(Lieutenant Colonel Amer Baig Mirza and Major Umar Baig Mirza embraced Shahadat in 2005 & 2009. Their families, today, carry the spirit of martyrdom and the resolve to sacrifice even more for Pakistan)
These days it has really become difficult to keep up with the mass media debates on defining a 'traitor,' the norm of labelling one as a traitor as opposed to a loyalist has become the norm of the day. Sometimes the mere use of terms like: 'martyr', 'patriot', 'nationalist' etc blurs their actual meaning, and as a nation we're experts at doing that. For instance, though ironically, the most-quoted figure of at least 51,000 people, including over 3,500 security personnel, killed in terror acts in Pakistan since 9/11 attacks remains a lifeless figure for many. Of course, yet it is a worrisome moment for all of us as a nation.
In our villages, towns and cities, we come across many families who have lost their dear ones, for no other cause but defending the motherland. These families make us proud due to their unflinching faith in the country, and in the cause for which their loved ones chose to die happily. These families are always seen determined to carry on with the mission of defending the country and it values, the way their loved ones who sacrificed happily while serving the country.
One such family is that of Major Umar Baig Mirza and Lieutenant Colonel Amer Baig, brothers of the current Commandant 'Command and two martyer2Staff College', Quetta Major General Shahid Baig Mirza. All three brothers were commissioned in 11 Punjab Regiment; a Battalion that their proud father, Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Abdul Haq was also part of. “Both of my martyred sons and my eldest son Shahid were passionate about joining the army and wanted to follow their father. He was one of the prisoners of 1971 war and young Amer used to say that he would join the army to take his father's revenge from Indira Gandhi,” tells the proud mother Zaib-un-Nisa.
“I remember Amer got his arm injured in the earthquake of October 2005, but he kept working for rescue operation without taking rest. Amer and Umar were both much passionate for shahaadat and that they loved Pakistan more than anything,” she added. Zaib-un-Nisa further shared the grief of losing her sons, “it is unexplainable to lose your children but then I feel proud of being the mother of courageous sons who sacrificed their lives while serving for the country. Even their wives are to be commended for putting up such a brave face in the difficult times and bringing up the children in such a nice way. I am proud of them,” she said. “Though Umar was younger to Amer bhai but both were very close to each other,” tells Asma, wife of Umar Baig (shaheed). Recalling the earthquake of 2005, Asma tells that they were stationed in Bagh, where Lt Col Amer and Major Umar were serving in the same unit, 11 Punjab. “The families of all the officers were pulled out immediately and a week later, on Oct 15, 2005, I was in Rawalpindi when Umar's helicopter crashed,” her voice begins to tremble.
The helicopter was on a relief mission and Major Umar Baig Mirza was guiding the pilots to reach to the affectees. It wasn't the first mission for young Umar who had done several relief operations since the October 8 earthquake. Although Umar wasn't asked to go but he volunteered to accompany on the pilot's request for a difficult mission in an uncertain weather. Lieutenant Colonel Roghani, Captain Alamdar and others who embraced martyrdom in the crash shall never be forgotten because of their devotion to duty. “Initially it was very difficult to come to terms with the entire situation, my children were too young and one is never ready for untimely death. But I got strength with the passage of time and by realising that my husband died for a cause – he saved many lives in the relief efforts – his country was his only passion,” she says.
Lieutenant Colonel Amer had always romanticised Shahadat and ever since the death of Umar he became very expressive about his thoughts on martyrdom. “When I got married to Amer, within a few days he had started talking about his desire of Shahadat. When he joined military, he not only spent time at Siachen, but also volunteered for Kargil War in 1999, but he didn't get a go-ahead then,” says Aniqa, wife of Amer Baig (Shaheed). And then on May 27, 2009, an explosives laden vehicle rammed into the gate of ISI office in Lahore that resulted in the death of at least 26 people and injuring many. Lieutenant Colonel Amer Baig Mirza was one of the two ISI officers who embraced Shahadat in the incident. “If there is anything that has kept me strong in tough times is the way Amer carried himself after Umar bhai's Shahadat. He was very calm and composed and kept the entire family together. For Umar's family, we moved to Lahore so that we could be around the children. I had seen him cry for his brother all alone but in front of his mother and rest of his family, he put up a strong demeanour – and that has exactly been my inspiration ever since Amer left us,” she says.
Both Asma and Aniqa (both first cousins) tell that their sons, 10-year-old Ahmed Umar and 17-year-old Adnan Amer are passionate to join the army and someday will wear the uniform. As mothers, where it is definitely a proud moment, but then the lives of officers are so tough that their families often find themselves in difficult situations.
“It has been a tough journey as a wife of an army officer and I can't begin to imagine how it would be as a mother, if at all Adnan decides to follow his father and his uncles. But I will always support him and there is no doubt about that,” says determined Aniqa. “For Ahmed the image of army is still something that he can relate to, the only memory of his father because he was only one-and-a-half-year-old when Umar died and today all he has are the memories and the great work that his father and uncles have done for Pakistan,” says Asma. Owing a debt of gratitude to such valiant sons of Pakistan, 30 April, also known as the Yaum-e-Shuhada (Martyrs' Day), the nation commemorates each year to pay tributes to such unsung heroes who died for a cause – a cause to defend Pakistan at all costs.
The writer is a journalist based in Lahore.
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