Let’s not forget my brothers, the men of Siachen

Published: May 22, 2012

Life at Siachen is not easy; your lungs squeeze from inside as you gasp for air and your heart beats at supersonic speed to keep the blood running. PHOTO: AFP

The sentries changed duties and the humble started preparing to bow before their Lord, oblivious of the misfortune they were about to meet.  Just about the time when darkness cracked and light approached, with an intimidating thump and a spine chilling swish, thousands of tons of glistening snow descended on the 150 helpless souls, crushing and destroying all that came in its way.

The entire Battalion Headquarter was gone within seconds and I, along with thousand others, lost their brothers in arms.

Once again we are left to mourn and bewail the deaths of the brave sons of the soil, who were mercilessly crushed beneath thousands of tons of snow at the highest battlefield on this earth. Customary lip service was paid by the political hierarchy and within a fortnight, the debacle was lost in oblivion.

Many people have voiced their opinion; some rightfully questioning the decision of keeping our forces at such a perilous location, while there are still some who blatantly comment about the wisdom of keeping forces at Siachen.

Let me tell you what life is like at Siachen.

Your lungs squeeze from inside as you gasp for air, your heart beats at supersonic speed to keep the blood running through your veins and every part of your exposed skin stiffens and cracks due to the extremely arid and cold weather. Primary bodily functions become a challenge to perform and a short stroll to the call of nature seems like a horrendous task.

When the sun shines, you are blinded by the sheen that bounces off the snow. If you are unlucky enough to be travelling when the weather turns bad, the beaten tracks are swiftly covered by the snow and you are left to traverse amongst hundreds of crevices and interstices; as if plunging one foot after the other into almost waist deep snow wasn’t enough.

While my heart cries out for my brothers and the families that are left behind with the cumbersome task of adapting to a hollow life, I witness the multitude of people debating on the sanity of maintaining forces at Siachen.

Though we appreciate the concern and certainly reject the notion of sustaining forces at a needless location, one must also appreciate the fact that this particular one was imposed on us. Our new found friendly neighbour of late, forced us to retaliate and send our forces to Siachen. Once the Indians had occupied the heights of this icy wasteland, we had to send in our sons too.

So, to decide if Siachen is a strategic point or not, why don’t you take the Banerjees and the Chatterjees online like many anchors do to inquire about various topics for their programs, and ask them?

Meanwhile, we didn’t want to go to war over Siachen or to fight the war on terror on our soil. But for our motherland, we don’t question, we just follow.

The hapless unfortunate souls deserve, at least, a dedicated day of mourning, don’t you think?

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Should there be a national day of mourning for those who lost their lives in Siachen?

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R K N

R K N

A former major of the Pakistan Army.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • MUAS

    What is the status of rescue work in Siachen? Are our soldiers still buried in glacier?Recommend

  • Ahmed HM

    Its a sad fact that a 12 hour Twitter ban has generated more articles on ET than this tragedy that cost precious lives.

    ‘Though we appreciate the concern and certainly reject the notion of sustaining forces at a needless location, one must also appreciate the fact that this particular one was imposed on us. Our new found friendly neighbour of late, forced us to retaliate and send our forces to Siachen. Once the Indians had occupied the heights of this icy wasteland, we had to send in our sons too.’Recommend

  • Ali

    There is no similiar outcry when civilians die like Bhoja and Airblue crash, perhaps the important people of the country are the army. In Pakistan, the civilians serve the army and not vice versa.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Ummaid Ali

    NO NO NO NO NO
    We cant afford national days, freaking nobody works.
    Business is closed. Work on EID if you have to.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Ummaid Ali

    How can be mourn all day watching star plus and Style 360 at home after you give a national holiday. Think about it… Work hard to make freaking roads there … MAKE THE DAY A ROAD DAY , OR A PLANT DAY …. OR ANY DAY OF WORK… FOR DEvELOPMENT..
    not just sit and home and watch POGORecommend

  • syed

    very nice propaganda article……………..waiting to see new corruption scandals in siachen rescue operation………..MONEY MONEY MONEY………………Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Bannerjees and Chatterjees? Looks like you still haven’t recovered from your East Pakistan hangover my friend. We definitely prefer that you guys don’t vacate Gayari, we might look a little silly perched up there all alone. Thanks for the support.Recommend

  • Hindu Indian

    @Author, How can you blame us for death of your soldiers, as far as the race to Siachen is considered, both India and Pakistan wanted to “own” it, it so happens that we reached there first. And you guys occupied lower ranges. You guys even tried to occupy Kargil in the name of Siachen. I think its high time you guys forget Kashmir/Saichen. Its a closed topic as far as the rest of the world is considered Recommend

  • KASHIF NISAR

    nobody mourns 70 deads ahmadis killed by terroristRecommend

  • saia

    There shall be if its gonna be declared a national holiday…hell ya !!Recommend

  • Aamir

    This article is so full of propaganda. After the 1949 delineation agreement, Pakistan started to lay claim to the area that was not marked on the agreement. In 1984 our “Best Intelligence Agency in the World” proved too much for India as when Pakistan tried to send in their soldiers to the highest parts of the glacier they sere surprised that the Indian had got wind of the plan and had already sent in their troops. The Pakistan Army then made one blunder after another getting our “sons” killed trying to dislodge the Indians, and losing our highest post in the process. One of these swashbuckling generals was none other than Musharaf.
    Later the Indians presented among others, (from a position of strength) an offer to make Siachen a DMZ, or to decide mutually about the delineation and withdraw troops. But since Pakistan “Ka Muwaqif Saaf Thaa”, that all the glacier is ours the Indian’s response of “well then try to take it from us” was not surprising.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your explanation for sending our army into Saichin is just not convincing and now keeping them there for so many years and after this incident seems even more illogical.
    No where have you touched on the money involved on the Siachen adventure.
    If you are suggesting a holiday then decidedly no. A day of mourning is another matter. Recommend

  • http://shahzadmanzoor.wordpress.com/ Shahzad Manzoor

    never…. we already have so many national holidays. Respect for the martyrs but we can have Memorial day in rememberence for our siachen heroes. but Holidays are not in anyway supposed to be supported. We are off almost whole year, no control on strikes that is disturbing our education. we have 4th april for Butto, 27th december for Mohtarma we have so many religious holidays also thts enough.Recommend

  • http://shahzadmanzoor.wordpress.com/ Shahzad Manzoor

    i support national day of mourning but not holidays making it a reason i meanRecommend

  • manish

    “So, to decide if Siachen is a strategic point or not, why don’t you take the Banerjees and the Chatterjees online like many anchors do to inquire about various topics for their programs, and ask them?”

    what does this mean?Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    Do you know what really, really saddens me. Your typical Pakistani public giving more attention to Veena Malik and all the things concerning women and morality. I am surprised that we have such a gold-fish memory and don’t take time to remember what has really happened and who really needs our attention. If it were’nt for our boys in khaki, those low-lives would’nt be able to bash America and pass remarks about women in ‘Western’ clothing over a burger and a coke. Very negative, I know. But this is the bitter dope we all must swallow…Recommend

  • Hashmi

    Salute to the brave sons of soil. Salute.

    It is silly that media thinks it has the credibility to dictate defence policy, they are no one to know and decide if Army stays in Gyari or not.Recommend

  • Naumann Malik

    In Islam there is only 3 days of mourning. Nothing more, nothing less, hero or not. Period.Recommend

  • Vigilant

    Salute to the brave soldiers who are keeping the enemy at bayRecommend

  • antony

    @VIgilant, “Salute to the brave soldiers who are keeping the enemy at bay” when your brave soldiers were buried under thick snow did the so called enemy from siachen glacier come down from the peaks and took advantage ? ..Think!!Recommend

  • bangash

    Major Sahab should question the Generals who make these decisions.Recommend

  • Salman Arshad

    More than three days of mourning after death is haram.

    And we need to be ashamed of forcing our soldiers to die in the cold with no objective given and no strategy thought out for taking the peaks back from India.

    You want to celebrate our superiority complex ?

    we civilians have been sacrificing our education, health and wellbeing for the honour and haughtiness of our patriotic generals.. and instead of being ashamed of that, you want to celebrate that?

    A Holiday for this tragedy would be a joke thrown at those who sacrificed their lives.. Those men need to be honoured.. And the only way they can be honoured is by telling the generals to apologize to the nation for sucking it dry and leaving committed men to die for nothing.Recommend

  • Deb

    How these Banerjees and Chatterjees are related to Siachen issue?Recommend

  • Kaalchakra

    Great idea. But we should not be sad for the brave Pakistani soldiers and their families. These were great ghazis fearlessly defending Pakistan and Islam. Their reward is Jannat and all the wonderful things that we all know Jannat offers. Who, among you, would not like to get all those things, if he or she can be equally assured of the same?!Recommend

  • Iqbal73

    They were professional soldiers. They knew what they were getting into and if the cause is just there is no need to orchestrate extravagant grieving. In fact, not many are aware that this whole cult of “war memorials” and “tomb of the unknown soldier” is a relatively recent invention that came into its own less than a century ago in the aftermath of World War I. The Nazis were into this type of over the top lionization of the “Fallen Hero” big time and that was a large part of the reason why post WWI Germany remained stuck in war paradigm more so than other powers until it stumbled into WWII.Recommend

  • Zeta

    Thankfully someone still remember those soldeirsRecommend

  • Zeta

    Indians are the reason Pakistani troops have to keep watch at that place.
    1984 shouldn’t be forgotten so easilyRecommend

  • Hindu Indian

    @Vigilant: I dont know which “enemy” you are talking about, if it is Taliban, then they are happily beheading your soldiers with very little response from your Army, if it is the US, they kill your soldiers and your country is still expecting an apology from them, and if it is the perennial enemy, India, we have always been at bay, its you guys who cross over and provoke us, Recommend

  • John B

    I think more PAK people died in flood and in terrorism than in Saichen.

    PAK govt propaganda figure says that terrorism alone killed 25000 -35000 people. I think in PAK soldiers life is more important than civilian life.

    What happened in Saichen is a tragedy and nations should be prepared for it if she goes in for high stakes operations.

    National day of mourning for an avalanche induced death is not very honorable for soldiers death.

    I think mourning should be observed for the flood and terrorism victims.

    National day of mourning should mean something beyond the immediate cause. Recommend

  • Sane

    @Writer
    Salute to our Martyr soldiers. We will always be with them in saving every inch of our homeland. Kargil could have been a graveyard of Indians, if the global conspiracy could have been averted.Recommend

  • Tony Singh

    @Sane:
    The world sides with the truth. In case you have forgotten, let me remind you, you have lost every war you fought with Indians since 1948.Recommend

  • http://707monty.blogspot.com Pakistan politics

    Pakistan Army ZindabadRecommend

  • wrong choice

    These soldier’s lives would have been saved probably if they were posted to fight terrorist on western border instead of posting in Siachin on eastern front, for no use at all.Recommend

  • Khan

    The loss of life is tragic but we need to really question why is the Pakistani Army in Siachen in the first place? How many billions must the military siphon off that could be used for education, health, and economic development.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Sane: “Kargil could have been a graveyard of Indians, if the global conspiracy could have been averted.”
    What global conspiracy prevented Pakistan from slaughtering Indians? India could have easily let Bangladeshi take care of your 93000 brave soldiers who surrendered in 1971 when your army killed 3 million of your East Pakistani country men.Recommend

  • ayesha_khan

    @Author:
    1. Pakistani soldiers have not beeon Siachen since 1984. They areon western slopes in Gyari sector. The entire Siachen is occupied by India
    2. The definition NJ9842 and thence north implies that even according to India Pakistan agreement, Siachen belongs to India.
    3. Please simply out th word Siachen in google and read the wiki entry. It is Pakistan that had planned to occupy Siachen. India found out and beat Pakistan to it.Recommend

  • realist

    Ah, here comes the Siachen story again! Pak needs to man up or just pack their bags from gayari and leave.Recommend

  • Love it !

    RIP soldiers .Isn’t it irony we get leaves on death of political leaders ? What good they do for us ? I fully support the idea of mourning day. I am not saying to make it a national holiday, but just so we all can say prayers for our brave soldiers. and then get back to work . Recommend

  • safriz

    @Zeeshan Ummaid Ali:

    you want people to over work themselves to death?
    National holidays are a way of giving people a break and a day to provoke nationalism by provoking a common sentiment based on a personality or incident..Whats wrong with that?Recommend

  • Zafar

    It certainly deserves a day. There is no harm in that. Infact it was supposed to be the day when this tragedy actually happened. Two bodies are recovered if we go by TV news channels. Nonetheless Salute to these brave souls.Recommend

  • M.H

    @Ali:
    ‘There is no similiar outcry when civilians die like Bhoja and Airblue crash, perhaps the important people of the country are the army. In Pakistan, the civilians serve the army and not vice versa.’
    I don’t think you watch T.V very often. If you did you would know that people mourn for civilians as well. And PAK Army is there when the civilians die or are in need of help. You must remember the earthquake of 2005 and the recent floods. And the rescue operation of Bhoja Air crash was also carried out by Pak Army. The people of Pakistan are the ones who get inducted in the army.
    Please comment responsibly. Recommend