Pakistan’s soldiers: The sons of our soil

Published: March 23, 2014
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Pakistan is not merely a country for its soldiers. It is our determination to look the enemy in the eye with such valour that he dares not set an evil glance on our borders. PHOTO: REUTERS

Since 1984, the Pakistan Army has been fighting a war on the highest battlefield of the world, the Siachen Glacier. Although there have been periods of temporary ceasefire, they have always been followed by severe aggression from both sides.

During one such hostile period in 1987, a high altitude post of the Pakistan Army at the Siachen Glacier was commanded by my uncle who was then a captain. He had been there for five months and had no hope of being relieved in the near future because of the escalated tensions and harsh weather. One day he was sitting with his troops in the igloo listening to a radio program that aired from Islamabad.

One soldier was peeling potatoes for dinner, another was reading a letter from home, possibly for the hundredth time and two were lying in their sleeping bags trying to rest since sleep was usually the last thing on their minds. They had numbed themselves to the memories of their homes and families.

In the program on the radio, listeners would call in and ask for their requests to be played along with a small message. My uncle told me that after a few such calls, the radio host began to read a letter which was probably sent by a soldier’s wife or relative. The letter read that the sender wanted to dedicate a song to a young soldier who had gone to war at Siachen and was sitting somewhere far away from home, unable to call back. The letter said that he/she wanted this song to be dedicated to this soldier whom all his friends and family missed dearly.

The host, without missing a beat added,

 “We will play this song for your friend and for all our brothers-in-arms who are away from their families, in unknown location and perhaps, in very difficult conditions only so that we all can be safe, enjoying the warmth of our homes and our families. For that, we are all very grateful to them.”

And with that Amanat Ali’s voice came on air with the song, Aye Watan Pyare Watan.

My uncle recounted that although the reception was weak, the voice quality was poor and with each passing moment, the temperature continued to fall; but the fire that song lit in the hearts and souls of those men blazed and blazed, harder with each passing verse, as they sat cramped in that single, little igloo in a snow-covered wasteland.

No one said a word. The soldier peeling potatoes kept peeling one after the other, the one reading the letter finished it and crept into his sleeping bag, the other one got up and began to get ready as his shift was about to begin, and my uncle kept smoking and listening to the song.

The only thing that changed, were the thoughts of these men.

As the rhythm of the song became steady, so did their heart beats. Their minds cleared and everyone’s thoughts, love, spirits and ambitions became focused on one point, one singular aim, one unified goal. These men had a great responsibility on their shoulders – the responsibility of guarding the land which had given them an identity, a sense of belonging and a respectable life.

They were guarding their country, their homeland.

This incident has left a deep impact on me since the first time I heard it. Even today when I sit in my bunker at night and recall my uncle’s story, I always end up misty-eyed. My love for my country is hereditary and reverberates in my chest with the beating of my heart.

National and patriotic songs had a great influence on the Pakistani nation. My grandfather, a war veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars, told us that once during his night-guard round of the defences, a new recruit of his company was talking to his friend. He said,

“Noor Jehan de ganey sun ke fauj te bharti te hogya, par jadon lardna pa gya te ki howe ga?”

(Noor Jehan’s songs made me join the army but what will I do if I actually have to fight).

There have been many instances in our history that have made me believe that a common man is not very different from a Pakistani soldier. After all, he shares the same worries, the same fears, the same love and the same patriotism for his country.

As the news of the Indian assault on Lahore reached the city, the people of Lahore actually marched to the border to fight for their country, shoulder-to-shoulder with their army. It did not matter that they did not wear a uniform because the passion of a patriot is not measured by his attire. My grandfather once told me that an old man who had volunteered to come and fight at the Wagah border and had said,

“Pehley meri chaati te goli wajey gi, jey mai mar gya, pher merey weeran tak pohchand gi.”

(First the bullet will hit my chest, and if I die, then it will reach the soldiers.)

And I can never forget the story that my grandfather told me about a young girl standing and waving to the army convoy going to the Wagah border, with her doll in her hand. My grandfather was part of that convoy. There were people all around busy buying halwa puri – the conventional breakfast of Lahore –but once they spotted the convoy, they started running along the vehicles handing over whatever they had to the soldiers as a token of love.

The little girl ran up to my grandfather’s jeep and offered her only possession – her doll. Arm stretched, the girl called out to the young officer,

“Sir ji, guddi le lo, sir jee, guddi le lo.”

(Sir, please take the doll.)

This patriotism, this sense of owning soldiers as your own sons, is a wonderful feeling and I can proudly say that I am lucky and honoured to be a soldier and protector of this nation and this country. I truly believe the words,

 “Mere mehboob watan, tujh pe agar jan ho nisar mein ye yamjhoon ga, thikaane laga sarmaya-e-tan.”

(Oh my beloved homeland, if I die for you today, I believe that my purpose in life will be achieved.)

For a soldier, this piece of land means much more than I can ever explain in words. For us soldiers, this land is sacred. Its soil is as dear to us as our mother’s embrace. Its winds, whether they blow hot or cold, remind us of our mother’s caresses. Everything about it – its fragrances, its diversity, its terrain – reminds us of our homes and our mothers.

Pakistan is not merely a country for its soldiers. It is our determination to look the enemy in the eye and stand our ground; it is our will to fight until we give our life. It is our courage to face an enemy stronger than us, and that too, with such valour that he dares not set an evil glance on our borders.

This is a country where mothers, wives and sisters happily send off their sons, husbands and brothers to fight for their homeland and pray that they embrace death before dishonour.

This is a country where a mother’s eyes swell with tears of gratitude to the Almighty that her son has died a martyr’s death when her son’s body comes home wrapped in the crescent.

This is a country where a soldier’s death does not lower the spirit of the nation. Instead, it breathes new life into it.

We, the sons of the soil, fight for it until our last breath because this country, this land, this soil is our heritage, our spirit and our pride.

A.F.H

A.F.H

Loves his country, his mother, his soil; for her he bleeds, he sweats, he toils.

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

  • bangash

    all we are asking you to do is wipe out your own creation : the crazy jehadi killer. But you have failed there miserably also. Looks like you will now negotiate over the bodies of 50,000 dead Pakistanis and withdraw from FATA, damning Pakistanis to decades of militant mischief from their Emirates in FATA.Recommend

  • Ammad

    ExcellentRecommend

  • Trollhunter

    Salute to the soldiers. ET should be fighting for an Indian Troll free comment section.Recommend

  • Parvez

    For our soldiers this land is everything………………completely agree.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/1209/asad-k/ Xeric

    Wonderful piece. Raised my heartbeat as if i was once again back at Siachen.Recommend

  • ravi

    Every country respects its soldiers. B it indian or pakistani. The soldier fights the ideology which is the real enemy and not the person he fights.

    War is clash of ideologyRecommend

  • Ali S

    I hate to play the devil’s advocate here, but exactly what does the 60% of the budget that the army consumes and the famed ‘bum’ have to show for in terms of development? Some hard facts: Pakistan Army has lost every battle it instigated with India and ended up losing half of its population circa 1971 as a result of one. I respect the Rangers, FC and police officers along with most low-ranking sepoys who put their lives on the line everyday to protect us, but the loaded army generals and intelligence chiefs are one of the roots of Pakistan’s problems.
    Also, ever wonder how come all the ‘brave’ soldiers who say that “the bullet will hit my body first then the army” are the ones who live to tell their tales with very little battle experience?Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @author

    If they love their country so much why aren’t they taking on the terrorists head on ? Please answer.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Also did pakistani soldier gave their country a single victory in any of the war they fought, when they consume 50% of a country’s GDP.Recommend

  • Falah Ud Din Sheryar

    Tooo much emotional….. greatly writtenRecommend

  • Moiz Omar

    My grandfather is a veteran of the 1965 War. He served in the Pakistan Army Engineer Corps. Recommend

  • Hasan

    Propaganda. What about the rest of us who don’t get paid lavishly and are not the ones who have never won a war?Recommend

  • Dq

    Wipe the jihadis?? they are the one who created themRecommend

  • ajay gupta

    If ur country did something other than fight & kill, probably u wud have a better countryRecommend

  • Salman

    No one is asking you desperate Indian! Go and comment on some Indian website!Recommend

  • Abdullah

    Salute to the Brave men who risk their lives just to make sure that we can sleep safely at night. We are so proud of our soldiers. May God bless you guys. Recommend

  • SS

    Sir ji, i don’t want you to die because you’re no good to anyone if you’re dead. I want you to live for your country.Recommend

  • Thinkofitagain

    While I appreciate what our soldiers do, I couldn’t help but think
    What makes a soldier more of a “son of soil” than a doctor shot dead for administering polio drops? Is not a journalist killed by religious fanatic also a son of soil? The thing is we as a society have not matured beyond a childish perception of valour. Bravery need not ALWAYS mean to spray bullets on the enemy. As a result we have lost sight of our real enemies – corruption, ignorance, intolerance and HYPOCRISY – things that have killed more people than all the wars put together ever did. And unfortunately the media also aides in this over glorification of military thereby keeping the military-industrial-mullah complex perpetually in business.
    Therefore all I say is any person working for the betterment of our people no matter what profession is equally a “son of soil” if not more. If at all being a polio worker was as glorious as a soldier, we would have been polio free today.Recommend

  • Abdul

    Spot on sir!Recommend

  • Anwaar

    agreed on the point that it a soldier who finds the bullet in his chest …

    lets talk about the Generals … how about we cut the budget of army .. then we’ll see how patriotic these Generals are….Recommend

  • Civilian

    yup, the DHA lands and the cantonments…:)Recommend

  • JustSayin

    That is what the article says no? Yes it’s written by a soldier and focused on soldiers, but he seems to acknowledge that he alone is not the son of the soil. “There have been many instances in our history that have made me believe that a common man is not very different from a Pakistani soldier. After all, he shares the same worries, the same fears, the same love and the same patriotism for his country.”Recommend

  • Agha Husain Ahsan

    As the singer wrongly said I am not a victim of any ghalat fehmi, nor I
    am fond of meeting some one on the other side of border, my Quaid very
    clearly said “they don’t mean what they say and they don’t say what they
    mean” I can live with them as a peaceful neighbour only if the Kashmir
    issue is resolved and Kashmiris can live in Kashmir peacefully.Recommend

  • Ali

    1949 Kashmir War Victory (Otherwise Azad Kashmiris would have also been stabbed and prisoned for cheering for Pakistan). 1965 War( Otherwise Lahore would have been India right now). 1971( They were outnumbered and surrounded, fighting two wars, one a civil war against Bengali separatists another against Indians with no leadership). They are freezing in unbearable cold weather of siachin so people like u who haven’t held a stick in their lives can live a decent life and not shine shoes of some Indian Baniya.Recommend

  • Ali

    If u want to be an advocate at least get ur facts right. They consume 15% of the budjet not 60.. Had Pakistan army lost all or even most of its wars, u would be calling urself an Indian rather than a Pakistani. Ur hard facts seem to come from some ridiculous Bollywood movie. Even though Pakistan army is vastly outnumbered they still have won 3/4 wars against India.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Funny that only military and mullahs seem to be celebrating 23 March mostly these days while the event of 23rd March 1940 had nothing to do with either; it was all done by civilians not military, and mullahs were squarely opposed to Pakistan movement. Have we lost the way? Most assuredly.Recommend

  • winston

    Wars have never solved anything, the war heroes are always dead and are remembered in history booksRecommend

  • winston

    Son of the soil, Youaf Gilani was the son of the soil, he bankrupted the country, Musharraf was not son of the soil, he did wonders thinkofit againRecommend

  • winston

    oh like you do to the christians and muslims in india,, like Babri mosque and buring the churchesRecommend

  • Ali Faraz Haque

    I never wanted to be part of the comments section but now that you have directed the question directly to me, so I had to answer. Sir, Pakistan Army had been in the state of war against these Pakistani Taliban’s for more than a decade now, incase you didnt notice, your SWAT and PATA was nearly out of your hands. We accepted the wishes of the nation, made a peace pact and we all saw what it lead to. Heard of the Peochar valley? Thats the place where the complete SSG division of Pakistan Army was launched. The complete division was inducted through air drop or para jump, INCLUDING THE GENERAL OFFICER COMMANDING OF THE DIVIVSION, Let me clear that up. The General who was commanding the force jumped from the aircraft with a parachute straped to his body, and fought the war hand to hand.
    Sir, if I may ask a simple question, had the nation not been blaming the army for killing and fighting their own people for a long time? This hue and cry of getting rid of the Taliban started when the explosions started going off in the cities. That’s when the nation ACCEPTED that this war is ours. The army had been taking on the terrorist head on since 1999, and incase you didnt notice, we have restricted them to one FATA Agency i.e. North Wazirstan.
    Sir, in my experience, honestly, a soldier considers KPK his home even if he belongs to Karachi and vice versa, thats why he leaves home and goes to fight a war that most of the people here dont know anything about and find it convenient to post and malign the army.Recommend

  • Ali Faraz Haque

    Sir you want to measure patriotism? OK, can you exchange the happiness of seeing your children growing up in your arms for the lavish pays the army men have? Your fondest memory when you grow old will be remembering the cute things your kids did when they were growing up. Ask a general, or any other army man. He never has those memories and let me tell you, Nothing, nothing is more precious to a father or a mother than seeing his kids grow up infront of them. Many of my own friends, who fought alongside me, WHO could have been the generals of tomorrow are not with us today, trust me, what my friends have achieved in the next world is unknown to me, but I know one thing, they would be begging God to take all that away for a glimpse of their son or daughter that they never even had the chance to see after they were born. If money can buy that, I am willing to sell myself to have that. Are you willing to die for the country?Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Neither an indian nor a Pakistani. You need to learn your history from a neutral source not a revisionist Pakistani school textbook. Role of Pakistani soldier in the liberation war of Bangladesh. They were no angels. Indian Muslims created Pakistan or it wouldn’t be a country today. Culturally Pakistan inherited indian cultural ethos/tradition and food. Now it has adopted Arab traditions to its detriment. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Thanks for taking time to reply. As an author you should be ready to answer your curios readers if you pen a blog :) My follow up question. Why Pakistani arm force has such a large portion of GDP money allocated for them if they cannot provide security to its people from terrorist. They do get very preferential treatment compare to many Pakistani civilians ???? I am not a Pakistani but a global citizen who fears for global security because the threat emanates from Pakistan. Recommend

  • truepakistani

    are you ashamed of saying you are indian? why hide behind the term “global citizen”?Recommend

  • Rapto

    Dude! it sucks to be in the army!Recommend

  • Ali Faraz Haque

    Pakistan army is the seventh largest Army of the world, and the only one that is being confronted at national, international and domestic levels simultaneously. Pakistan Army is not only deployed at the international borders of Pakistan but is also taking care of the internal security issues plaguing Pakistan. Furthermore, Pakistan army is the only organization in Pakistan that responded and carried rescue and relief operation in earthquake hit northern areas, flood hit central Punjab and Sindh, and draught hit Balochistan and Thar. Pakistan army is on a high alert on every important event in the country. They might not patrol the streets in armed patrol cars or you might not see troops patrolling the roads as it causes un necessary alarm, but they are standby 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year. May it be holding of elections, desalination of canals, census, electricity bills survey, holding of anti terrorist courts, anti dacoits operations, anti terrorist operations, flood relief, earthquake relief, war on terror, military standoff between india and Pakistan, you name it and you will find Pakistan army ready and alert.

    Now, lets come over to the financial aspect. Have you heard of the folowing

    Fauji Fertilizer Company Limited
    Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Limited
    Fauji Cement Company Limited
    Fauji Kabirwala Power Company Limited
    Foundation Power Company Daharki Limited
    Mari Petroleum Company Limited
    Fauji Akbar Portia Marine Terminal Limited
    Fauji Oil Terminal And Distribution Company Limited
    Pakistan Maroc Phosphore, S.A., Morocco
    Foundation Securities (Pvt) Limited
    Askari Bank Limited
    Askari Cement Company
    Askari General Insurance Co Ltd
    MAL Pakistan Ltd
    Askari Securities Ltd
    Askari Aviation Pvt Ltd
    Askari Guards Pvt Ltd
    Askari Enterprises Pvt Ltd
    Askari Real Estate
    Askari Projects (Woolen & Shoes)
    Askari CNG
    Askari Farms and seeds
    Askari Welfare Sugar Mills
    Blue Lagoon & Army Welfare Mess
    FWO
    NATCOM

    These industries, firms and business along with the foreign exchange earned through UN Peace Keeping Missions around the globe Pakistan Army generates 12-13 % out of its total budget of 16%. The account books and the media does say that army gets 16% and that is true but what the media or the people funding the media in some cases dont want you to know is that army generates most of the funds itself. Every soldier and officer that serves in the Pakistan Army, has his income tax deducted and paid to the CBR before it even reaches his bank account.

    And finally, the preferential treatment, I would love to answer about that too, if you would be kind enough to tell me when did any officer or a soldier got preferential treatment.

    As for not protecting its people. Let me state some figs here

    Till Feburary 2010, approx 20,742 militants had been Killed by the Pakistan Army, by November 2007, approx 488 foreign fighters killed, 24 others arrested and 324 injured. These figs are neutral and are available on the internet. Pakistan army has the highest causality rate and the highest ratio of troops to officer casualty rate in the world. With all due respect sir, how do you think army is not protecting its own people?

    Lastly, the threat does NOT emanates from within our frontiers. The question is threat to who? Pakistan was, still is and will always be a supporter of peace. Pakistan Army is the largest troop contributing country for United Nations Peace forces around the world, not only we fight for peace within our borders, we strive for world peace. Pakistan as a country is being robbed of its waters, of its peace and tranquility by the very nations who term us a threat to the global security. Why cant, the whole world unitedly intervene and solve the issues that are important to us? Why cant, the UNO implement the security counsel resolutions for Kashmir? Why didnt you, as a global citizen raised your voice against indian nuclear tests and also kept mum when sanctions were slapped on us when we conducted ours?

    The world should thank its stars that Pakistan and the Pakistani nation still fights to make this world a better place when we are treated unjustly by our own neighbors. When it comes to the world, I dont see my nation abandoning its army. I am proud of my nation, I am proud to be its defender and anyone who terms my country or my nation a threat to world peace, insults me and my country. I might forgo the former but when it comes to my country, I will protect its honor with every breath in my body. For me, my country, and its honor comes first. Let there be no doubt about that.Recommend

  • hoshiar singh gill

    wouldn’t you agree that these are Universal traits of soldiars and sons of soil belonging to all countries .No desrespect to Pakistani soldiars or sons of soil!Recommend

  • Dq

    And bahria town too…Recommend

  • Anwaar

    like i said im fine with the soldier whos at the front nobody can compare to him… but for corrupt generals like zia ul haq and musharraf , well you know what i mean….Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Thanks for the answer! Now i am fully convinced and have full confidence in Pak army. Long live pakistan :)Recommend

  • Ali Faraz Haque

    Dear sir, you had a 5 years term of a democratically elected government, it is still there and If things go well, you will have a straight run of 10 years of democratic government. All I would like to ask is, how is it treating you? And secondly, out of the two generals you named, one has already expired. The other is under trail, by a free judiciary. I believe you have reservations regarding the transparency of the the army, lets hope you get satisfied by the judicial system of Pakistan.

    The greatness of a leader is not that he confirms to the will and wishes of his nation, the greatness lies in doing the right thing in the interest of the country, without caring if the decision taken is well received or not.Recommend

  • Ali Hemani

    Sir,
    You have misinterpreted the article. The writer is actually complementing the common man.

    Excellent article. My salute to the author and our armyRecommend

  • Ali Hemani

    @Mehdi
    You are being emotional. There are certain constitutional binding and there are some strategical decisions… Without the support from the sitting govt. army cannot take them headon and if they do we will find people demoralizing them and if that happens —– it will be hard for any army in the world to win the war…. Your support is required….. Note: I am not an army officer nor I have any close relative in army.Recommend

  • Ali Hemani

    Sir,
    With due respect if you are not Pakistani then the “GDP” & “Preferable treatment” point should not be your concern. This point pertains to Pakistani. Now that you have raised these points, I’ll respond to you and I hope you will agree:
    When I am sitting on a chair and my father comes in a room. Now there is only one chair and i am already sitting. What do you expect me to do…. I’ll leave the chair for my father….

    Argument for the sake of argument should be avoided.

    Global Security —- its a lengthy subject to debate. Simply, I would say If Global Security is a real concern then US and Israel and few other countries need to re-think on their policies — This will help control the global security issues to major extend.Recommend

  • Ali Hemani

    Excellent response my brother. I am impressed with your knowledgeRecommend

  • Ali Hemani

    Mehdi Sb,
    You have concluded the argument with honor & honestly.Recommend

  • Ali Hemani

    These generals are not born generals. They have struggled their way up. And talking about patriotism of general, you must meet with few of them and you will know how they feel for this country.Recommend

  • Ali Hemani

    Very well said… totally agree… I present the same argument when some of my brothers talk negative about Gen MusharrafRecommend