tribute to Capt Muhammad Bilal Sunawar Shaheed, TBt

Written By: Lubna Sunawar

History of Pakistan is replete with the sacrifices made by soldiers in defence of this motherland. Complete world has witnessed how our soldiers have risen to their towering heights in defence of their borders, their land and their nation against enemy aggression. Our heroes have always kept our flag high by successfully stopping the internal and external enemies in completing their nefarious designs.

Capt Muhammad Bilal Sunawar Shaheed is one such officer who sacrificed his life for this country and made all of us proud. Commissioned in Pakistan Army with 108 PMA Long Course in 2003, a fourth generation officer, Capt Bilal was part of Operation 'Rah-e-Nijaat' that was successfully undertaken in 2009 by Pakistan Army. He was part of an operation that shall be remembered in golden words in the history of not only Pakistan, but all great armies of the world. Tables were turned and with minimum civil casualties, Taliban were evicted from that region. Peace and smiles returned to the locals. But the price was heavy. Deep behind the smiles of the people, red blood of our soldiers glittered.

my bro my hero 1My pen trembles as I begin to write about my brother, Bilal. My eyes get wet when recall his shining face. But I always smile with pride because he rose to the highest level of grace and laid his life. Whenever I'm asked to pen something for my brave brother, I don't know how to even begin to move on. How can I? He deserves more. As a sister, I know that my valiant brother was a very dedicated person prepared to take any risk and face any challenge. A proud father, Col (Retd) Muhammad Sunawar who has lost his brave son, feels proud for Bilal's supreme sacrifice for the motherland. Bilal's beloved mother is not alive as she passed away just a year before his Shahadat, but she must have been proud to be known as Martyr's mother today and that she instilled the highest virtues of bravery, passion and sacrifice in her son.

When I look back at our childhood period, we laughed together and cried together. My brother was the only person who could finish my sentences and knew what I thought when I was silent. Bilal was an amazing person - intelligent, thoughtful, loving, caring, giving, and understanding. He was my shoulder to cry on. My brother instilled some of the greatest lessons in life in me especially after Ammi's (my mother) sad and sudden demise. I love him and miss him with all of my being and with all that I am. Losing a wonderful relationship of a mother and a sibling is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life. It is something I never thought would happen.

While performing his duties at the time of his Shahadat, he was busy in a fierce battle with the Taliban at Pash Ziarat (Waziristan). He kept his cool, encircled the militants and boldly charged towards them with his troops while leading from the front. The terrorists were completely taken aback by the bold counter-attack by Capt Bilal and his troops. 2nd Lieutenant Kaleem who accompanied him during the operation narrates: “Capt Bilal was leading his troops from the front whilst trying to protect his men and showed extraordinary courage to close on a coward enemy.” His professionalism under pressure and ability to remain calm in what was a chaotic situation, is testament to his character. During the conduct of same operation, he was shot by Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) in his chest which resulted in his Shahadat. The troops narrate Capt Bilal Shaheed's performance as “Selfless, brave, courageous....” Words like these do not come close to what Capt Bilal demonstrated that day. He will be missed by all as a commander, but most of all a good mate. A real self-starter, he excelled in everything that he undertook.

Bilal was my closest sibling and a dear best friend, a real gentleman with a kind heart. It's so painful to know that he is gone and I keep thinking about all those things we did together as a family. If I could be granted one wish, it would be to kiss and hug him for the last time. Capt Bilal and his troops did a remarkable job. They have risen to defend Pakistan from the aggression of the enemy. They have sent a clear message to terrorists that they would never ever accomplish their objectives. They sacrificed their lives to defend the homeland against the evil designs of militants. Our heroes of the defence forces are battling with the extremists and not allowing them an inch of the country to be occupied. The nation is proud of sons like Bilal and it truly recognizes their sacrifices and repects them for their bravery.

Bilal is still my best friend and my inspiration. He still gives me the strength to go on when I feel I cannot. He still gives me encouragement, advice, and strength though it may be in his own little way – in a dream, in a song I hear, through the perfect sunset or blowing wind, he is still with me. We as a family miss him each and every day. There is not a minute that goes without him when he not in our thoughts. And with all of the wonderful things you taught me, you still live through me. In everything that I do, You will always stand by my side! “I call my brother Bilal – my true angel” who has always shown me the way in the darkness around.

As a foreign research scholar, I'm working on U.S. War on Terror and its implications for Pakistan. This has been my foremost effort to highlight sacrifices of Pak Army in front of diplomats, researchers and think tanks, and have always tried to prove the fact that our army has acted like an iron curtain against internal and external enemies. Captain Muhammad Bilal Sunawar Shaheed was awarded Tamgh-i-Bisalat (TBt) posthumously for his sustained display of conspicuous bravery and leadership. Bilal, you will be remembered as a gentleman, as a good leader, a loving and caring son and, the best brother in the world. The whole nation is indebted to you.

May you live in the eternal Peace and Happiness always. Ameen

The writer is a PhD Scholar at National Defence University Islamabad and is on a Fellowship Program at American Graduate School (AGS), Paris (France). This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
14
December

She Makes the History: Maryam Mukhtiar, the First Female Pilot of PAF, Embraced Martyrdom

Written By: Syed Sajid Bukhari

“No one can defeat a nation that has daughters like Marium,” said Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman on Marium’s martyrdom. Marium Mukhtiar was born on May 18, 1992 in Karachi and she was the second eldest among her two siblings – a brother and a sister. She was the daughter of Col. (R) Mukhtiar Ahmed Shaikh and brought up in a sacred environment where passion for martyrdom always prevailed. After graduating in Civil Engineering from NED Karachi, she expressed her wish to join Air Force as GD Pilot. Her father knew the hard work involved in joining and serving the armed forces and knew it would not be easy. Marium was resilient and passionate so she refused to back down because she wanted to rule the skies. She joined PAF as an Aviation Cadet in the 132 GD (P) course in 2011.mariammukhtar.jpg She went to PAF Academy Risalpur with seven other female Pakistani cadets who underwent training and graduated as pilot officers. Pakistan is infact among the few Muslim countries in the world who has been employing women as fighter pilots and offering them the same training as their male counterparts since 2006.

Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar was commissioned in PAF Academy Risalpur on September 24, 2014 – the day she recalled as the most fortunate and jubilant day of her life. She was posted to PAF Base MM ALAM to get trained as a fighter pilot. She started to get this hard and rigorous training with full zeal and zest. On November 24, 2015 Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar and her instructor-pilot Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi were on their routine operational training mission in a PAF F-7PG aircraft. Over the Kundian, Mianwali area, about 175 kilometres southwest of Islamabad, the aircraft developed a serious technical malfunction.mariammukhtar1.jpg That was the critical time to decide, “to be or not to be”. The situation so developed that she and her co-pilot, Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi had to eject from the aircraft. She lost her life during the process as she was forced to eject at low height to clear a populated area. Both pilots took care of the crisis with polished methodology and strength to save the aircraft till the last possible time, guaranteeing security of property and the human life. Maryam embraced Shahadat and became the first ever female pilot of Pakistan Air Force, who embraced martyrdom. She rightly said to her father, “When a pilot embraces martyrdom, you only find the ashes, not the pilot.”

In a condolence message, COAS General Raheel Sharif said, “She was indeed a role model for women and pride of Pakistan.” The martyred lady pilot has made history and we can only hope that her example will encourage other females to follow in her footsteps. The sombre loss of Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar made the entire nation gloomy but proud as martyrdom does not end something, it is only the beginning.

Marium Mukhtiar, the first female fighter pilot to die on operational service, lost the appropriate height required for ejection as she stayed in the aircraft to maneuver it clear of the populated area.

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