A soldier’s life, irrespective of his religion, nationality or socioethnic inclination, is usually strewn with multiple challenges that he is made to face sporadically all along his career. During the course of his professional life, he is faced with all kinds of dangers, perils and uncertainties–something that is seen as a part of the life around being a soldier. In the wake of 9/11, Pakistan as a nation has rendered an enormous sacrifice in terms of both human life and material. Indeed it’s a bloodclad story of innumerable sacrifices of Pakistanis as a nation to include both soldiers and civilians alike.
Brigadier Ammar Ali is one living example whose life is a beacon of true inspiration and a source of pride for Pakistan. Born in October 1974, Brigadier Ammar had Joined Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) with 88 Long Course in 1991 and posted to 68 Baloch Regiment in 1993. As a Captain, he had served as GSO III in an infantry brigade and remained employed along the Line of Control (LOC) in 32 Brigade during the escalation period from 2001 to 2003, and remained involved in plenty of fire engagements and recovery operations at Keran bypass, Neelam Valley. As a Major, he had served as a Brigade Major in Infantry Brigades twice, including a tenure in a deployed Brigade during Operation Al Mizan in Swat. He remained actively involved in Operation Rah-e-Rast from 2008 to 2010 as a Major, and experienced plenty of action in the shape of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), fire raids and ambushes.
He got promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2010 and commanded a Rangers wing during Karachi operations as part of Sachal Rangers. During the discourse of the operation, he narrowly survived a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) when terrorists hit Rangers Mess in Karachi and a twin IED blast under Nazimabad bridge, where many soldiers from protection party were injured and one embraced shahadat. The officer was rewarded with COAS Commendation Card for extraordinary performance during Karachi operations.
As Colonel, he remained Colonel Staff of an Infantry Division and also served as Deputy Contingent Commander of Pakistan Contingent in Central African Republic in 2017 in an extremely hostile environment.
Brigadier Ammar Ali assumed the command of 34 Mechanized Brigade in 2018. In 2020, he was ordered to move his Brigade to the most volatile and terrorists-infested stronghold of South Waziristan. Throughout the period of his stay, in an area considered to be the bastion of terrorists, he commanded without even a single fatality, which is a testimony of his extraordinary leadership and brilliance of command, albeit there were injuries suffered during many operations against terrorists. Many terrorists’ endeavors were thwarted and intercepts clearly showed that terrorists were crippled, exhausted and forced to retreat.
Owing to sheer frustration, the terrorists finally resorted to their old cowardly tactic of striking below the belt. To target a hospital facility, school or an ambulance not only contradicts laws of engagement internationally, but it is also considered highly immoral and unethical. A major terrorist action was planned by the terrorists to target a quarantine facility in Ladha High School, where troops coming back from leave used to stay for two weeks before proceeding to their units. The facility housed around 250 individuals, mostly without weapons, except those performing the guard duties. The checkpoints and troops were repeatedly sensitized to remain extra vigilant during night, and night vision devices (NVDs) were accordingly provided to keep observation during the night. On a dark night, a checkpoint on the adjacent ridge line across Ladha observed some movement along the boundary wall of the quarantine facility, which was promptly reported to Brigade Headquarters. A fighting patrol was moved and quickly established contact with a terrorist group, which had come prepared with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), grenades and ladders, to conduct an operation similar to Army Public School (APS) Peshawar. However, due to the prompt response, terrorists were forced to abort this action and they ran away leaving their weapons and equipment behind.
On August 11, 2020, while the Brigade Commander with his protection force was moving from Makeen to Kanigurram, near the bridge at Ladha, a young boy walking on the road came closer to the Brigade Commander’s vehicle and exploded himself. This resulted in a serious damage to the vehicle which came to a halt. Brigadier Ammar, the only passenger inside the vehicle, was seriously injured with multiple splinter injuries to the skull, eyes, upper body and was profusely bleeding.
This botched attempt dropped a dampener on the terrorists, who then realized that it was the Brigade Commander due to whose policies they were getting thoroughly battered every passing day. They therefore, pledged to exact revenge on the Brigade Commander. This was highlighted when an intercept was received where terrorists had asked their local commander to seek permission from the top leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to target the Brigade Commander.
Having visualized the looming threat, necessary precautions were taken and contingency rehearsals were completed. It may be noted that by that time suicide bombing had become a rare phenomenon and mostly terrorists’ actions got reduced to roadside IEDs and fire raids. On August 11, 2020, while the Brigade Commander with his protection force was moving from Makeen to Kanigurram, near the bridge at Ladha, a young boy walking on the road came closer to the Brigade Commander’s vehicle and exploded himself. This resulted in a serious damage to the vehicle which came to a halt. Brigadier Ammar, the only passenger inside the vehicle, was seriously injured with multiple splinter injuries to the skull, eyes, upper body and was profusely bleeding. It took a few moments before the officer could gather his senses and quickly grasped the situation. There was a real possibility that this blast would be followed by a fire raid. Moreover, the amount of blood lost was also a serious concern. However, this was where training and contingency planning came in handy. Brigadier Ammar dismounted the damaged vehicle and checked on the rest of the personnel. Troops were immediately deployed and a few speculative bursts were fired. At this stage, it was decided that there was a need to immediately reach out to the nearest medical facility, lest excessive blood loss should take the toll. A single vehicle carrying the injured Brigadier Ammar along with a gunman was moved and reached Brigade Headquarters after 15-20 minutes, where first aid was provided. Unfortunately, the doctor was unable to stop the bleeding and a request for evacuation through helicopter was sent. Initially, it was decided to evacuate him to Peshawar, but continuous blood loss forced change of plan and the officer was taken to FC Hospital Wana, where emergency surgery was carried out and the life of Brigadier Ammar was eventually saved.
Subsequently, treatment continued in Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar, CMH Rawalpindi and Armed Forces Institute of Ophthalmology (AFIO). The officer suffered serious damage to left eye and left part of the skull and face. Owing to serious multiple injuries, though the officer was placed in permanent medical category ‘C’; however, his sense of nationalism, motivation and spirit to serve his motherland inspired him to continue his services in uniform. He is currently performing the duties of Regional Commander of Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) for the Northern Region.
The author is a retired Cavalry Officer. He is a historian and a regular contributor to The Nation.
E-mail: [email protected]
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