United Nations

Martyred in the Line of Duty

April 2022 witnessed the purest love of the natives of Kashmir for their beloved motherland, Pakistan, in form of martyrdom of a brave son of the soil, Lieutenant Colonel Asif Ali Awan, who sacrificed his life for Pakistan, which is in the blood of every household of Kashmir. 

Lieutenant Colonel Asif Ali Awan Shaheed, who belonged to Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), was a brave soldier who sacrificed his life while serving on a United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission in Congo. He was not only a competent army officer, but also an expert pilot who had the dream to become a soldier since his early childhood. It was the reason his father sent him to Burn Hall College to study after his schooling. Later, he joined Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in 1999. He was from 104 long course, which was the beginning of his never-ending journey. He wanted to become a pilot so he chose Army Aviation as a career and served as an experienced flying instructor who taught many cadets. 
Like every Pakistan Army soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Asif Shaheed had an immense desire to represent his country. Once, while performing Umrah, he asked his friend who was with him, to pray for his martyrdom. He told his friend that it was his innate desire to sacrifice his life in the name of Pakistan and his prayers were fulfilled. He was sent on a UN Mission in 2016 for the first time and in February 2022, he went on a UN Mission to Congo for the second and last time. On March 29, 2022, he, along with his five companions, took flight to an urban area of Congo. During the flight, their helicopter faced a technical issue. They had two options; either to use parachutes to save themselves and let the helicopter crash in a populated area, or to save them first by bringing the helicopter out of the town towards an unpopulated area.  The brave Pakistani soldiers opted for the second option. None of them were willing to save their lives by putting many in danger. They brought the helicopter out of the urban area and proved themselves as the greatest peacekeepers. The brave Kashmiri along with his companions proved that his life was meant to be sacrificed in the name of their beloved country. His coffin was brought to Muzaffarabad on April 3, 2022. The sky was astonished to witness the mesmerizing scene when thousands of Kashmiris received him with tears in their eyes and pride in their hearts. From the main road to his residence, all the way was carpeted and residents were standing on the roofs of their houses with rose petals in their hands. Everyone was chanting Pakistan Army zindabad, Pakistan paindabad. His three little daughters received his coffin along with their mother and a grandparent. He was buried with guard of honor, with thousands of wounded, yet proud hearts. He was the heart of Kashmir. 
Today, after a year of his martyrdom, we got the honor to spend some time with the proud father of the martyr, Mr. Mohammad Illyas Awan, who is a retired range officer of forest department. He shared many memories about his shaheed son while answering our questions. 

In acknowledgement of the martyr’s sacrifice, 5AK Brigade not only displayed his photo on the ‘Wall of Martyrs’ in Army Public School, but associated a new unit of pre-wing’s building ‘Lt Col Asif Saheed Unit’ after his name as well.

While sharing memories of his childhood and family, the father said, “I have two sons and three daughters, Asif was on the fourth number. He always remained a very brilliant student. His childhood ambition was to become a pilot, to fly high in the sky and no doubt, he has really worked hard to achieve his dream. He was fond of playing cricket and was among the best debaters of his institution.  If I talk about his personality, he was a very kindhearted person, a caring son, a helpful sibling and a great soldier. He was a hardworking student who had proved himself by achieving third position in the Mirpur Board examination of SSC.”
When he was asked about the martyr’s passion for serving the motherland, he responded, “Asif Ali was a patriotic Kashmiri who wanted to join Pakistan Army from his childhood.  When he got a position in Board Exams, his decision and desire got stronger. He wanted to do something for Pakistan to elevate the name of his country in the world. He always seeked martyrdom and his desire has been fulfilled now.’
Mr. Illyas, the proud father spoke about his family, “Asif Ali has three daughters; the eldest one is thirteen years old, the younger one is twelve years old and the youngest is only six years old. He was the most caring father and a caring son as well. Inspite of his very busy schedule, he used to call us on a daily basis.”
When he was asked how he came to know about the martyrdom of Lieutenant Colonel Asif, he said, “When Asif’s martyrdom was confirmed by GHQ, my eldest son received a phone call from Asif’s unit, and as he was being told about the helicopter incident in Congo, the same news was being aired on every television channel. None of us were in our senses to accept the news. I can not forget the bitterness of death which I felt in every cell of my body at that time. Asif’s wife was unconscious, his daughters were crying bitterly, his mother was sitting on the prayer mat and was praying continuously, wishing that the news may not be true. Within seconds, our home was filled with our relatives and residents of Muzaffarabad. Every eye was tearful and every heart was weeping. Here I would like to share the feelings of the natives of Kashmir. The care, the love which every Kashmiri has for the motherland, Pakistan, must be written in gold. The people of Kashmir are very kindhearted, caring and brave. They not only own their motherland, but are always ready to sacrifice everything in the name of Pakistan. After the confirmation, I went to Rawalpindi. It’s the most difficult moment for an old father to receive his young son’s coffin and Almighty had selected me for this toughest task. When I came back with my Asif, I was speechless to see how the natives of Muzaffarabad received him. He was brought to his home on shoulders as Almighty had listened to him and fulfilled his immense desire of martyrdom. His funeral is a witness to the deep love of Kashmiri households for Pakistan. We are the sons of our beloved Pakistan, always ready to sacrifice in its name.”
Talking about the martyr’s family, he said, “Asif’s family is living in Rawalpindi at the residence provided by Pakistan Army. I and the rest of the family are living here in Muzaffarabad. It is not easy to show patience on such a great loss, but his family and we, being the parents, are getting the blessing of patience as we believe that martyrs are always alive. Before April 2022, people knew my family to some extent because of me, but now the whole world knows me and my family because of my Asif Ali. I believe he is among us, feels our emotions and stands beside us through thick and thin. I have given my heart to my soil and I am proud of it.”
When he was asked to give a message, he concluded by saying, “I, being the father of the martyr, would like to advise you to inculcate patriotism into your children. Tell them to acknowledge the importance of their motherland, encourage them to show their love by standing firm and ready to sacrifice anything in the name of our beloved Pakistan. Live for the motherland and die for it. As far as myself is concerned, my world and hereafter is safe and secure because of my martyr son. I am sure he will hold my hand and bring us with him to heavens.”
In acknowledgement of the martyr’s sacrifice, 5AK Brigade not only displayed his photo on the ‘Wall of Martyrs’ in Army Public School, but associated a new unit of pre-wing’s building ‘Lt Col Asif Saheed Unit’ after his name as well.
This is the devotion of Kashmir for our beloved Pakistan. We not only acknowledge the importance of our motherland, but we are always ready to die for its sacred name. May Almighty keep our country and its people in his immense care and countless blessings. 
Pakistan Army zindabad,
Pakistan paindabad!

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