My cousin Yaser isn’t dead

Published: May 30, 2011

Yaser isn’t dead. In fact, he seems more alive to me than ever before.

Yaser isn’t dead. In fact, he seems more alive to me than ever before. Yaser isn’t dead. In fact, he seems more alive to me than ever before.

A month after Yaser (better known as Lieutenant Syed Yaser Abbas Shaheed) lost his wallet, he received a letter along with his identity card. It was an apology from the guy who had stolen it. He wrote that it was the dire need for money that had forced him to steal, that he was really ashamed and would return him the amount if and when his circumstances changed.

I’m sure that though his feelings of remorse would have grown now that Yaser has left, the letter writer can draw some comfort from the fact that he had at least apologised.

But what about those who attended Yaser’s funeral with the sole purpose of “making money”.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am a part of the family who witnessed every scene after his death – right from taking his body to Lahore on a military plane, to his post-burial days in the house. On Tuesday night, the day he was buried, many of us lost our wallets and mobile phones – most of them stolen during his Namaz-e-Janaza. The very next morning, we had many more things missing from the house, right from cell phones to shampoo bottles. Seriously!

More than 17,000 fans on Facebook supporting Yaser for a Nishan-e-Haider award, several chain text messages praising his act of valour, tribute videos uploaded on YouTube and candlelight vigils organised in Pakistan and abroad made perfect sense. But what didn’t was the bizarre way of paying homage to a national hero — taking advantage of his death to steal all that could be stolen. The truth is we are surrounded by black sheep, whether they are those alleged ‘insiders’ in the armed forces supporting the terrorists to carry out the PNS operation or a part of Yaser’s funeral procession. What then connects them is the “immoral fibre”.

I cannot stop relating to Faiz’s idea of death:

“The graveyards are full indeed but only with the death of humanity.”

Yaser isn’t dead. In fact, he seems more alive to me than ever before. What’s dying then is the conscience and what has by far sustained us is the fact that we still have a few people who did not sell their souls … Yaser was one of them.


Farwa Zahra

Farwa Zahra is a Qatar-based journalist. She has studied Gender and Media at the London School of Economics. She tweets as @syedaz (

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

  • Saad

    Thats the sad reality ! =(Recommend

  • Umayr Masud

    This was one of the saddest things I have read about the people of my country.Recommend

  • Ali

    Yet we consider ourselves the torch bearers of Islam when we are at the lowest ebb of morality and humanity. We have forgotten that the sole purpose of religion was to guide humans and differentiate them the beasts. We still consider ourselves as the God’s gifts to humanity when we are the most ill-faced, corrupt and hypocrite people in the worldRecommend

  • Sane

    such a shameless society it is! this is the respect we have for our martyrs.. we should be thankful to Allah we still have people like Lt.Yasser but the reality is we dont deserve them!Recommend

  • maestro

    When people don’t have food to feed there families, this what happens and this is not limited to Pakistan. Crime is highest in the US, UK and Greece right now because their economies have collapsed. EDUCATION, AND ECONOMY are the only way forward for Pakistan. And God bless your cousin. Don’t worry – there are plenty of us who value his valour with honor. Don’t loose faith..Recommend

  • http://nil saleem khan

    My Cousin Gul Jan martyred in Qisa Khwani Bazaar Blast a year ago but he is not dead he is alive and among us as well. Recommend

  • Dianuj Rafaz Nahk

    I wish somebody put a fence around us so we dont spread our ways to the outside world.We are diseased to the core.Recommend

  • Choas A.D

    Oh wow, this was just a new low. Looting off a Shaheed’s family while paying ‘last respects’ to his memory? That’s done it. We were so busy trying to label this a nation a dominion of islamic values, we forgot what both things are.Recommend

  • Khurram

    My deepest sympathies with you on your irreparable loss, a void that shall never be filled only the heart knows its pain. My sincere thoughts and prayers are with you. How very true your words are, the brave souls who make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Duty, Honor and Country never die rather they live for ever.

    Your words are a very sad and painful commentary on the inherent weakness in our character. We may pretend to be anything but the truth is, we are a sick and hypocrite people to the very core of our psyche. Recommend

  • Ali Khan

    The fact that our country is named ISLAMIC republic of Pakistan, is itself an irony. We are a nation where the most ‘religious’ of people are the worst of hypocrites.Recommend

  • Saad H

    Wow, and yet we call ourselves muslims! Someone above said and it was absolutely true, we don’t deserve people like Yaser Abbas!Recommend

  • Grace

    @Ali Khan: The fact is that every Islamic nation from Tunisia to Libya to Iraq to Yemen to Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iran and Afghanistan is hypocritical. That’s why they are all in shambles with corruption and cheating. It seems all Muslim nations where there are religious people are the worst.Recommend

  • Hassan Naqvi

    Seriously shocked !Recommend

  • sidra khan

    this isnt something new. stealing at a funeral when the family is grieving over the loss of a family member has been known for centuries. Perfectly depicts the moral state of our nation where scoundrels and thieves out number heroes like yasir. I can never understand how can people stoop this low and where do they get their moral education!Recommend

  • amna


  • Aiman

    Sis .we the educated youth of our country love our armed forces and are keeping account of every dop of blood shed . Traitors like Asma Jahngir bark against them , but they are or martyrs and we love em. and yes indeed the sttealing thing is sad Recommend

  • Ali kazmi

    i would want to take advantage of the liens here: kindly also remember the firefighters and 10 other soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty the same day Mr.Yasir departed to Heavens!

    Lets not forget them caz they were low ranked and were not mediacised here in pakistan!

    Al Fatiha For them all.

    May God Rest their souls in peace!


  • Maleeha Khan

    O my God !!!! Thats Sad!!!
    and Yes!!!!
    “Lieutenant Syed Yaser Abbas Shaheed”
    is alive !! he is alive in our hearts!! he is a shaheed and shuhada never dies!! :) Recommend

  • Fazal

    Really really really sad to know all this !! UNBELIEVABLE
    Definitely he is alive an he will remain alive.
    ultimately that letter writer was far better than those who committed the crime with the intension of crime and that too at a FUNERAL and afterwards.

    hope we will be out of this soon.Recommend

  • Beenish

    sad… a society v r going down:((Recommend

  • Azfar

    He is not dead but has become immortal …. :(Recommend

  • Yasir Alam Khan

    My sincere condolences to you. While Lt. Yasir has departed for a better place, I pray that Allah gives you more strength to live in this society. For evil there is good and I hope you stay and fight because at the end good shall prevail. For the readers I would like to say, be truthful to yourself and the ones around you. Be brave like Lt. Yaser Shaheed because a day will come when this nation shall shine.Recommend

  • Ameer Hamza

    No one should be shocked at this. While in Kashmir just after the earthquake, I witnessed many such cases of open theft. People came from other areas and as far as Punjab to steal whatever they could. It was free for all and Pakistan Army personal, who were posted there for rescue operation and to check the theft, could do nothing due to enormity of the task involved. Kashmiris being mostly either well off or rich had left lot to be looted. And it was looted in broad day light. People even carried the best furniture with them! So if mobile phones and shampoo bottles are being stolen from a hero’s house just after his death, no one should be surprised. We are a nation on a seriously downward trajectory. Our morals are burried and we are a set of dead men walking.Recommend

  • Grace

    @Ameer Hamza: I worked in the Kashmir Earthquake relief and there is nor a shread of evidence to support your statement. If anything, there was great national unity when people came from all parts of Pakistan ( Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar) either in groups or as part of agencies to help their brothers and sisters. There was no wanton stealing at all. If cheap people were stealing from Yasir’s home, shame on them. If there is corruption in all Muslim nations, shame on them all. Shame on Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen; Bahrain, Saudia, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian nations which have such behaviour. Shame on them all. That is why there is so much unrest in Muslim nations and so much killing and corruption there. But to make up false stories about events is also shameful and reflects our society which likes to criticise instead of doing something positive. Recommend

  • Anonymous

    don’t just blame this nation. Muslims not care even in Khana Kaba and snatch money from Ihraam . Egyptian and Africans are fame in snatching job at Khana Kaba.Recommend

  • Zarmeena Ikram Babar

    Honestly I am quite upset to hear about the robbery, before Yasir’s (Shahid) funeral took place-

    The only thing I wish for these robbers is that either God doom them (they get killed or they die) or God give bless them with the sense of realization and humanity- the point of fact is that such people are living among us -and they don’t realize how worthless they become by committing such heinous sins.Recommend

  • Kalvine Kleine

    He died in line of duty, just like a policeman die in streets. Dont make a big deal about him dying while doing his job. If u r a soldier that the risk, if u r a miner u can get buried under rubble, if u r a truck driver u r likely to get killed in a road accident. Only in pakistan, the armed forces think they r doing a big favor to the nation by doing their duty!Recommend

  • Zarmeena Ikram Babar

    @ Kalvine Kleine – There is a huge difference between a truck driver dying in a road accident and a soldier getting killed while defending the counrty- the truck driver is considered only dead whereas the soldier lives forever -However, if you are pointing out about other minor soldiers getting killed while defending the country, their killing stories not getting hyped up so go and write articles on them -who is stopping you? Atleast you’ll do something good instead of criticizing people for being righteous and hyping about this young man’s sacrifice.

    Why on earth are you detesting people admiring Mr.Yaseer’s sacrfice? He who gave this huge sacrifice- in order to save you and millions out there, who might have gotten killed at the hands of those terrorists ??? Recommend

  • waqas

    if we put ourselves accountable infront of our own conscience , we ll be a changed society, i bet.

    start this good work and stop raising fingers on others;charity begins at home.Recommend

  • sania

    this is no surprise to me but obviousyly it made me think how low can our society can get. To think about it what is driving this? we have to ask what factors shape our society? Firstly speaking we dont have a strong government – corruptions looms. There are no strict laws. Poverty is now one of our biggest problems and they havent yet been able to rectify this. Where there are no strict laws and regulations this is exactly what happens. Education is whats needed at the moment. Issues in pakistan are now cancer 4 level – SAD BUT TRUE.Recommend

  • maestro

    @Ameer Hamza:
    Mr Hamza. When the earthquake hit in 2005 and Margalla towers went down, CIVILIANS rushed to seek them out of the debris. I have many friends who went and there was no looting but just regular folk digging with their bare hands to save a life. I have friends who went to help in Kashmir. I have friends who went to help after the floods. Do not negate your own people like this – My friend and I got into a car accident recently on a Sunday morning – there was a bunch of boys playing cricket across the street and they came running to help. All they said was cars come and go but thank God you are ok. I was shocked at their goodness while a Honda City was sitting broken down with our wallets iphones and ipods in them and they didn’t touch a thing and instead helped to get it on a tow truck. There are bad apples everywhere. Just call a person bhai or behen, you will see the reaction. My mother hit a pole a long time ago and a simple guy on a motor bike came to our house and said “your mother has been in an accident”. He had found her ID and address from her purse and came to inform us. Again she had jewelery on, full purse and no one touched a thing. Poverty and lack of education does bad things to internally good people. God bless Pakistan and may give everyone an opportunity to earn a decent living and all this extremism and theft will stop immediately. Recommend