.Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.
Pakistan’s too numerous Martyrs
It is more difficult, and it calls for higher energies of soul, to live a martyr than to die one. Horace Mann
Turned on the TV early morning and heard the news of more Pakistanis getting martyred. These 7 handsome young men were serving in the disputed area of Kashmir when Indians started firing. The nation again saw the pictures of its martyrs followed by footage of mourning relatives and a dignified funeral with uniformed armed soldiers paying respects in the military way. Have been watching such funerals just too many times, might be time to do something about this tragic issue. A bit of research made me discover the number of martyrs in Pakistan from 2004 until the end of 2013.
Civilian deaths 48054
Civilians killed by drones 416-951
Pakistani security forces 5498
Children of APS and students of Bacha Khan University and many later victims are not included in this figure and can make it look worse. Too many for any nation, probably one the highest in the world. The other troublesome fact was that despite losing so many innocent people we are always viewed suspiciously, asked to do more, and blamed for problems around the world. While it is desirable to glorify the martyrs but our glorification zeal should not distract us from questioning why we have so many martyrs, apparently an unending supply. Are we getting too callous with the lives of our young? Were these ultimate sacrifices necessary? Could their deaths be prevented? Was it someone’s complacency and negligence?
We have to establish the fact the martyrs might be our heroes but they are also victims, very tragic victims. Although it is desirable to have people willing to die for a cause but someone lusting for death is certainly abnormal. We must stop venerating death, something we have done too long. On national days most are expressing their desire to die for the country and never to live and work for it. Instead we should encourage our youth to live with ideals, something even more challenging, In our zeal to glorify our dead as martyrs we shouldn’t create a further generation of young men seeking early, violent death to be called martyrs and neither lose sight of the causes of this heavy loss of lives.
Someone who sacrifices his life for his nation or ideology is considered a martyr and glorified. Naturally for their sacrifice and bravado they are held in high esteem in every culture. Our forces are trained to kill and whenever there is a martyr it is a failure somewhere although certain numbers of casualties might be inevitable in a conflict. There are two kinds of martyrs, uniformed and armed soldiers who voluntarily get into dangerous situations, then there are involuntary martyrs who were not fighting or facing danger but got into wrong place at the wrong time like APS children. We have had more than enough of both these kinds. In the second kind, it is always failure of someone or some government organizations that let it happen and must be held responsible.
The major reasons for our extremely troubling high frequency of loss of life are our eagerness to get involved in too many wars and secondly our inability to curtail violence effectively. This is despite having one of the highest numbers of armed uniformed men in Pakistan and many government security agencies enjoying lavish perks and privileges.
Pakistan was born in 1947 with estranged relations with India due to Kashmir, like we say in Punjabi “Sharika”. This hostility did cause and is still causing loss of lives in both covert and open wars. Later we got into a habit of getting into unnecessary foreign wars. We entered the not so cold war in 1979 fighting the Soviet Union in which we sacrificed but US won. We were cunningly sold the narrative that it was our own war giving us an absolute euphoria of beating a world power at the demise of USSR. This led to megalomania of a small but influential segment of Pakistan resulting in its support of fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and the world over. During this time the world changed and our support for noble jehad became support of terrorism.
This policy of supporting covert operations was a disaster internationally. We were effectively ostracized and even friends like China and Iran have complains against us. Our neighbor Afghanistan for whom we risked our own security, welcomed millions, has become the most venomous critic of Pakistan. Had we not started op Zarb I Azab this isolation would have worsened.
Mushrooming of irregular outfits we called Jihadists overflowed in our society too and we started having sectarian along with communal fights. We fostered strange ideas of strategic depth and tried to influence our neighboring countries. Violence of all kinds and shades became acceptable and the monopoly of the state vanished.
All these series of blunders committed in the 80s and 90s have resulted in the current pathetic condition of Pakistan. Despite having a very high number of martyrs we are the only country in the world whose size has been constantly shrinking whether in 1971 or Kargil or Siachen. Much of the world is annoyed with us and many are fighting their wars in our country resulting in major loss of life and property.
It is pointed out by many academics that Pakistan’s eagerness to get into other’s wars wasn’t as benign as some led us to believe. In the process of entangling us in foreign wars some of us got opportunity to rule long terms, many made fortunes while the common man paid the price in blood. This must stop.
To undo the follies of our past we must start with our commitment not to support or nurture violence of any kind. In one voice the society must give a stern message to armed groups to disarm and anyone who challenges states monopoly over violence must be crushed.
Once we have disinfected ourselves then we ought to find the remnants of interests who put us in this difficult situation and make sure such state of affairs never arise again. We have to build a competent diplomatic core and hand them over the responsibility of running the foreign policy, biggest defense of a nation.
This will allow us to focus on our people and invest in them as they are our most valuable national asset. Divert resources towards health and education.
Then we must find out the inefficiencies and shortcomings within out state apparatus letting the massacre of APS children and many others happen. If GHQ, air and naval bases can be attacked it has to be someone’s fault but I am not aware of any such inquiry or its report, or the punishment of the negligent. This impunity must end. We should criticize and correct our institutions for their complacency and slackness while refraining from insults or ridicule and punish those responsible of these tragedies.
Pakistanis are the most wonderful people. Intelligent, energetic, enterprising and unbelievably resilient, whenever given an opportunity they have worked miracles. They certainly deserve better. Pakistani blood is valuable and must be protected and valued, even from themselves.
“Na samjho ge mit jao ge ae Hindustan walo
Tumhari dastaan bhi na rahe gi daastanon me” Iqbal
*please substitute word Hindustan with Pakistan