Honouring heroes: A tribute to the men of Siachen

Published: April 16, 2012
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No one’s life, be it a Pakistani or an Indian is expendable; no one's life is just to give away. PHOTO: FILE

Disaster and tragedy struck the Siachen glacier in the early hours of the morning of April 7, 2012. More than 135 of our finest were buried under snow and suffered a painful death. This is the biggest avalanche that has struck our army men over the last 20 years and a loss that cannot be measured in words. One can hardly imagine living under such extreme conditions, leave alone suffocating under over 80 feet of snow. It is a terrible tragedy indeed.

The army’s presence in Siachen is especially close to my heart as my late uncle was stationed there a few years ago. I vividly recall my family’s constant struggle with accepting that he may or may not return. I also remember the anguish of my ageing grandparents as they sat on the edge of their seats fearing the worst and dreading every single knock at the door. Fortunately, my uncle returned home safe and sound much to our family’s relief. Other families, however, were not as fortunate – they will never get to see their sons, husbands, brothers and friends again.

No one’s life, be it a Pakistani or an Indian is expendable; no one’s life is just to give away. These soldiers spent months and months on end under agonising conditions. They trained day and night in one of the most inhospitable environments in Pakistan. If there’s one attribute that is absolutely true of our army men, it’s that they are relentless in their pursuit to protect our country. They are exemplary men who can be remembered as examples of patriotism, courage and charisma.

This blog post is not about why our men were deployed in Siachen in the first place; I fully understand why they had to be there, and I want to abstain from getting into the moral implications of the border conflict. This post is to highlight what these men have done for us; their ‘battlefield’ being a vast region of towering monstrous mountains, the most dangerous landscape in the world with chaotic rubble-strewn glaciers tumbling into valleys. Whether one is pro-army or not, this tragedy is not about allegiance. This is about the precious human loss of our brave jawans (soldiers) who left the comfort of their homes to protect us.

I am not generalising the public sentiment of Pakistanis as the vast majority of us feel the tragic loss and realise the sacrifices made by these soldiers and the civilian support staff when they sign up for the job. This is evident as there has been quite a lot of talk going around about how our media did not give such a tragic event the kind of coverage it truly deserved. They should get over their anti-army sentiment at a time like this and realise that this tragedy is above bias, politics, donors and other worldly things. Let’s not criticise the efforts or motives of those who died. Instead, we should give them the respect and recognition they deserve. To do otherwise is disrespectful and degrading to, not only the departed but to the nation as a whole.

Sadly, highlighting the obvious shortcomings of our media or government will not change what happened. I would like to apologise to the families of those killed in the avalanche on behalf of the ignorant minority who have discredited them. They certainly did not speak for all of us when they showed such irreverence towards the irreparable loss. Their behaviour is inexcusable. These soldiers’ families should (as I am sure they are) be proud of the sacrifice their loved ones have made for us. Their bravery will never be forgotten; their memories and continuing sacrifices will not fade away.

If tragedies could end wars, India and Pakistan would have made peace in 1947. Sadly, this is not the case. Arguably, the conflict is futile and one that exists because of the larger-than-life egos of two neighbouring ‘enemy’ states. All the same, whilst our nations continue to fight the seemingly never-ending and perhaps futile stand-off, nature will undoubtedly keep taking its revenge by taking the lives of our brave countrymen. To my fellow citizens, my plea to you is to continue honouring these martyrs and praying for their souls and for their families.

I would like to end with the poignant words of Laurence Binyon:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them. “

Read more by Aima here and follow her on Twitter @aimaiqbalHRW

Aima Iqbal

Aima Iqbal

A Barrister and an Academic (BBA, LLB Hons, LPC, BPTC, M.Phil) who takes a keen interest in International Law and is currently doing research work which focuses on International law and its impact on anti-terrorism legislation.

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