Married to an “alien”

Published: May 26, 2018
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SSG personnel march during the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

The threat of extremism appeared on the horizon about a decade and a half ago, plunging Pakistan into a different kind of war. The Armed Forces, until then, had been concerned with tackling and keeping malicious forces in check at the borders, but now they had a new enemy much closer to home. Each bombing and suicide attack has caused us great pain and we have lost thousands to senseless chaos since then.

December 16, 2014 seemed just like another nightmare, but this incident had the entire nation in unparalleled shock. I remember the disbelief as I heard reports of terrorist insurgents inside Army Public School in Peshawar, an institution singled out to target the children of our soldiers, the very men fighting against terrorism. The entire nation sat in shock, glued to their TVs. Anchors choked on their words, unable to hold back tears as news of deaths started to emerge. Children as young as six-years-old were brutally shot. From grade one up to grade 10, 132 children were massacred that day, 144 in all including staff and the principal.

Pakistanis came together to share each other’s grief. In this tragedy, our people stood united behind their military whose resolve to fight the menace of terrorism only grew stronger. With the already on-going operations such as Al-Mizan, Rah-e-Haq, Rah-e-Rast and Zarb-e-Azb, the Army tripled its efforts even further. More soldiers were deployed, additional posts were set up and the struggle continued with renewed intensity.

My husband is in the Army, so I know. I have endured his absences more times than I can count. His tenure at the borders, in Kashmir and then in Waziristan were especially difficult where lack of communication conjured the worst-case scenarios in my mind, enough to keep me up at nights. On occasions that we spoke, the background whizzing of mortar shelling always served as a reminder of how easily things could go wrong. Aware of the secret longing for martyrdom found in every soldier’s heart, I continued to be both a mother and a father to our children and held the fort at home so that my husband could carry out his duties untroubled.

This isn’t just my story, but that of every military spouse, and while I enjoy the comfort of having my husband still by my side, there are countless those who are left with a void that the healing hand of time may never be able to completely fill. Thousands in uniform have given their lives for this country and their families have braved the loss with courage and fortitude. Sacrifices made in blood demonstrate the highest form of loyalty and puts such men and women at a completely different level of patriotism.

Hence, when a senior political figure alluded to the forces as being ‘alien’, I cringed at the comparison. His words coldly dismiss the efforts and struggle of his own people. The implication that they are alien, not belonging, an otherworldly creation, is extremely insulting and displays an ill-advised and imprudent outlook. The word has been used thoughtlessly and in bad taste, disregarding the martyrs and their families. It is offensive to the soldiers who continue to defend their country. It expresses a vulgar indifference to the parents who send their children off to fight, and to the wives and children who spend more time apart than together as a family. In their separation, in the tears, and in the loneliness lies the passion they share for the nation. There are no conspiracies, no scripts, no games; just an ardent, mad love for their country and the desire to defend its people till death.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s politics has evolved into a pseudo democracy where the mainstream parties are controlled and run by political families instead of churning out tested politicians every election season. No doubt, we have wonderful representatives and policy makers but their role barely extends beyond the tight circle drawn by those in charge. This partisan environment thus created is troublesome and dangerous to the system. Power has become opium, intoxicating those in control, a drug so potent that its withdrawal is becoming destructive for the entire system of governance.

Building hatred in the hearts of the public against those who are entrusted with their safety is a terrible equation, detrimental to any country’s progress and security. Thus, when such speeches contain animosity towards its forces, then that hate is bound to seep through and settle down among the masses spreading distrust and creating discord. Already, we find ourselves at the crossroads of international pressures, internal threats and foreign elements that are causing cracks in the unity of our people, planting seeds of dissention and gradually eating away at the edges of our solidarity. The enemy will plan and plot as such, but when our own leadership recklessly gives them a helping hand, that is something beyond comprehension.

I am disappointed at the lack of prudence and saddened to see how time and circumstances have hardened some to an extent that they would sell their own people short. Whether you talk about the ‘boot’ or the ‘cane’, these subtle insults and silent insinuations are not lost on any. These men are not ‘alien’, they are Pakistanis; your people, fighting for you and those you govern. Own them, be proud of them, love them and respect them. Unity in our ranks – civil, political and military – is the only way forward. It’s not rocket science, just simple common sense.

Mrs A

Mrs A

The writer is married to an Army officer.

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

  • sani

    you are right ma’am, very well written..Recommend

  • Sami Thinker

    While NS was delivering speech, his momentum moved him to say this terminology. He did not meant to disgrace Army Soldiers. (I m Pakistani not member of N League. )Recommend

  • Nouman

    Every sane person how worthy the forces are. You don’t need to worry or justify your importance. People know full well its only the forces which has prevented Pakistan into turning Iraq, Libya or Syria. In event of calamity its only Forces which rise to the occasion. The politicians are mere kleptocrats who will be soon behind bars and good riddance.Recommend

  • Haider Ali

    Who gives a crap what these politicians say…we stand united with our soldiers and respect their sacrifices from the very core of our hearts.Recommend

  • A wanna be a changer

    You are absolutely right. I don’t know how they ever gonna understand these things and start looking beyond their politics. These people are too powerful to be prosecuted or even hard to question about these things. These all mind games are not making any scenes. To them everybody is dead, if they have to they will sell this country.Recommend

  • Abid

    Well written and i can relate to what she is saying. Nawaz Sharif has bigger issues on his plate then to worry about his subjects. He demands loyalty to him rather then to country. He expected Gen Bajwa to be his “Yes man”. And we all know how a “Yes man”destroys nations / institutions. Bajwa is leading a war on many fronts; if it wouldnt be for army there wouldnt be any happiness… Talibans were brandishing there guns in KPK and very soon they would have descended on our big cities making them carbon copies of Syria, Libya or Iraq. Well all these middle east countries had good economies but not good enough armies. So they paid…. Nawaz Sharif has tried every time to tacitly attack Pakistan army. And he has again been trying to create hatred in masses against the last valiant force standing between us and Fazlullah. So we must not fall for his gimmickry… And let him be dealt with sword of justice.Recommend

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    Whole nation feels the same pain and anguish which our brave army soldiers, officer and their families are feeling these days but it’s not easy to ignore or forget history esp. when it’s being repeated.Recommend

  • Sarmad Aslam

    You are totally off track. The army is supposed to fight battles and wars. This is the job the army is assigned to and this is the job the army men get when recruited. The context “alien” was used by Nawaz Sharif to describe a situation when the army interferes in the political domain and derails the political system to the disadvantage of all those who want to see democracy flourish in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Saqib

    Its as much a responsibility of Military high command and its intelligence arm to not to indulge in political engineering and interfering. Its as much if not more insulting to the general public. It’s a common man’s business to elect their leadership. Recommend

  • Sami

    The whole article is basically stating that You deserve Priviledge and it is your birthright. It is unfortunate that in Pakistan the only voices we hear is to acknowledge the role of Armed forces.
    But who will talk about the hardworking Civilians?. Why our role is not acknowledged?. Why we are not considered worthy enough despite paying taxes and doing hardwork for this country.? As a civilian If my wife will write an article like that then many will be calling her traitor and will be bashing her.

    Kindly accept that Armed forces do enjoy priviledge in this country. They get multi-million plots, enjoy good salary, best medical facilities, free schooling, universities, sports facilities and a provision of the gated communities. They are living a life of first world in a third world.

    Whereas as the taxpayer civilian I have to pay taxes but no facilities will be provided to me and I will be reminded again and again that I will never get the same respect and recognition.Recommend

  • Andrew Davis

    The lives of the families of Officers of the Armed Forces is very difficult. First of all, RESPECT for the Army Officers as well as to their families. MAJOR RESPECT TO YOU GUYS. A close friend and school mate is an Army Officer and I can just understand what all his family has to go through to keep going especially when he is on deputation in troubled areas of the country.

    NS has always been at log-a-heads with the Armed Forces. He has no respect whatsoever for those in the Army and his words and mannerisms when speaking to them are extremely degrading and demeaning. He should show more respect towards the Army. Some of those in the Armed Forces during his previous tenures, have openly supported him. He has remained in power due to their support.Recommend

  • Andrew Davis

    NS is not delivering a speech for the first time. Neither can he be considered one of the most patriotic citizens of this country. He is not a child and having had the history of being PM of the country (albeit not completing his full tenure), he should be more careful when choosing his words, especially when speaking to the public. This is 2018, not the late 80’s and early 90’s when the media was very much controlled but the government. The media is now a loose cannon. And they are trained to catch the slightest mannerism or tone. He should be more careful, especially if he is referring to the Armed Forces.Recommend

  • Tahir Mansoor

    It takes a very special kind of disingenuity and strawmanship to pen something like this and interpret what Nawaz Sharif said (and as far as I know only he, not the scores of unnamed politicians the author alludes to) as maligning the ordinary fighting men and women of the Pak armed forces. Yes, Nawaz is himself a creature of it, hence he is unable to escape charges of being a hypocrite and a typically expedient, self-interested politico, but nobody should question the veracity of what he said. Power-hungry, overly political officers who constantly meddle in democratic affairs and institutions, who grab lands and overreach in and across every sector and stratum of Pak society — and you find issue with his choice of words —“aliens”— and the helplessness and disappointment that voters feel in having their mandate willfully manipulated and overturned despite the indisputable valour and sacrifice of our jawans who are second to none? The way forward is when we all face up to the truth, own up to our mistakes and give room to each other – let institutions mature and function within their own competence and ambit – to develop and rectify our wrongs, not from ignoring facts and truths, and certainly not from shoving them under the proverbial carpet with misguided appeals to emotion.Recommend

  • MITTHA KHAN

    His statement is about the unconstitutional political side of Army where its chiefs have abrogated the constitution and played havoc with the nation and the Army as an institution has stood by these transgressions and NOT about the soldering bit that you refer to… for which we are grateful for to our brave men and women in uniform and their family members like yourself.. Please have the intellectual insight to be able to distinguish between these two separate thingsRecommend

  • Crosswinds

    Please do not state false statistics unless you know the complete truth about Pakistan Army, their salaries and tax deductions, free schooling and so on and so forth.Recommend

  • Crosswinds

    A well written article.
    Till the time political parties and their leadership wouldn’t recognize and keep National Interest before their personal gains, we will have to bear the pain collectively.Recommend

  • Omar

    Most
    Pakistanis have utmost respect and love for military, even Imran Khan
    being a politician admits that, its mostly the party following goons who
    would whine as its become habit among the corrupt and their pets,
    military being the one entity keeping these criminals from completely
    sucking life the out of this nation.Recommend

  • Ramal Kan

    It’s odd to imagine that those words were uttered by the political protege of Zia Ul Haq… Did he ever apologize for his support to that alien ??Recommend

  • Gulab Mehak

    so according to you, this word is justified. Right????
    you know what, why dont you send one of your family members to be a part of those aliens so that one day he would change the structure as you think is good for country. but you will not, and you know why, because you are just going to criticize people who do but not the people who dontRecommend