(In memory of Maj Syed Riaz Manzoor Shaheed - Martyr of UN)
Mankind has always been beset by the 'difference’; of opinion, of faith and of way of living. Few 'constants', however, remain unwilling to be changed or reduced to 'insignificance', whatever the miracles the science can bring about; these are humanism, virtue, justice, honour, charity, selflessness and above all the 'sacrifice'. Life is an expression of sacrifice; may it be at home or at battlefield. Every specie sacrifices to endure the continuity of the coming generation. What, however, lends reverence to the process is the element of 'Choice'. The choosing of the option with a measure of consciousness brings the sanctity due to the 'sacrifice'; otherwise the process does not go beyond the word 'compulsion'. In what cause, for what principle for whose sake; this is what makes the choice so sublime and sacrifice so venerable. Martyrdom, however, assumes the loftiest pedestal. Imagine the goodness of a soul willing to shuffle off the garment of physical life for the sake of others.
Traditionally, a soldier personifies a figure who values his life as a 'trust' and is willing to offer it in the pursuance of his cause. Pakistan Army puts a high premium on its men and officers who keep the 'flag of motherland' high, no matter what the cost is. Friends and Foes are all full of praise for this selfless fact. Combat or comfort, crisis or calamity, challenge or danger, battlefield or peacekeeping, the 'Men of Honour' of Pakistan Army have always outshone their compatriots in prevailing against the challenges. While all the domains that fall within the ambit of army obliging it to deliver, involve own nation; the peacekeeping shines forth as an entirely different enterprise involving the betterment of other nations. This particular dimension adds to the importance and far-reaching impact of the role that a Pakistani soldier has to perform in the international milieu and with the multi-nation force. Every soldier represents the national ethos, embodies the national character and reflects the national spirit.
The journey of humanitarian service by Pakistan Army under the aegis of United Nations spans well over half century; with the deployment of first contingent in Congo in 1960. Serving all across the globe in 23 countries with 41 missions, the Pakistani Peacekeepers (including police and para-military forces) have proven to be the veritable arm of the nation projecting its standing and proving their competence. The challenges surmounted in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Heiti have become the part of their folklore. And the sacrifices offered by Pakistan Army in Somalia are the part of the chronicles of United Nations history as well as the part of tradition of our own glory. The Somalian mission of Pakistan Army remains unsurpassed in terms of the commitment with the cause, capacity to persist against the challenge and the ability to humble the hazards flung upon an unsuspecting body of peacekeepers doing its service to humanity by a rogue and unruly militia (Somali National Army-the militia of Somali clan leader 'Farah Aideed”) that had the least ethics for the combat or armed engagement.
Somalia is located in the 'Horns of Africa' with its coastline running along 'Arabian Sea' and 'Gulf of Aden'. The northwestern part remained a protectorate of British from 1884 and its northeastern, central and southern parts remained a protectorate of Italians from 1889 until in 1949, when it came under United Nations Trusteeship. In July 1960, after the two regions were united, it was given independence. In 1969, Mohammad Siad Barre seized power until, in 1991, his government collapsed as the Somali Civil War broke out. The famine, drought, starvation and inter-clan killings ensuing the civil war ravaged the country's infrastructure and its people. By end 1992, more than half million people were killed and more than 3 millions were displaced. The world got alarmed over the humanitarian crisis and United Nations deployed its first mission UNOSOM-1 in December 1992. In line with its commitment to the humanity, Pakistan was the first country to deploy its contingent in Somalia earning international accolades for its positive commitment for international peace.
5 June 1993 was a routine calendar day like any other day. But not for Pakistan Army and men and officers of 10 Baloch Regiment. It had in its womb the premonitions that a Peacekeeping Force could never construe to be of any meanings detrimental to their mission as well as existence. But as the day unfolded, the tragedy unfolded too, making the accounts of a heroic tale that was written by the blood of Pakistani soldiers in the line of duty. A company size strength of 10 Baloch Regiment was assigned the task of carrying out an inspection of the 'Weapons Depot' owned by General Farah Aideed, in line with agreed upon commitment. Located in southern Mogadishu on 21 October Road, the site was reported and confirmed to be a neutral place by United Nations Staff. The unsuspecting peacekeepers of Pakistan Army, rather imbued with the spirit of avoiding clash and combat, made to the site. The roadblocks, gun brandishing and jeering by the unruly mobs enroute, however, signalled the antagonism all around. Avoiding to do anything that could incite or provoke the situation, 10 Baloch set about to inspecting the cache.
While the team was calmly into the task, the unprovoked fury unleashed. Militia of General Farah Aideed were cunning enough to wait and time their well planned assault on the troops of United Nations/Pakistan Army. With a massive fire of small arms, machine guns and RPGs from well-hidden positions, a battalion of gangsters ambushed the Pakistani troops, who not only reorganized themselves well, but reacted back with striking punch to them. The sense of danger and will to persist was inbuilt in the combat response of our troops. The fighting ensued and the casualities, too. Major Syed Riaz Manzoor Shaheed (Sitara-i-Jurat) was commissioned in 10 Baloch Regiment in 1984. The professional standards earned by him over his highly demanding, albeit brief career speak of the professionalism of an infantry soldier. He was chosen for the formidable part of the operation, as a recue and evacuation commander for the beleagured comrades at the combat site. While the vulnerability was a given, his ability to outdo it was also a given. Sense and sacrifice were to be his swords in surmounting the challenge. He employed both and did the miracle.
Fighting his way through upto the combat site, Major Riaz effectively engaged the enemy combatants, carefully avoiding the shield of ordinary women and children that distracted the peacekeepers, and quitened the hostile guns. The toll was expected and expectation came true. While leading the rescue and evacuation operation from the front, the commander willingly exposed himself to the danger. What else can be the choice of a true commander in the face of the danger; he has to grapple it to down it. Major Riaz prevailed upon the danger, resued the comrades, evacuated the wounded and surrounded to safety but not without cost. His courage cost him the bullets in the chest; a true sign of an honourably fallen soldier. 24 soldiers and one officer of Pakistan Army laid their lives for the sake of humanity and country. In recognition of his unsurpassed courage in the face of the danger and his supreme sacrifice, this 'son of soil' was honoured with the prestigious operational gallantry award, 'Sitara-i-Jurat', posthumously. His manly portrait adorns the wall of tea bar of 10 Baloch Regiment but his soul must be in the blessed hall of heaven. Pakistan Army and the nation are proud of and grateful to their Shuhada, forever.
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