“Where are the Heroes??

Where are the heros2

By Gen Tariq Khan

It was a sad day, windy and dark. We were burying Col Anwar. He was killed while defending his country at the battle of Kalaya. His Wing had been overrun by militants from Afghanistan. He had counter attacked with whatever was available and won back the ground but died because of multiple wounds. The ceremony was silent but for the military orders to the funeral guard. A somber affair. His father stood silently with the occasional tremor of a sob suppressed as he clung on to his dignity.

Then there was the case of Captain Miraj; my unit officer a sword of honour, who I always remember swaggering out of the din of battle with a smile on his face. He had fought too hard for too long. I decided to relieve him and send him on a short course to the United States. He was designated to be my ADC on his return. I buried him too after he went out of his way to save a police patrol that had been ambushed at the Ambala Pass, Buner and was killed in the process.

I forced down the lump in my throat as his mother held on to me whimpering helplessly. There were hundreds of such cases and even more stories to tell. I would have told them but no one is interested to learn about these souls who were lost only in a futile hope that this could one day become a better country. But then we have an Achakzai who publically states that they only did what they were paid for so why should he be obligated.

Of course he would never understand what is meant by an obligation being a highly ungrateful declared traitor who has managed to put his entire thieving family into government one way or the other. Then we have our intellects who remain confused that this was not our war. I am available to give them an education at their convenience but I strongly suggest, that as was once famously said, that they first get their facts straight before they choose to distort them.

With this bitter response from some of our leadership and a total indifference to the courage and character displayed by the few to save this country where a nation is so starved for direction, identity or values, at first I was disappointed. However, later, I realized that any recognition, gratitude or appreciation coming from such small minded people – men of straw, in the face of such honorable men, doing the honorable thing, would in any case be meaningless.

These young men, someone’s son, somebody’s husband, some child’s father were buried and bid farewell with far greater dignity then any of these people were capable of mustering in a life time. But then, we now have the new phenomenon – that of glorifying death and eulogizing these poor souls. We do this as an alternative to the inevitable inquiry or questions as to why were these lives lost in the first place. Incompetence is never discussed, negligence is never the reason, accountability has never been an outcome.

As the Nation is distracted by photo sessions displaying false condolences. We parade the poor parents around who then talk of providing another few sons to die as well. The process shows authorities reaching out with compassion, understanding and ownership while the victims are displayed as patriots who display unusual national zeal and fervor. I call it a farce.

So who are our heroes? I wondered, if these young men were laid to rest with such anonymity and forgotten so quickly, there must be people in this country who could be remembered for the things they had done. Surely there should be some people who could draw respect, admiration and deference to be remembered long after their bones were interred. It’s why I decided to look for these heroes – our national protagonists.

The movers and shakers of Pakistan. But the names that came up were of strange people; controversial, contentious and provocative with a damning history. Either they were convicts, convicted of some petty crime, or they were absconders who had fled the consequences of their omissions and commissions. The dead were idolized for the crimes that they did such as Qadri for killing the Governor of Punjab yet others were claiming that Osama Bin Laden was a legend.

We have Asma Jehangir, the Joan of Arc of Pakistan and now Khadim Rizvi suddenly the voice of millions. Justice Seth who wanted to drag Musharaff in the streets and hang him publically as the public at large cheered him on, admiring him for his courage – courage in the face of what, is still a moot question. In this vein I await the passing of Mullah Aziz Burqa in anticipation of being entertained by the spectacle of the unholy worship he shall draw to his person.

Then there are the living marvels, Marvi Sarmad, another popular figure who sticks to her slogan my-body my-business while outspoken Jibran plays out his liberal rhetoric. His concern is the missing people, who are occasionally discovered terrorizing the armed forces. Then of course there are the Hamid Mirs, who always have a cause and as long as it’s against the government it would do and if it does not exist then it is invented. My question is, that does Pakistan really have no good people to emulate, quote or stand up as examples? Is this all what we have?

If this be true then I take that famous argument against Islamophobia, ‘that we are not all bad, it’s just a few that give us all a bad name’, with a pinch of salt. We are all guilty. We stand for pedophiles, we suppress women, we mistreat children and as a society our heroes and heroines are those who we able to abuse power, or exploit ideology for their own purposes. This is who we are.

The one common binding factor of this motley bouquet of heroes and heroines is that they all hate the ‘establishment’. They do so gleefully, with pleasure and dedication. They compete to do it and cheer encouragement to one another. Backs are slapped in appreciation in proportion to the insult, the howling and laughter reminds me somewhat of jackals hooting in the wind. I have always wondered if they hated the establishment for who they were or for what they do.

For the former, there is no recourse and criticism would come regardless of what the establishment may or may not do. For the latter, maybe the Establishment needs to look into the famous idiom that ‘respect is earned and not demanded.’ My suggestion is to withdraw from public life and focus on training, planning and administration leaving others to do what they do best call each other names and mismanage the country.

Can we survive this moment and should the Establishment protect us from ourselves or should it just watch the drama unfold from the sidelines as ignorant, half educated, poorly informed fools wrestle with the same matters every day? This is really the question. What should it be? People like to show General Miley’s speech, the US Commander of the Armed Forces, about his infatuation with the US constitution and how loyalty to an individual was not a priority but that the defense of the Constitution was the holy grail of conduct.

People are so impressed by this statement, they present it to make a point but really do not understand themselves what the point is. It’s enough to quote it and hope that maybe from it shall emanate the right accusation at the right institution. Let me suggest to them, that if that were the case here, the continual violation of the Constitution by Governments on a regular basis makes a vwry good case for the Establishment to follow Miley’s reasoning. Let then the Establishment protect the Constitution – would that be acceptable or should democracy, as Zardari put it, remain that revenge which is still in search of vindication?”.

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