Should war be celebrated?

Published: July 18, 2014

There are those who would argue that to celebrate war is to honour our forces.

On the walls along MA Jinnah Road, I came across certain graffiti, a bold approval in red paint, which read,

Pak fauj qadam barhao, hum tumharay saath hain

(Take a step, Pakistani Army, the people are with you)

This was a reminder for every passer-by that it is the duty of every Pakistani to support its army engaged in Zarb-e-Azb, the on-going military operation in North Waziristan.

In the past few months, there has been a shift in the rhetoric pertaining to the army; the protector has become the saviour, the last resort has become the beacon of hope and force has become the path to peace. Of course, this shift was inevitable given the failure of peace talks together with crumbling security in Karachi, culminating in the tragic event of June 8, when dozens lost their lives at the Jinnah Airport. The same army which was never talked about except for when referring to the evils of martial law has now been elevated to an almost heroic level.

I find nothing unusual or wrong with this. At a time when helplessness hung in the air like the stench of a dead body, the army swooped in with a clear vision, agenda and a plan of action, which is now rarely seen in the government ranks. The average Pakistani cannot help but idolise the men in uniform, marching alongside tanks, saving the day. It is not surprising that the first boy born in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) was named after the operation.

That said – there is another point that must be made.

Until about a century back, war had a different definition for people across the globe. John Mueller, in his paper ‘Changing Attitudes Towards War’, points out that before the First World War, war was described as ‘spiritual salvation and hope of regeneration’ among analysts in Europe and the United States. He reminds us of a time when war was romantic, essential for economic activity and a reality of life. Mueller argues that the First World War changed this perception; those who will battle and lose lives, those who sacrifice time and energy, and those who put their nation before themselves will always be hailed as heroes.

War will, and should, never be a celebration again.

The perception of a war in Pakistan today is not tragic. I find people rejoicing in war. I find people finding salvation in war. I find people making jokes about peace talks. I find myself making jokes about peace talks. And I find everything wrong with that.

As a nation, it is a matter of immense pride that we have men and women who serve themselves for the state by joining the armed forces. It is not a matter of pride, however, that we are at war. We have forgotten, focusing only on the predicted outcome of the operation, what led us to it. We have forgotten that peace talks, however ineffective, are the way to negotiate. We have forgotten that war is not a form of negotiation. We have forgotten that there are no winners in war. We have forgotten that, in the words of Andrea Gibson,

“Not all casualties return in body bags.”

There are those who would argue that to celebrate war is to honour our forces.

Go ahead. Ask the man in the uniform how worthy of celebration war is.

Ilsa Rashid

Ilsa Rashid

A foodie and Grey's Anatomy fan. She likes to write poetry, make friends and watch cricket. She is currently doing her bachelors in Social Sciences at IBA, Karachi.

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

  • Falah Ud Din Sheryar

    Nice thought. Yes it should never be celebrated but should always be remembered.Recommend

  • Karachi Wally

    Very nice thoughts, this operation was inevitable but we should change the war narrative. This should not been seen as sports match between TTp and Army. Rather it should be presented as Chemotherapy you kill cancer cells in Chemo but you don’t celebrate Therapy!Recommend

  • Saad

    Fighting wars has been a matter of survivalism through out history. Yes we can live in peace and what not, but as long as countries are separated by boundaries and independent political frameworks exist between them, it will always be the survival of the fittest, whether through economic, social or by means of physical warfareRecommend

  • Mir

    You highlighted a very important point. Notice how when the army got involved, everyone simply swooned at their feet, gushing with praises and blessings.
    Many Pakistanis like to point out how CIA and the US helped the Mujahideen and gave birth to the Taliban. The Pak Army didn’t just help the Mujahideen, but also helped the Taliban in the 1990s. We love to hate Zia, but we can’t get over our admiration for the army, can we? Here we stand, blindly supporting the most guilty institution in this nation.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I really don’t think Pakistanis celebrate war – but they do celebrate several warmongers whose only claim to fame was the mass destruction and havoc that they wrought on present day Pakistan and parts of India. As far as the new-found love for the army goes, I guess the large-scale disillusionment with the country’s present trajectory causes Pakistanis to harken back to a more stable time, even if it is that of martial law. Turning the quote from Churchill on its head “In Pakistan, it has been said that army-rule is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”.Recommend

  • Razzy

    Indeed Pakistan’s golden age from the late sixties to the early nineties were dominated by the military types. Its Per capita GDP as well its HDI during those times were the best in south asia and was looked on by the west as the next ‘asian tiger’. No wonder they look back at better times esp the oldies and the middle agedRecommend

  • Ilsa

    Glad to see there are those who agree with my opinion. And so glad this post hasnt been misconstrued and termed anti- Pak fauj. :)Recommend

  • mnaq

    We support the army because it is an institution and you can not blame new faces in an institution for the mistakes of the past leadership. It happens everywhere why dont we blame obama for americas regan era polacies it was the same countrie.Recommend

  • Mir

    Except that in 2008, it was found that Pak Army and ISI had links with the terrorists who orchestrated the Mumbai Attacks. How long ago was that? 5 years?
    The Pak Army hasn’t changed. They still have an immense budget (which they do certainly not deserve), receive millions of dollars in aid from the US and are still operating in the country in quite questionable ways.Recommend

  • Mir

    The success in the ’60s and the ’80s was due to one reason which as the very high support and funding from the US.
    Both Ayub and Zia received massive handouts from the US which allowed them to develop the country.
    Unfortunately, the entire nation, which is insanely gullible seems to believe the reason for the succes during that era was due to the military leadership.Recommend

  • Secular

    Nice thoughts..keep it up..Recommend

  • Prashant

    A military takeover does not happen at the behest of a Jawan, it happens because the Generals want it. Every Army should be celebrated by its people as they are the ones who fight for you and hope that the need does not arise when they have to go and sacrifice their lives.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Some wars are forced upon,and there is no choice other than.I am sure peace option is always there for TTP,and army even had set up areas for them to surrender.But some people are willed towards violence.The scenarios in Miranshah after its deliverance show the extent of tools of death and destruction the terrorists had access to.At times a sigh of relief might sound like a celebration. Celebration has been on the other side mainly- the side on the other side of the law-actually completely lawless.Most Pakistanis just want to live in peace and feel safe.Recommend

  • Shehryar

    @ author
    War is the part of negotiations, you’ll see a successful peace talk right after this operation IA. Recommend

  • Zulqarnain Abbas

    Just wait for a sec , It was found of whom ? The CIA ? The RAW ? The have the immense budget but it is because we are small country with 2 hostile borders on our western and eastern side , so if any institution deserve a budget and using it to good effect it is armed forces of Pakistan.Recommend

  • ilsa

    Again, our army is precious. War is not. War, bad. Army, good but unfortunate. Can’t get simpler than this Recommend

  • ilsa

    Again, our army is precious. War is not. War, bad. Army, good but unfortunate. Can’t get simpler than this Recommend

  • Ilsa

    Thats some brutal negotiation you got going on there. Recommend

  • Ilsa

    Thats some brutal negotiation you got going on there. Recommend

  • Mir

    , It was found of whom ? The CIA ? The RAW ?

    Come on, it’s pretty obvious the military and ISI were responsible for the attacks. They’ve been training militants for decades.

    The have the immense budget but it is because we are small country with 2 hostile borders on our western and eastern side , so if any institution deserve a budget and using it to good effect it is armed forces of Pakistan.

    And we also share a close relationship with the Middle East and with one of the most powerful nations in the continent.
    The Armed Forces is taking too much of the budget. Why do they deserve so much when they’re being given millions of dollars from the US?
    The most troubling thing is what they do with this money. We all like to talk about the millions of dollars the politicians own, but the Army and its generals receive much, much, more. Where is the transparency?Recommend

  • 2Paisa

    Excellent article Ilsa – good out-of-the-box critical thinking. Due to the abundant use of heavy machinery, modern day warfare inevitably involves killing a large proportion of innocent civilians. Arguably, it can be construed that from a rational perspective, war should be more lamentable than celebratory.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    What is immense budget? We spend 3% of our GDP on national defence. Others including Israel spend north of 6%. In terms of the budget outlay, 23% goes to national defence. The rest in debt retirement, development and other areas. So lets talk factually instead of firing off cliches around “immense budget”. Secondly, only an Indian would make a statement like “Come on, it’s pretty obvious the military and ISI were responsible for the attacks.”

    Well if its so obvious then provide the proof. The only thing we have is some elements sympathetic to the Kashmir cause taking ownership for it. There is no proof of any official involvement.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    The first one to tell you that war should not be celebrated is a soldier. Its a nasty, cruel thing. Most of the officers and jawans would rather be at home in their peacetime deployments. They are there because inaction is no longer an option. We avoided the operations, as you rightly said, as much as it was possible and then our hand was forced. The key is to finish the job and inshallah get the local admin to take over the role of development and policing.Recommend

  • Mir

    23% is too damn much.
    Especially when we’re struggling with other areas of development.
    Who gives a damn if we have a top notch military when they have a cesspit to protect?


  • Sid

    Good one Ilsa, wishing the war comes to end and every element in society makes peace with each other and grow together rather than killing each other. Ideologies should never be more important than human life.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    The so called “cesspit” is comprised of you and me and the rest of Pakistan. The same as in India or Afghanistan. National defence is imperative and so is the funding. Your minority views notwithstanding.Recommend

  • Sandeep Verman

    We the people of same ancient Vedic culture, therefore, don’t divide whole civilization on the line of warRecommend

  • voidist

    you dont spend your Money…most of it is US aid
    Money….and where did you get those figures…
    50 perce^nt of that borrowed Money goes into the armyRecommend